The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life : Science and the Abortion Controversy

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Description

In this novel examination of the issue of abortion, the authors offer a primer in the biological aspects of fetal development and its impact on the abortion controversy. Although purely scientific study cannot offer a universal solution to the issue of abortion, nor can a purely political or moral response be fully informed without the benefit of the latest scientific knowledge. Reviewing the latest developments in molecular biology, evolutionary biology, embryology, and neurophysiology, the authors reveal a surprising agreement of scientific opinion on when 'humanness' begins: with the development of a highly developed cerebral cortex. It is on this issue that the authors focus with sensitivity to the myriad of ethical and religious arguments that surround it.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 129.3 x 203.5 x 15mm | 248.82g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • line drawings
  • 0195090462
  • 9780195090468

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

Back cover copy

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 midst of the surrounding political, ethical, and religious debate, people everywhere are once again examining their consciences and their beliefs, and turning to unutilized sources of information as they seek to come to terms with this contentious issue. And as emotions run high, it is helpful to step back from the highly charged arena to reconsider the underlying scientific facts about human development. 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 whenhumanness 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

Review quote

The book is concise, beautiful and intellectually high-powered, a reviewer's delight and the realization of every author's hope ... a volume which will keep readers from wool-gathering, no small feat with such dense, affect-laden material. * Liza Zabarenko, Soc. Sci. Med, Vol. 39, No. 4, 1994 *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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