Wednesday’s Book Review: “The Body Politic”

downloadThe Body Politic: The Battle over Science in America. By Jonathan D. Moreno. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2011.

There are powerful debates in the land, debates over science and policy, over philosophy and knowledge, 07over the nature of the future and the politics of the past and present. Eugenics, abortion, stem-cell research, cloning, genetically altered crops, global warming, and a host of other subjects in the scientific realm dominate our politics. What are the realities of this debate? What are the stakes of this debate? What are going to be the likely results of this debate?

No one knows the answers to these question, as author Jonathan Moreno makes clear in this basic text on the subject. Science has dominated much of human existence since the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century; the twentieth century was essentially the century of physics, in which technologies changed every aspect of live from the atomic bomb to the use of airplanes. The twenty-first century may well be the century of biology. Moreno seems to think so and emphasizes those themes in this book.

Along with this emergence of biology as the scientific theme with the most interest in the modern era, there is also an emergence of a bio-political process that influences every aspect of biological science. Moreno draws the stark lines between left and right in this debate. He contrasts greens with conservatives, transhumanists with bioconservatives, technoprogressives with modern-day Luddites. He also draws the themes as not so much over the actuality of the biological issues as about the potentials for abuse. Are genetically modified foods really dangerous? There is no evidence to believe such, but there is a strong opposition that exists regardless. Is stem cell research truly about destroying lives? Of course not, but there is a sense in certain quarters that a fetus is a full-fledged life that must be protected.

These contentious issues have a long history and Moreno seeks to illuminate them. How significant is the intersection between science and democracy in American life? This is a useful orientation to the subject of bio-politics but is a long way from a detailed study of the subject.

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