CAN DO THAT?
Cloning Tests the Moral
Borderlands of Science
WHERE SCIENTISTS TAKE VOLUMES to express complex ideas, poets can often say more in a few couplets, such as T. S. Eliot's summary of the human career:
Birth, and copulation, and death. That's all the facts, when you come to brass tacks: Birth, copulation, and death.
Now even these most basic facts of life are being compromised with the prospect of what looks to be one of the most revolutionary sciences in history, human cloning and genetic engineering, threatening, say some critics, to reinvent birth, do away with copulation, and stave off death. Are the critics of cloning and genetic engineering that extreme in their fears and condemnations about tweaking the human genome? Some are. And they hail from the highest quarters. On February 24, 1997, on the heels of Ian Wilmut's dramatic announcement that he had achieved cloning of a sheepcalled Dolly 1 (so named because the original cell was isolated from a mammary gland, to which Dolly Parton responded “I'm honored. There's no such thing as baa-aa-aa-d publicity”), President Clinton sent a letter to Dr. Harold Shapiro, president of Princeton University and chair of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, re