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The Embryo Research Debate

The Embryo Research Debate
Science and the Politics of Reproduction


Part of Cambridge Cultural Social Studies

  • Date Published: March 1997
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521576833

£ 28.99

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About the Authors
  • Scientific research involving human embryos was a major topic of public debate in Britain during the 1980s. Despite strong support from the scientific community, embryo research was initially condemned by many ordinary people as well as by special interest groups, and came close to being banned by Act of Parliament. Michael Mulkay describes the dynamics of the parliamentary struggle over the future of embryo research, focusing on such issues as: the clash between the anti-abortion and pro-research lobbies; the tactics of the Government; political ideology; the media's role; the importance of gender; religion; the impact of science fiction; the lure of medical advance; and the difficulty of maintaining ethical control. He explains how the advocates of embryo research eventually triumphed, and ends with an examination of the cultural tensions which linger after the debate.

    • Non-technical account of embryo research debates, putting them in wider social and historical context
    • Examines key issues and arguments deployed in debates including religion, gender, role of the media, influence of science fiction
    • No other book combines such subtle understanding of sociology of science with knowledge of the cultural milieu of the debates
    • Mulkay very well known sociologist of science
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'No parliamentary transcript or newspaper article has gone unread in Mulkay's definitive study of the politics of embryo research in Britain. The upshot of this narrative appears to be that the resolution of this public science controversy testifies to the wisdom of parliamentary democracy - but as in any Mulkay tale, appearances may be deceptive!' Steve Fuller, University of Durham

    'In this brilliant and lucid book, Mulkay achieves the ultimate goal of science and technology studies: he gives us engaged yet dispassionate account of a multifaceted biomedical controversy.' Ruth Schwartz Cowan, State University of New York, Stony Brook

    'As a major contribution to an understanding of embryo research, and to the complexities of parliamentary decision making more broadly, this book is highly impressive. For anyone concerned with developments in research on human embryos and reproductive techniques, it will be an essential read.' Christine Hine, Brunel University

    'It is a scholarly contribution I expect will be of long-lasting value that Mulkay has compiled so rich a description of the ins and outs, the dates and the debates, the players and the positions in this singular moral controversy … Mulkay's account is exemplary of the best … Detailed, perceptive and thorough, it is a valuable portrait of an unusual public debate in Britain.' Sarah Franklin, Public Understanding of Science

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 1997
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521576833
    • length: 228 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.34kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Preface and acknowledgements
    List of abbreviations
    1. The background to the debate
    2. The sequence of parliamentary debate
    3. Political parties and ministerial tactics
    4. The impact of the pro-research lobby
    5. Embryos in the news
    6. Women and men
    7. Science and religion
    8. The myth of Frankenstein
    9. Embryo research and the slippery slope
    Epilogue: intruders in the Fallopian tube or a dream of perfect human reproduction

  • Author

    Michael Mulkay, University of York

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