In the Shadow of Progress

| Published on

By Eric Cohen

We live in an age of unprecedented human mastery – over birth and death, body and mind, nature and human nature. In every realm of life, science and technology have brought remarkable advances and improvements: we are healthier, wealthier, and more comfortable than ever before. But our gratitude for the benefits of progress increasingly mixes with concern about the meaning and consequences of our newfound powers.

For the Love of the Game

New Republic | Published on

By Eric Cohen and Leon R. Kass

The Super Bowl is over. March Madness is fast approaching, with NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs close behind. Spring training for the new baseball season has begun. Year after year, season by season, sports fans across the country shift their attentions, polish their loyalties, and renew their hopes: maybe this year, just this once, it won’t again be “wait ’til next year.”

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The Ends of Science

First Things (November 2006) | Published on

By Eric Cohen

Whenever I meet with scientists, I’m always struck by their optimism — and their discontent.

Mostly they are optimists, excited by the latest findings: the newly isolated gene variant that may help explain schizophrenia, the new telescopic images that reveal the violent births of distant galaxies, the geochemical discoveries that may change our understanding of Earth’s formation. Armed with an endless array of PowerPoint slides, the optimists believe they are uncovering life’s secrets slice by slice, defining humanity’s place in the universe, making life better through their mastery of nature’s mechanisms. Knowledge through experiment, progress through reason: They have no doubt they are on the right side of history.

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Unthinkable Thoughts

Weekly Standard, Vol. 012 No. 23 | Published on

By Eric Cohen

Annihilation from Within: The Ultimate Threat to Nations
by Fred Charles Iklé (Columbia, 142 pp., $24.50)

Fear and trembling about the dark side of modern technology have been with us for centuries–from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to J. Robert Oppenheimer’s atomic remorse.

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In Whose Image Shall We Die?

The New Atlantis, Winter 2007 | Published on

By Eric Cohen

The problem of living well with death is central to many of the quandaries of bioethics, from assisted suicide to organ transplants to embryo research. In confronting these very modern medical dilemmas, we need to recover some ancient wisdom about mortality. By considering some of our culture’s paradigmatic images of the good death—the remembered death of Jacob, the tranquil death of Socrates, the redeemed death of Christ, the opposed death of Franklin, and the crisis of death in Camus’s myth of Sisyphus—Eric Cohen seeks lessons for living well and dying well.

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