The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

October 6, 2005



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The Humanitas Project 





Please forward this e-mail to anyone who might be interested in staying abreast of the rapidly changing developments in biotechnology and the related area of bioethics.  For more information on The Humanitas Project, contact Michael Poore, Executive Director, at 931-528-2408 or .  Or visit The Humanitas Project web site at



The medicalization of life:  a pill to chill, a pill to perk up; a pill for more sex, a pill for fewer babies; a pill for boldness, a pill for stress...a pill for...


Tense? Lonely? There’s Promise in a Pill

by Michiko Kakutani



“In his hilarious stand-up routine, Chris Rock talks about the ubiquitous television drug commercials that ‘keep naming symptoms till they get one that’ the viewer’s got. Sometimes, he says, the ads don’t even tell you what the pill does: ‘You see a lady on a horse or a man in a tub, and they just keep naming symptoms: “Are you depressed?” “Are you lonely?” “Do your teeth hurt?”’ He adds that one commercial he saw went, ‘Do you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning?’


“‘They got that one!’ he says. ‘I got that. I’m sick. I need that pill!’


“Mr. Rock’s observations are almost too close to the actual truth to be considered satire, as Greg Critser’s provocative new book, Generation RX, makes clear. Indeed, baby boomers and their offspring have become the most medicated generation ever, devoted consumers from cradle to grave of every manner of pharmaceutical imaginable—pills that not only cure real diseases, but that also promise, in Mr. Critser’s words, to ‘do everything from guarding us against our excesses of drink, food and tobacco, to increasing our children’s performance at school, to jump-starting our own productivity at work, to extending our very time on this mortal coil.’ Boomers, who grew up using drugs recreationally, have become a generation that lives almost full time in the Valley of the Dolls: bombarded by direct-to-consumer ads, they are happy to self-medicate, and their cost-conscious H.M.O.’s are happy to substitute antidepressants for expensive talk therapy, prescriptions for repeated doctor visits.


“Little wonder, then, that drug use—of the legal sort—has soared. Americans routinely take pills for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and they also routinely take pills to sleep, pills to focus, pills to chill and pills to perk up, pills for more sex and pills for less stress. Mr. Critser notes that ‘the average number of prescriptions per person, annually, in 1993 was seven,’ but had risen to 11 by 2000, and 12 in 2004....”


New York Times – September 30, 2005 (Note:  Free registration required.  Times articles expire after one week.)


Deconstructing creation...we want its benefits without many of its responsibilities...


Scientists Aim for Lab-Grown Meat 



Pork cuts could come fresh from the lab

“An international research team has proposed new techniques that may lead to the mass production of meat reared not on the farm, but in the laboratory.


“Developments in tissue engineering mean that cells taken from animals could be grown directly into meat in a laboratory, the researchers say.


“Scientists believe the technology already exists to directly grow processed meat like a chicken nugget.


“The technology could benefit both humans and the environment.


“‘With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world’s annual meat supply. And you could do it in a way that’s better for the environment and human health.


“‘In the long term, this is a very feasible idea,’ said Jason Matheny of the University of Maryland, part of the team whose research has been published in the Tissue Engineering journal....


“To industrialise the process, researchers suggest the cells could be grown on large sheets that would need to be stretched to provide the ‘exercise’ for the growing muscles.


“‘If you didn’t stretch them, it would be like eating mush,’ said Mr Methany....” – August 13, 2005


“Lying is hard work, and these brains may be better-equipped to handle it...”


Some Minds Appear Wired to Lie


Scans reveal different brain structures in those skilled at deception, USC researchers report.



“In the lexicon of lying, there are white lies and barefaced lies. Facts can be fudged, forged or shaded. There are fibbers, fabricators and feckless fabulists. By whatever clinical term, the truth simply is not in some people.


“Now scientists have an anatomical inkling why.


“A USC study published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that the talent for compulsive deception is embedded in the structure of the brain.


“People who habitually lie and cheat—pathological liars—appear to have much more white matter, which speeds communication between neurons, in the prefrontal cortex than normal people, the researchers found. They also have fewer actual neurons....


“The surplus of connections between neurons might enable these people to be more adept at the complex neural networking that underlies deceit. Lying is hard work, and these brains may be better-equipped to handle it, the researchers said....”


Los Angeles Times – October 1, 2005


Will caregiving remain ethical in our aging society?


White House Panel Warns of Aging Crisis



“A looming explosion in the population of frail and elderly persons is pushing the U.S. toward a crisis in caring for the aged, a White House commission warned Thursday [Sept. 29].


“The number of elderly Americans is set to double by 2050, spurring massive demand for health and nursing home care for millions of aged Americans....


“In one alarming statistic, the number of Americans with dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple to 12 million by 2050....


“‘We are on the threshold and may have already crossed the threshold of a large crisis of long-term care,’ says Leon Kass, chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, which released the report Thursday....


“The report warned that the number of health workers qualified to deliver long-term care is dropping even as the number of elderly persons rises. A lack of qualified workers threatens to lead to ‘warehousing’ of elderly person in nursing homes too poorly equipped to care for them ethically, it states.


“The report also directly opposes the use of assisted suicide and euthanasia, warning that shortages in qualified caregivers could push doctors and nurses to ‘abandon’ elderly patients out of convenience....” – September 29, 2005


Editor’s Note:  The report of the President’s Council on Bioethics referenced above,  “Taking Care:  Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society,” is available online.  Chapter 2 is a very helpful discussion of the limits and the wisdom of advanced directives.


“The doctors said that I wasn’t conscious, but I understood everything and I cried in desperation.”


In Coma for 2 Years, Patient Says He Heard All


Italian man awoke after being declared nearly-dead by doctors



Stringer/Italy / Reuters

Crisafulli emerged from a deep coma, caused by a 2003 road accident, three months ago but only began speaking recently.

“An Italian man who spent two years supposedly unconscious in a deep coma, written off by doctors as nearly-dead, awoke saying he heard and understood everything happening around him during the long ordeal, his family said.


“Salvatore Crisafulli, a father of four, is describing his case as a ‘miracle’ which proves that lost causes are anything but hopeless and his recovery appeared to strengthen the hand of Italians opposed to end-of-life solutions.


“Even though the case is not medically comparable, his brother called Crisafulli ‘an Italian Terri Schiavo case’ with reference to the brain-damaged Florida woman who died in March after her feeding tube was removed....”


Reuters/MSNBC –  Oct. 5, 2005


Hurricane healthcare lesson:  hospitals and nursing homes must plan for emergencies...


Hurricane Aftermath


...and then, sound judgment



“The elderly patients who died after being left in a Louisiana nursing home during Hurricane Katrina stand in stark contrast to the dozens of elderly patients who died when their bus burst into flames as they fled Hurricane Rita.


“Now the reality of both death and survival in the wake of the recent hurricanes is forcing a new look at disaster plans and evacuation priorities.


“As it becomes increasingly clear where those plans went wrong, and where they saved lives, especially in Louisiana and Mississippi during Katrina, hospital and nursing home officials across the nation realize they need stronger back-up plans and more aggressive strategies in getting the help they need when they need it. In the end, they know that the final judgment and responsibility for the frail lives in their care rests on their own shoulders. ‘The image of people lying in bed with the waters rising, calling for help and no one is there ... it could be us,’ says Alice Hedt, executive director of the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. ‘We’re all just a stroke away from a nursing home.’


“The most important healthcare lesson to be drawn from the disaster and its aftermath is that hospitals and nursing homes must plan for emergencies—and follow those plans....” – September 26, 2005


A new test with therapeutic promise but with eugenic potential...


Scientists Close to Safer Testing of Unborn Babies



“The ability to test a pregnant woman’s blood to assess the health of her unborn child with high reliability, without risk and much earlier, moves a step closer today.


“Scientists have found a way to locate the traces of foetal DNA in a mother’s blood, allowing the ability to diagnose serious genetic disorders without invasive procedures such as amniocentesis.


“Researchers have known for more than three decades that a few foetal cells are present in a pregnant woman’s blood. Then in 1997 it was found that foetal DNA also circulates.


“Prof. Dennis Lo, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and colleagues report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they have found a new label for foetal DNA which exists outside cells, so it can be distinguished and analysed....” – October 4, 2005


“There has been a trend away from having sex and loving relationships towards medicalised conception.”


Women Bypass Sex in Favour of ‘Instant Pregnancies’



“Women are increasingly seeking inappropriate IVF treatment because they do not have the time or inclination for a sex life and want to ‘diarise’ their busy lives.


“Wealthy career women in their 30s and early 40s, some of whom have given up regular sex altogether, are turning to ‘medicalised conception’—despite being fertile and long before they have exhausted the possibility of a natural conception.


“They are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for private IVF treatments - even though they have unpleasant and potentially harmful side effects - because they believe it offers them the best chance of ‘instant’ pregnancy....” – September 25, 2005




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Worth considering...


Faithful Stewards or Terrestrial Gods?

Christianity and the Chief End of Science


a lecture by Ken Myers, Host and Producer of Mars Hill Audio Journal



“Scientific knowledge for practical ends is the only form of knowledge that is now regarded as properly public in the modern West. But there is a suicidal irony in this. Leon Kass has warned that ‘Liberal democracy, founded on a doctrine of human freedom and dignity, has as its most respected body of thought a teaching that has no room for freedom and dignity. Liberal democracy has reached a point—thanks in no small part to the success of the arts and sciences to which it is wedded—where it can no longer defend intellectually its founding principles. Likewise also the Enlightenment: It has brought forth a science that can initiate human life in the laboratory but is without embarrassment incompetent to say what it means either by life or by the distinctively human, and, therefore, whose teachings about man cannot even begin to support its own premise that enlightenment enriches life.’


“Science by itself cannot ask or answer the question, ‘Is there some knowledge and some power that we should not have?’ That was a question raised very provocatively in a 1996 book by literary critic Roger Shattuck called Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography. In the first part of the book, Shattuck looked at numerous stories and myths in the Western tradition that warn about the dangers of curiosity, and hence the necessity of limiting it. The story of Prometheus, of Pandora, of Eve and the Serpent, of the Tower of Babel, the fatal glance of Lot’s wife: all of these stories and many more including Faust and Frankenstein, are reminders of boundaries in human doing and knowing. And yet it is the essence of the modern Western mentality to resent and reject such warnings, to regard all taboos that are unverified by something like an environmental impact statement as superstitions in need of debunking.


“Of course, those earlier cautionary tales all assumed, as C. S. Lewis observed somewhere, that you can’t go against the grain of the universe without getting splinters. And the modern disenchantment of the world denies any such thing as a grain in the universe. Splinters are caused by a lack of knowledge, not the possession of forbidden knowledge....”



“Faithful Stewards or Terrestrial Gods?” is one of three lectures given recently by Ken Myers, host and producer of Mars Hill Audio Journal, on behalf of The Humanitas Project in Nashville, Tennessee.  This lecture was given at a faculty and graduate student luncheon at Vanderbilt University and was co-sponsored by InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries, Presbyterian Student Fellowship, Campus Crusade, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Reformed University Fellowship, Every Nation, and Medical Campus Outreach.  The remainder of the lecture is available online.




Living in the Biotech Century is produced, twice monthly, by The Humanitas Project.  Please note that after a period of time, some web pages may no longer be available due to expiration or a change of address.  Other pages may still be available, but only for a fee.


The views expressed in these resources are not necessarily those of The Humanitas Project.  Our goal is to provide access to information from various sides of the debate.  Ethically and morally, The Humanitas Project unapologetically defends both human dignity and the sanctity of human life in all contexts, from the vantage point of historic Christianity.


Feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone who might be interested in these issues.  To subscribe or unsubscribe to Living in the Biotech Century, visit our website at, or e-mail .  The Humanitas Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and all gifts are tax deductible.  For more information on The Humanitas Project, contact Michael Poore, Executive Director, at 931-528-2408 or .


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