Sunday, September 24, 2017

Babies by Design: The Ethics of Genetic Choice by Ronald M. Green

5 out of 5 stars  *****

The fascinating and scholarly book by Professor Ronald M. Green,babies by design: The Ethics of Genetic Choice is 10 years old but informs those of us not familiar with the fields of genetics and reproduction about the capabilities in altering human conditions, such as disease, before birth. Society is mainly aware of invitro fertilization, test tube babies, for couples unable to conceive naturally. Green describes many procedures that go beyond test tubes and culture dishes since the completion of the Human Genome Project; like, gene therapy, germline gene transfer, or CRE recombinase treatments. Elaborations of these and other treatments are in the text and glossary but the aim of this book is to enlighten people as to the responsibility that accompanies this human embryonic research and activity. 

Ethics and morals pose difficult questions when science meets humanity with its religions, laws, and values. Athletes using steroids and human growth hormone (HCG) to gain that physical, mental edge over their competition makes headlines at every exposure. Committees, leagues, and regulating boards punish the users making a public spectacle out of them. Judges must now regulate substances that benefit an athlete if it goes beyond regular vitamins and minerals during extensive training. Humans continue to push the envelope to get that edge regardless of consequences, and there are some drastic consequences to this drive. The ethical consideration of these choices that athletes make is that they are performance enhancing and not therapeutic necessities. "The non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, or genetic elements, or the modulation of gene expression to improve athletic performance" is known as "Gene doping" (p. 261)

Green also refers to the way Hollywood and Science Fiction treat this subject. Books and movies, such as Brave New World and Gattaca reveal the negative side of gene manipulation by creating a class of people seemingly superior coupled with human nature's greed for control and power. It is an entertaining way to display the issues surrounding man's increasing knowledge and abilities to alter humankind. 

On the religious front, many cry out that this field of science should be banned because it is man playing God by trying to change what God has made, and what God has made is perfect. Green considers all of these issues and compassionately understands why so many feel the way they do. His objective is to teach what is possible as well as why any endeavor involving gene therapy should be undertaken or not. Identifying what a better informed society is willing to accept is the dynamic facing the field of ethics in reprogenetics, "The merging of reproductive and genetic technologies." (p. 266) In closing, Green refers to the ethicist-theologian, Ronald Cole-Turner, when he points out that the end does not justify the means; the means is as important as the end, itself.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis (The Great Courses) by Louis Markos

5 out of 5 stars  *****

Life and Writings of C.S. Lewis is a lecture from The Great Courses by Louis Markos. Markos admits that the subject is a favorite of his, personally, because C.S. Lewis influences this author profoundly. The course is broken up into 12 chapters, each describing the events affecting Lewis at the time of his writing.

I learn a lot about this prolific writer who encompasses so many genres from children's literature to explanatory assignments from Oxford University on 16th and 17th century English literature, like John Milton, 1608-1674, a poet who wrote Paradise Lost in 1667. Another tidbit of information is what Lewis answers to, the nickname, Jack, since childhood. I know of Lewis's eventual conversion to Christianity later in life but I am unaware, until I listen to this lecture, that an estranged relationship between he and his father occurs after his mother dies and he is shipped off to boarding school. Only after his father's death does Lewis become Christian. Closure with the father figure and the prodding by his close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien allows Lewis to drop his resistance and develop Christianity's best apologetic arguments to date.

Markos excitedly delves into the stories and their deeper meanings with each interesting lecture. The Narnia Chronicles are a favorite of his and his children. The symbolism is rich in his tales that display Lewis's knowledge of scripture and its meaning. I enjoy this course immensely and have a greater appreciation for C.S. Lewis because of it. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, Narration by author

5 of 5 stars  *****

Neil Gaiman narrates his excellent literary research in the entertaining mythology of the Vikings or the Norsemen. These ancient tales include the origins of nine unique realms, fantastic creatures, gods, and men. The author lends his passion to these mythological stories that become the foundation of nordic societies before their Christian conversion.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Gods of HP Lovecraft by Aaron J. French (Editor), Martha Wells (Goodreads Author), Adam Nevill (Goodreads Author), Laird Barron (Goodreads Author), Bentley Little, David Liss (Goodreads Author), Brett J. Talley (Goodreads Author), Christopher Golden (Goodreads Author) , James A. Moore (Goodreads Author), Jonathan Maberry (Goodreads Author), Joe R. Lansdale

3 out of 5 stars  *****

A group of Science Fiction writers pay homage to HP Lovecraft by writing short stories of horror which include the creatures of HP's imagination. Some of the stories are a perfusion of descriptive elements of speech and some are less elaborate in expression. The variety of authors accounts for this stylistic diversity. The stories, themselves, go beyond the mundane human slice of life to the history of living, intelligent beings who predate homo sapiens but interact with mankind either by time travel, dreams, dimensional gates, or misadventure. The short stories become gruesome and terrible before a climax, usually of doom or despair. Such scenarios have their own place in Science Fiction and its own following.

This reader/listener discovers tales of horror to be less entertaining and more intriguing when in a certain but random frame of mind. Listening to The Gods of HP Lovecraft becomes tedious and a bit annoying as the same narrator seems to blend one short story into the next. For these reasons this collection of literary work gets three out of five stars. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Why I Am a Christian by John R.W. Stott

5 of 5 stars  *****

What an inspirational book that also deepens one's understanding of the Old and New Testament. The common denominator in that scripture being Jesus of Nazareth. John R.W. Stott eloquently writes about his accepting Jesus as Christ, the Messiah. He uses scripture from both Old and New Testaments to reinforce his belief and also quotes great minds such as Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, Bertrand Russell, and Bornhoeffer. 

One appreciates the academic mind and logical rationale of Stott's interpretation throughout this book. He summarizes and further explains each component of the claims about Jesus Christ that confirm his abiding belief in Christianity. For example, the crucifixion's purpose is atonement of sins, revelation of God, and conquest over evil. These three points expand in that chapter's elaborations.

Why I Am a Christian is a short book but a powerful message of profound importance. It would behoove any reader to acquaint themselves with this work for the ability to discern truth in a world filled with lies and deception.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Big Agenda: President Trump's Plan to Save America by David Horowitz

5 of 5 stars  *****

Objective evidence is necessary for truth to be told. David Horowitz writes a book using such evidence exposing Donald Trump's vision for America and his behavior to actualize that goal after becoming the President of the United States. Big Agenda: President Trump's Plan to Save America refutes the character assassination and barrage of negative reporting he receives, still, to this day.

The author accuses the Democrats, Far Left Liberal Progressives, of being taken over by a Socialist ideology and even Communism. Records reveal how Hillary Clinton benefits monetarily while Secretary of State making deals with companies and countries who desire her influence to deliver what they want. Hillary's association with people who are on America's list of enemies comes up in this book which also points out how she avoids any bad press, let alone conviction of crimes against her country. The reason for looking at Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton, is to explain the double standard that applies to Republicans in the White House.

Democrats are not the only opposition to Donald Trump. Republicans who are comfortable with the status quo do not want the non-politician, politically incorrect Trump to shake their worlds into chaos. Some are jealous or spiteful toward Trump because of personal issues and refuse to support his agenda.

The main theme of the book is more of an observation about why America is so divided with the advent of Trump's election victory. Horowitz shows how, over time, the Democratic Party shifts more toward the Left than moderate. The prejudiced institutions of higher education are promoting Progressive, New World Order agendas that influence the malleable minds of young adults. Bernie Sanders popularity is an indication of this indoctrination.

Horowitz presents, in plain language, the opposition to making America great again. Trump's big agenda is a cure for reversing the course on which the last administration put this country.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Art of Reading (Great Courses, #2198) by Timothy Spurgin

3 of 5 stars  ***

I listen to these lectures mainly from my car while driving. Because of this, I miss some of the important lessons The Art of Reading offers. 

Timothy Spurgin uses many classics to point out examples of his lesson for each chapter. Content and structure are not the only discussions. Why we read what we read and how we treat the written word is also a subject upon which the author touches. Tools for approaching the varieties of books, journals, magazines, and papers can assist us to get through what seems tedious at first. 

I enjoy the description of style in certain pieces of literature and understand, now, why an author writes the way he or she does. I appreciate the necessary rules for plot to maintain the integrity of a story. Finally, the difficulty of adapting a book to a movie explains why so many movies fail to deliver the true essence and tone that a book shares. To capture a book's intent on film is truly an art form. 

The purpose of this course is to educate us about reading so it can be more enjoyable. Even though the lectures can be a bit stuffy at times, I believe this course succeeds in achieving that purpose.