The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life : Science and the Abortion Controversy

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Description

The question of whether abortion should or should not be permitted, and under what circumstances, is among the most difficult and sometimes anguished decisions for contemporary men and women. How we feel about this issue, and what actions we take, help to define our image of who we are as social beings. In The Facts of Life, Harold Morowitz and James Trefil, two distinguished scientists and science writers, examine what modern biology can contribute to our understanding of this debate. Sensitive to the myriad ethical and religious arguments beyond the realm of science that swirl around abortion, the authors focus on one crucial question-when does a fetus acquire "humanness," that quality that sets us apart from all other living things. From the viewpoint of science, they argue, "humanness" begins with the possession of a highly developed cerebral cortex. While humans are linked via cell structure and cell chemistry with all life on our planet - from monkeys to fruit flies to pumpkins - it is the human brain structure which makes us who we are. Reviewing the latest advances in molecular biology, evolutionary biology, embryology, neurophysiology, and neonatology - fields that all bear on this question - the authors reveal a surprising consensus of scientific opinion on when humanness begins. A lucid primer on the biological aspects of the abortion issue, The Facts of Life is also a fascinating inquiry, across various scientific disciplines, into what makes us uniquely human. Anyone who struggles with the issue of abortion will be grateful to find a work that moves this heated issue from the intensely emotional area it has occupied to the calmer domain of science.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 192 pages
  • 144.78 x 210.82 x 22.86mm | 385.55g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • line drawings, tables
  • 0195079272
  • 9780195079272

Review quote

'the authors write with admirable clarity' Ruth Hubbard, Nature, Vol. 360, November 1992show more

About Harold J. Morowitz

About the Authors: Harold J. Morowitz is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Biology and Natural Philosophy at George Mason University and the author of The Thermodynamics of Pizza and Cosmic Joy and Local Pain. James S. Trefil is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University. He is the coauthor of Dictionary of Cultural Literacy and Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy.show more

Table of contents

1. Framing the debate ; 2. The web of life ; 3. Conception ; 4. The emergence of humanness ; 5. The development of the fetus ; 6. The birth of the cortex ; 7. Survival outside the womb: Hitting the wall ; 8. Conclusionsshow more

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