4. And a few words about cloning
Let me end this brief overview by talking finally a little bit about cloning. As you know, this came to the fore about a year ago--no, more than a year ago, 18 months ago--with the announcement in Ian Wilmut's lab in Scotland, that they had successfully cloned a sheep. At the time, or shortly afterwards, in April, there was an editorial in The New York Times, which I find fascinating, and I'm going to read it:
"With all the hand wringing over the cloning of sheep in Scotland, it is easy to forget that society confronted a far more radical biological breakthrough a quarter century ago and has emerged none the worse for it. That earlier revolution, known as "gene splicing", or "recombinant DNA technology", gave scientists the awesome power to snip genes from one species and insert them into another, producing creatures with characteristics never before seen. It has spawned such useful advances as bacteria that make human insulin and crops that resist insect attacks, but it has also produced some pretty freakish creatures in the name of science.
"In one outlandish example just recorded, scientists took the gene governing eye formation in a squid, and stuck it in to fruit fly larvae, with the result that the insects developed eyes on their wings, legs, and antennae. That sounds more like "fooling with mother nature" or "playing God", than anything the cloners are up to.
"For all the furor it excites, the power of cloning pales in comparison with gene splicing. Cloning does not allow scientists to create anything new; it simply lets them copy something that already exists. On any rational worry scale, cloning poses less risks at health and to the environment than does gene splicing, promises fewer benefits, and raises ethical concerns no more difficult than those grappled with for the past quarter century." (bibl.4)
That was in April. But earlier in the year, shortly after the announcement by Wilmut and his team, the same news had carried a different editorial. This is in February 20, 1997. And in this editorial, the writers said that "the most troubling issues involved the potential for cloning adult humans. Nightmares envisioned in literature and popular entertainment have ranged from cloning dozens of Hitlers to cloning hordes of drones to perform menial work." (bibl.5)