"Something's gone terribly wrong. We cloned some duplicate Einsteins, and all they want to do is tap dance."
In Edward Albee's 1962 play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, George (a historian) describes the agenda of modern biology to alter chromosomes:
. . . the genetic makeup of a sperm cell changed, reordered . . . to order, actually . . . for hair and eye color, stature, potency. . . . I imagine . . . hairiness, features, health . . . and mind. Most important . . . mind. All imbalances will be corrected, sifted out . . . propensity for various diseases will be gone, longevity assured. We will have a race of men . . . test-tube-bred . . . incubator-born . . . superb and sublime.
George's view of the future was sinister and threatening in the early 1960s. But today such a sentiment seems almost quaint. Mapping and sequencing the estimated three billion base pairs of the human genome (the 50,000 to 100,000 genes we are composed of) is "in"; raising serious questions about the project itself is "out." There is money to be made here, and even the "ethicists" are slated to have their share.
The Wall Street Journal summarized the case for the Human Genome Project in early 1989 when it editorialized, "The techniques of gene identification, separation, and splicing now allow us to discover the basic causes of ailments and thus to progress toward cures and even precursory treatments that might ward off the onset of illness ranging from cancer to heart disease to AIDS." All that is lacking "is a blueprint--a map of the human genome." Noting that some members of the European Parliament had suggested that ethical questions regarding eugenics should be answered "before it proceeds," the Journal opined that "This, of course, is a formula for making no progress at all." The editorial concluded, "The Human Genome Initiative . . . may well invite attack from those who are fearful of or hostile to the future. It should also attract the active support of those willing to defend the future" ("Chromosome Cartography," The Wall Street Journal, 16 March 1989, A16).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have created an Office of Human Genome Research, until recently headed by James Watson, and that office has issued a request for funding proposals to study "the ethical, social, and legal issues that may arise from the application of knowledge gained as a result of the Human Genome Initiative." The announcement makes it clear that such projects are to be …