Brave New Families: Biblical Ethics and Reproductive Technologies, by Scott B. Rae (Baker Book House, 256 pp.; $16.99, paper). Reviewed by Brad Stetson, director of the David Institute.
This comprehensive work presents an overview and a moral analysis of the latest reproductive technologies employed by the American fertility industry. Written from an evangelical Christian perspective, Brave New Families is nontechnical enough to be generally accessible yet sufficiently detailed to merit the attention of bioethicists.
The alphabet soup of emerging methods of assisted reproduction is indeed bewildering. From AIH (artificial insemination by husband) and IVF (in vitro fertilization) to GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer), ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer), and embryo cloning, these biological manipulations raise basic questions about the nature of the human person—and the persistence of "family" in a world where reproduction can be divorced from its natural setting. Through a sensitive integration of Scripture with legal, philosophical, and biological perspectives, Rae effectively argues that personhood begins at the completion of conception, and that the marriage-based heterosexual union is objectively best for children and hence the essential context for procreation.
The reaffirmation that personhood is a reality from conception will not sit well with the burgeoning fertility industry and its sometimes unrestrained boosters in academe, yet this verdict provides a healthy check on artificial reproductive practices. Rae is very sympathetic to infertile couples—indeed, his conclusion is directed explicitly to them—but he does urge them to set limits (moral as well as financial) on the reproductive technology they will pursue. Such curbs are a valuable reminder that the ability to apply a technology does not alone secure its moral justification.
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