Modern society, and in particular modern American society, survives, grows, and prospers on the mantra of progress. "Find a better way and don't look back"-that's the rubric that provides the driving power behind America's passion for advancement, invention, novelty. Well and good, say the thoughtfully inclined. But what of ethics, the branch of philosophy that asks us to judge whether human actions are right or wrong? Is anyone on the right side if ethics is not considered-in, say, performing an abortion? In the cloning of humans? In male "motherhood?" Such issues, plus others like artificial insemination and the embryonation of women, come to the point of open, violent conflict in William F. Keefe's novel The Male Element. Ethicist James Vandorn takes it upon himself to rid his peaceful community of what he considers crimes against nature. Those so-called crimes center on embryologist, Dr. Emlyn Brand's experiments with simians and then with volunteer human subjects. Brand's target: a "pregnant man."
Can the outcome be settled peaceably once each man decides that his cause is the valid one? Blood flows. A fetus is aborted by the violence that also leads to a protagonist's death.