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I reported on the media falling for the latest, “I can clone a baby,” publicity stunt yesterday. Now “the scientists” are weighing in an sputtering outrage. As usual, their “ethical” opposition to human cloning is much less than it seems.

First, it was the cry to “peer review.” From the story:

Alastair Kent, director of the Genetic Interest Group, a charity dedicated to helping families affected with inherited disorders, said that Dr Zavos claimed to have mastered a technology that other scientists had been struggling with for years. “Once again he claims to have used it for purposes widely condemned as unsafe and dangerous. And he has done this in secret, using the hopes of couples desperate to create or to recreate a child as a springboard for his vaulting ambition,” he said.
But the real objection is safety:
“For his claims to have credibility, and to prevent the unethical exploitation of grieving or desperate couples Dr Zavos must throw open his work to peer review. He must demonstrate openness and allow scrutiny by experts, not just by the media. If he is as good as he claims then he has nothing to fear. If he is not, then vulnerable women and couples need protection from his activities,” Dr Kent said.
Note that this is not the same thing as stating that cloning is wrong. This next quote is more of the same:

Professor Azim Surani of the University of Cambridge said that Dr Zavos had breached the taboo on creating human clones with the intention of transferring them into the wombs of women in order to achieve a pregnancy – a procedure that is a criminal offence in Britain.

“This affair shows a complete lack of responsibility. If true, Zavos has again failed to observe the universally-accepted ban on human cloning, which was agreed because most of the resulting embryos from such animal experiments are abnormal,” Professor Surani said.

“This is yet another episode designed to gain maximum publicity without performing rigorous animal experiments or presenting it for peer review in a scientific journal. He has the opportunity to do this for his claim on making animal-human hybrid embryos in culture,” he said.
And once again:

“The interesting thing here is that for the first time these cloning attempts appear to have been documented,” said Professor Wolf Reik, an expert in reproductive biology at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, yesterday.

“We have no reason to think that human cloning will not work—it works in primates—but it may take many, many attempts.

“But to say it is substantially safer now, with new technical developments, is nonsense; the available techniques are still very inefficient, and the great majority of embryos die in utero, or are born with abnormalities. This is why, in my opinion, it remains problematical for it to be carried out on humans,” Professor Reik added.
Here’s the thing: From what I can tell, most scientists and bioethicists don’t think reproductive cloning is inherently wrong at all. Heck, Ian Wilmut the administrator of the team that cloned Dolly has said it should be done in some circumstances. Thus, when we hear supposed outrage from “the scientists” about reproductive cloning, it is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

In the next post, I will share from my book Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World, what it would take to make human reproductive cloning “safe.” You guessed it, lots and lots of human cloning!

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