Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World
by Wesley Smith (Encounter Books, $38.95 in bookstores or $35.00 through the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, toll free at: 1-877-439-3348, 219 pgs )

Reviewed by
Alex Schadenberg
The Interim

Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World (Brave New World) is Wesley J. Smith’s latest book. Smith, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute and the legal counsel to the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, should be well known to Interim readers, because he has been a speaker at numerous events throughout Canada. He is also the author of the award-winning book Culture of Death, of the seminal book on euthanasia Forced Exit, and the excellent book on pain and symptom management, Power over Pain.

Brave New World focuses on the issues surrounding stem cells, genetic manipulation and the bio-ethics movement’s new threats to remake human life. The book begins with an examination of the scientific information by defining all the terms and explaining them in understandable language. Smith then turns his attention to the history of the scientific discoveries related to embryonic stem cell research and the political forces that grew out of the demand by the scientific community to be given permission to experiment on human embryos.

Interim readers may remember the political battle over embryonic stem cell research in Canada, but Smith gets to the crux of the issue and uncovers the political battle in the United States and world-wide.

Smith follows the political battle by examining the issue of cloning and its relation to the battle to gain acceptance for embryonic stem cell research. Smith clearly separates the truth and fiction related to cloning. Cloning represents an attack on the human person and Brave New World confirms this knowledge for readers.

Smith then examines how biotech drug companies pressure politicians to support their agenda. This is an important chapter, because it helps the average person understand what the political battle is all about.

Finally, Smith examines the new movement of bio-ethicists who refer to themselves as “transhumanists.” The transhumanists believe that evolution has moved too slowly and that science needs to be used to change human persons. Transhumanists tend to be bioethicists who teach or do research in universities. They want to create a caste of persons who are genetically modified – people who are smarter, stronger and better looking. These genetic “enhancements” include human/animal “hybrids.”

The concerns that many people have about genetically modified food pale in comparison to the concerns we should have about genetically modified people.

Transhumanism is a form of eugenics, meaning that people who are not of a certain intellect or capability are considered less worthy in human dignity and value. In fact, transhumanists believe that those who will refuse to be genetically manipulated will be less human.

Wesley Smith asks the question: will humans remain human? The scary reality is that the same human race that created the unsinkable Titanic is now attempting to genetically manipulate humans. We need to take the transhumanist threat as a serious one. It is too easy to dismiss it as a lunatic fringe, but we can’t afford to.

Brave New World is an important book for understanding the current and future scientific debate in relation to stem cells and genetic manipulation. The explanations and concerns in relation to the transhumanist movement are well done by Smith and open up another area of concern for the sanctity-of-human-life ethic. Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World should be read by everyone who is concerned about the new advances in reproductive and experimental technologies. It effectively explains the issues in language that everyone can understand and spells out the moral implications.