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Hardcover | $12.75 Short | £10.95 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in | January 2008 | ISBN: 9780262033732
Paperback | $30.00 Short | £24.95 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in | January 2008 | ISBN: 9780262533010
eBook | $21.00 Short | January 2008 | ISBN: 9780262251273
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Design and Destiny

Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Human Germline Modification


We are approaching the day when advances in biotechnology will allow parents to “design” a baby with the traits they want. The continuing debate over the possibilities of genetic engineering has been spirited, but so far largely confined to the realms of bioethics and public policy. Design and Destiny approaches the question in religious terms, discussing human germline modification (the genetic modification of the embryonic cells that become the eggs or sperm of a developing organism) from the viewpoints of traditional Christian and Jewish teaching. The contributors, leading religious scholars and writers, call our attention not to technology but to humanity, reflecting upon the meaning and destiny of human life in a technological age. Many of these scholars argue that religious teaching can support human germline modification implemented for therapeutic reasons, although they offer certain moral conditions that must be met.

The essays offer a surprising variety of opinions, including a discussion of Judaism’s traditional presumption in favor of medicine, an argument that Catholic doctrine could accept germline modification if it is therapeutic for the embryo, an argument implying that “traditional” Christian teaching permits germline modification whether for therapy or enhancement, and a “classical” Protestant view that germline modification should be categorically opposed.

Contributors: Lisa Sowle Cahill, Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Ronald Cole-Turner, Amy Michelle DeBaets, Celia Deane-Drummond, Elliot Dorff, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Thomas A. Shannon, James J. Walter.

About the Editor

Ronald Cole-Turner is H. Parker Sharp Professor of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is the author of The New Genesis: Theology and the Genetic Revolution and the coauthor of Pastoral Genetics: Theology and Care at the Beginning of Life.


“This book is well worth reading for anyone, especially scholars, interested in medical ethics in general and genetics in particular. It is extremely well-organized, nicely written, thorough, and informative.”—Ethics & Medicine


“These essays are a valuable resource in the debate about germline modification and are thoughtfully presented to allow for a range of religious perspective. Gerald Wolpe, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania”
Gerald Wolpe, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania
“This important collection elevates public discourse about the ethics of modifying the human germline and displays the contributions of various religious traditions within the debate.”
Courtney Campbell, Department of Philosophy, Oregon State University
“This book will appeal to scholars and religious readers, and moreover, help lay people understand the history and shortcomings of secular notions like 'human dignity,' which are rooted in religious traditions but don't survive secular culture. The contributors show that religious traditions don't outright reject all kinds of inheritable genetic modification or even enhancement, but that they are allies in the debate of genetic modification. These debates draw our attention to the complexity of the human ambition and mission to improve the world.”
Guido Van Steendam, Director IFB, KULeuven, Belgium