Scare headlines about the first human clones appear in our newspapers. Biotech companies brag about manufacturing human embryos as "products" for use in medical treatments. Events are moving so fast—and biotechnology seems so complicated—that many of us worry we can’t keep up. But now, Wesley J. Smith provides us with a guide to the brave new world that is no longer a figment of our imagination, but a reality just around the corner of our lives.
Smith unravels the mystery of stem cells and shows what’s at stake in the controversy over using them for research. He describes the emerging science of human cloning—the most radical technology in history—and shows how it moves forward inexorably against the moral consensus of the world. But at the core of this highly readable and carefully researched book is a report on the gargantuan "Big Biotech" industry and its supporters in the universities and the science and bioethics establishments. Smith reveals how the lure of huge riches, mixed with the ideology of "scientism," threatens to impose on society a "new eugenics" that would dismantle ethical norms and call into question the uniqueness and importance of all human life. "At stake," he warns, "is whether science will continue to serve society, or instead dominate it."
In Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World, Smith presents a clear-eyed vision of two potential futures. In one, we will use biotechnology as a powerful tool to treat disease and improve the quality of our lives. But in another, darker scenario, we will be steered onto the antihuman path that Aldous Huxley and other prophetic writers warned against half a century ago.
Ever since the cloning of Dolly in 1997, critics have warned that human society has begun sliding down the slippery slope to posthumanity. In a rather repetitious and bland look at the moral questions arising out of biotechnologies such as cloning and stem cell technology, Smith (The Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America) does offer some helpful insight into the practices themselves. Much like Leon Kass, the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, and Francis Fukuyama (Our Posthuman Future), Smith argues that any medical or scientific development that diminishes human dignity "the intrinsic worthiness of embodied human life" ought to be avoided, regardless of the good it promises. Smith contends that the technologies are not in and of themselves pernicious; rather, the political, ideological and entrepreneurial promotion of any scientific advance, he asserts, can lead us to ignore its dangers (for instance, producing a hybrid pig-human embryo). Smith opposes human reproductive cloning and embryonic stem cell technology. On the other hand, he argues that some advances, such as adult stem cell technology and umbilical cord blood/stem cell technology (which has been used to treat sickle-cell anemia), should be embraced. Along the way, Smith makes some mistakes Joseph Fletcher, for example, is not the "patriarch of bioethics" and his case has been stated better and more forcefully by others, notably Kass.