In June of 2009, Pres. Obama terminated the President’s Council on Bioethics, a commission created by Pres. Bush to advise the administration on cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and other controversial subjects on which passions run high.

Dr. Leon Kass was tagged by Pres. Bush to helm his newly minted Council on Bioethics. Dr. Kass created some controversy with the readings provided to those attending the Council’s first meeting. He drew on literary, philosophical, and theological sources to inform the Council’s discussion. Some, who only wanted discuss science and technology, were insulted by having to read and possibly make decisions based on fiction.

In December 2009, Pres. Obama reconstituted the council under the rubric “The Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.” He tagged Amy Gutman, University of Pennsylvania president as the new Chair. Ken Thomas, at No Left Turns, expressed doubts, which were later confirmed, that she would “reappoint either past commission member and her former colleague Robert George of Princeton or our NLT contributor Peter [Augustine] Lawler.”

So, apropos of nothing, other than my interest in good fiction and the role it plays in the larger culture, some of this week’s selections remind visitors of readings presented by Dr. Kass in Being Human. It is hard to argue against the fact that many in our cultural influence professionals embrace “scientism” and demean what Wesley J. Smith refers to as human exceptionalism. Therefore, we should, as Dr. Kass asked that first Council on Bioethics, reflect on works critical of the cult of Scientism.

Short Fiction:

Criticism and Commentary:

News and Reviews:

The Writing Life:


“As the son of a physicist, Auden had an enduring interest in science and the moral issues surrounding it.” The inclusion of this poem was inspired by Alan Jacobs, who is putting the final touches on W.H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue. You can hear Auden read this poem at the link embedded in the title, above.

If all a top physicist knows
About the Truth be true,
Then, for all the so-and-so’s,
Futility and grime,
Our common world contains,
We have a better time
Than the Greater Nebulae do,
Or the atoms in our brains.

Marriage is rarely bliss
But, surely it would be worse
As particles to pelt
At thousands of miles per sec
About a universe
Wherein a lover’s kiss
Would either not be felt
Or break the loved one’s neck.

Though the face at which I stare
While shaving it be cruel
For, year after year, it repels
An ageing suitor, it has,
Thank God, sufficient mass
To be altogether there,
Not an indeterminate gruel
Which is partly somewhere else.

Our eyes prefer to suppose
That a habitable place
Has a geocentric view,
That architects enclose
A quiet Euclidian space:
Exploded myths – but who
Could feel at home astraddle
An ever expanding saddle?

This passion of our kind
For the process of finding out
Is a fact one can hardly doubt,
But I would rejoice in it more
If I knew more clearly what
We wanted the knowledge for,
Felt certain still that the mind
Is free to know or not.

It has chosen once, it seems,
And whether our concern
For magnitude’s extremes
Really become a creature
Who comes in a median size,
Or politicizing Nature
Be altogether wise,
Is something we shall learn.