It has been said that we have come as far as we have only because we stand on the shoulders of giants. One of the strengths of ethics when studied as part of a survey of Western civilization has been the discipline’s emphasis on consulting the accumulated wisdom of the past. However, in doing so one must not fail to apply these principles to the situations arising in our own time.
‘Talbot School of Theology Professor Scott Rae in “Moral Choices: An Introduction To Ethics” maintains this balance by not only analyzing the foundations of this field as set forth in Biblical and historical sources as well as more contemporary systems but also by examining a number of issues arising from advances in technology.
“Moral Choices” is an excellent resource for believers to investigate the complexities of this field of study since Rae does not overly advocate any one particular position per say but rather examines both sides by comparing where each either measures up to or falls short of either the outright teachings of Scripture or the traditional ethical norms derived from sacred revelation. The student will also come away with a better understanding of the legal or scientific developments giving rise to these disputes.
For example, some of the issues examined in Moral Choices include abortion, reproductive technology, human cloning, and physician assisted suicide.
In regards to abortion, Rae builds a Biblical position on the topic centering around the Fifth Commandment (Thou shalt not murder) by showing how this injunction applies to the fetus since the child in question retains a distinct personhood from conception onward until death. Rae also goes into the background of a number of court decisions establishing the legal framework for this procedure in the United States such as Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, and Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.
C.P. Snow lamented in “The Two Cultures And The Scientific Revolution” of the widening gulf between those educated in the humanities and those schooled in the hard sciences. Moral Choices does a commendable job of bridging the gap.
Often average citizens shy away from these complex issues for lack of understanding the science involved. However, by defining terms related to reproductive technologies and genetic engineering such as somatic cell gene therapy (the addition of a gene), somatic cell nuclear transfer (the taking of cells from an adult and placing them in an egg in order to grow a clone), and an overview of various infertility treatments such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection and intrafallopian transfer, “Moral Choices” won’t qualify the reader to be a Doctor Frankenstien but will certainly give the concerned laymen a better idea of what exactly goes on in the lab late at night.
Like stage magicians, often scientific and philosophical elites prefer to dazzle the common man by keeping much of the process by which they arrive at their proclamations shrouded in secrecy. “Moral Choices” by Scott Rae not only applies fundamental ethical principles to the daunting challenges facing society today but also provides the steps helping one to arrive at an informed decision.
The steps are as follows: (1) Gather the facts. (2) Determine the ethical claims. (3) Determine what principles have bearing on the case. (4) List the alternatives. (5) Compare the alternatives with the principles. (6) Consider the consequences. (7) Make a decision.
“Moral Choices: An Introduction To Ethics” begins with the question “Why Be Moral?”. From considering the ramifications of the issues examined in the text, the reader will conclude how can we afford not to?
by Frederick Meekins
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