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Bioethics and the New Embryology: Springboards for Debate

Scott F. Gilbert, Anna Tyler, and Emily Zackin

261 pages, 68 illustrations

About This Title

A book designed for freshman seminars, adult education courses, and ethics units in biology classes

Our ability to alter the course of human development ranks among the most significant changes in modern science and has brought embryology into the public domain. We can now plan the sex of our children in advance. We can test for the presence or absence of certain genes and can choose to abort those embryos that fail to meet certain specifications for “normalcy.” We can already cure diseases and enhance the abilities of mice by inserting genes into their embryos, and there is no reason to think that such enhancement might not be possible in humans. We can obtain and clone human stem cells that are capable of becoming nearly any tissue in the body. The question that must be asked is: Even if we can do such things, should we do such things? Under what conditions should certain procedures be permitted or forbidden? Do we want to support the research that might make such procedures possible?

In order to make informed judgments about such issues, one has to consider both the science and the ethical considerations. The goal of this book is to present enough science so that readers can make an informed analysis of the issues and know what factual data are consistent (or are not consistent) with their ethical views. These chapters are not meant to provide definitive answers but rather, as the book’s title states, to be springboards for discussion.

The presentation of topics follows the sequence used in most developmental biology courses. The two-chapter units address specific questions, juxtaposing the scientific “facts” (in the initial chapter) with the ethical questions (in the second chapter). While the science has been simplified and explained at the level of an introductory biology course, it successfully conveys the essential information for useful discussions. The final unit contains information and discussion about three topics—the definition of “normal,” the question of genetic determinism, and the use of animals in scientific research—that predate the “embryological revolution” but remain important issues for scientists and concerned citizens alike to consider.

To further explore this book, view the sample PDF files of Chapters Oneand Two.

Copublished with W. H. Freeman and Company

Bundling Options

For information on bundling Bioethics and the New Embryology: Springboards for Debate with Life: The Science of Biology, 8/e by Sadava, Heller, Orians, Purves, and Hillis, please contact W.H. Freeman & Company at 1-888-330-8477

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About the Author(s)

Scott F. Gilbert is the Howard A. Schneiderman Professor of Biology at Swarthmore College. He is the author of the textbook Developmental Biology, and he has edited Embryology: Constructing the OrganismA Conceptual History of Embryology, and several special issues of journals. Scott has his Ph.D. in biology, his M.A. in the history of science, and a B.A. in religion. He has been the recipient of the Kowalevsky Prize in evolutionary developmental biology, the medal of François I from the Collège de France, and the first Viktor Hamburger Award for education in developmental biology. He has published extensively on developmental genetics and on the history and ethical issues in embryology.

Anna Tyler was graduated with a B.A. from Swarthmore College and is presently working toward a doctorate in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department of Dartmouth College.

Emily Zackin was graduated from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in political science and English and a minor in biology. She earned an M.A. in political science from Columbia University, and is presently working toward a doctorate in Princeton University’s Politics Department.

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Reviews and Commentary

“With its broad-ranging coverage of embryo-related biotechnologies, Gilbert’s book makes an excellent text for high-school and university biology students and for bioethics courses. It also superbly meets the need for an accessible, accurate resource for the biotechnological knowledge needed for informed policymaking. … the book is an important contribution to informed dialogue among citizens from a wide range of educational levels, professions, and generations … .” 
—James Bradley, Nature

“Advances in developmental biology, whether basic or applied, undoubtedly raise significant ethical and societal issues. A new book, by developmental biologist Scott F. Gilbert and his students, Anna Tyler and Emily Zackin, introduces many of these ethical issues, and these issues are presented against the backdrop of sound, though simplified, science. As such,Bioethics and the New Embryology: Springboards for Debate is most welcome, and should inform and indeed transform ethical and political discussions of developmental biology.” 
— Jason Scott Robert, BioEssays

“This excellent new textbook, which is topical, easy to read, and beautifully produced, fills a void.” 
—Josephine Johnston, The Quarterly Review of Biology

“At long last, here is a biology text that raises challenging questions of ethical legal and social implications in a serious and meaningful way … [placing] all of its content in the social and historical context necessary for the understanding both of the science and of its place in the larger scheme of things. I know of no other book that does the job better… . But the most amazing feature is the price. Finally, here is a book that students will not resent buying, and can affordably be added as a supplemental textbook to any course.” 
(Read the entire review at

“The bioethics literature could thus use a book that genuinely integratesbiological and ethical concerns—rubbing (budding) philosophers’ noses in the realm of facticity while forcing (budding) biologists to confront questions of normativity. Bioethics and the New Embryology … is not quitethe integrative book I’ve just described, but it comes very close, and does an admirable job as far as it goes.” 
—Irfan Khawaja, Teaching Philosophy

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Table of Contents

Unit I. When Does Life Begin?

  1. An Outline of Human Development
  2. Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Arguments

Unit II. Should We Regulate Assisted Reproductive Technology?

  1. Natural and Assisted Fertilization
  2. Ethical Issues in Assisted Reproductive Technology

Unit III. Should We Select the Sex of Our Children?

  1. The Genetics of Sex Determination
  2. Arguments For and Against Sex Selection

Unit IV. Should We Allow Human Beings To Be Cloned?

  1. The Science of Cloning
  2. Ethics and Policies for Human Cloning

Unit V. Should We Use Stem Cells to Repair the Human Body?

  1. Stem Cell Therapy and Organ Regeneration
  2. Ethical Dilemmas of Stem Cell Therapy

Unit VI. Should We Modify the Human Genome?

  1. Gene Therapy
  2. Should We Allow the Genetic Engineering of Humans?

Unit VII. New Perspectives on Old Issues

  1. What Is “Normal”?
  2. Genetic Determinism
  3. The Ethics of Animal Use in Research

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Pricing and Options

TitlesProduct CodePrice (USD)  
Bioethics and the New Embryology: Springboards for Debate
0-7167-7345-7$19.95PurchaseRequest Exam Copy
Developmental Biology 8/e and Bioethics and the New Embryology: Springboards for Debate
Bundle available in US and Canada only.
This bundle includes:
Bioethics and the New Embryology: Springboards for Debate
Developmental Biology, Eighth Edition
0-87893-298-4$125.90PurchaseRequest Exam Copy
The Cell, 5/E with Bioethics and the New Embryology
Bundle available in US and Canada only.
This bundle includes:
The Cell: A Molecular Approach, Fifth Edition
Bioethics and the New Embryology: Springboards for Debate
978-0-87893-365-5$130.40PurchaseRequest Exam Copy
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