Clones, Genes and Immortality: Ethics and Genetics
Harris (John)
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Amazon Book Description

  1. What is cloning and why is the idea of it so disturbing? Why has the birth of "Dolly" the sheep provoked such furious debate through the world?
  2. In a retitled and revised edition of his "Wonderwoman and Superman", John Harris looks at the ethical issues surrounding the revolution in biology which has provided scientists with an unprecedented ability to control human evolution.
  3. From designer babies to genetic screening by employers, his book provides a stimulating introduction to the present concerns about the rapid pace of developments in human biotechnology.

Amazon Customer Review
  1. Discussions and debates on the ethics of genetic engineering these days are frequently accompanied by ridicule and vituperation. An objective observer interested in the issues may be revolted by this situation, and with complete justification. Genetic engineering is a powerful technology, and its ramifications for all life on Earth, both human and non-human, entail that everyone, especially those directly involved in its practice, be very aware of the deep moral issues involved in its use. Scare tactics by those against genetic engineering, exaggerated claims by those supporting it, and very bitter verbal and written exchanges have characterized both sides of the debate, and therefore a calm, rational approach is gravely needed.
  2. The author takes such an approach in this book, and this makes it one of the few in print that would be of interest to those readers who want to take a look at the issues without any masks. The author is clearly supportive of genetic engineering, but that is not to say that every reader will finish the book with the same attitude as the author, for the clarity in which he poses his arguments may allow a reader to formulate alternative points of view. There are many interesting discussions in the book, and it will no doubt, if read with an open, scientific mind, serve as a refreshing alternative to current ones on the subject.
  3. Another virtue of the book is that a reader need not be an expert in genetics in order to follow the presentation, for the author defines the necessary terminology. For example, very early in the book he is careful to differentiate between genetic manipulations of the 'somatic line' and those of the 'germ line', the former limited to cells of individuals and not inherited by their progeny, the latter effecting the genomes of individuals and their offspring. Germ line manipulation has been the main topic of confrontation, although somatic line manipulation has also taken a hit recently, due to some problems that have arisen with gene therapies.
  4. Many possible scenarios and consequences of genetic engineering are overviewed in the book. For example, the author discusses the possibility, which has been done with various animals, of inserting additional genes into human beings, creating then a 'transgenic' human, this being done primarily to enhance various capabilities. The author though is quick to point out that such procedures have not yet been perfected for use in humans and may therefore be dangerously disruptive. Another fascinating possibility discussed in the book is 'parthenogenesis', this being the process in which unfertilzed human eggs can be stimulated to grow without fertilization, giving a near clone of the mother. He also notes though that there is some evidence that parthenogenetically stimulated embryos are not easily implanted.
  5. These two examples are an illustration of the fact that all through the book the author exhibits a keen intellectual honesty about the issues at hand, carefully noting what is possible now and what is not for biotechnology. He is well aware that developments in genetic engineering come very quickly, and one must therefore exhibit diligence of the highest order. He also though presents a strong case for doing genetic engineering, in both humans and non-humans. Its possibilities are awesome for the quality of all life on the entire planet.
  6. The technology of genetic engineering should be of concern to everyone alive today, and after studying this book, readers will gain much insight into its ramifications and its ethical foundations. More extensive research and testing will no doubt prove the viability of genetic engineering in most cases of interest. Those techniques proved unsafe or not viable should be abandoned without hesitation, but those showing promise should be used or applied immediately, with no guilt or hesitation. The new species of animals and plants, the new disease cures, and the ability to select the genetic makeup of offspring and even to eventually bring about transgenic humans, are some of the most exciting possibilities to contemplate for genetic engineering.


Oxford Paperbacks; 2nd Revised edition edition (12 Mar. 1998)

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