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Genetic Crossroads
January 13th, 2004

PBS series with James Watson, January 4 - February 1:
This five-part British series is airing on PBS stations in the
United States on Sundays. The remaining episodes are "Human
Race," on the Human Genome Project (Jan 18), "Curing
Cancer" (Jan 25), and "Pandora's Box" (Feb 1),
in which James Watson "explains why he believes DNA science
should be used to change the human race itself" and "argues
for a new kind of eugenics that allows parents to choose the
DNA of their children-to make them healthier, more intelligent,
even better looking." See



Report from German women's health coalition: Reproductive
Medicine and Genetic Engineering: Women Between Self-Determination
and Societal Standardisation
, Proceedings of a conference
held by ReproKult: Women's Forum for Reproductive Medicine.
ReproKult, a coalition of German women's health and counseling
organizations, interest groups for women with disabilities,
and individual feminists, aims to "increase the focus on
the social context and social impact of genetic and reproductive
technologies, particularly their consequences for day-to-day
life and the social situation of women." Topics include
prenatal diagnosis, PGD, the harvesting and marketing of eggs,
and research on embryos and embryonic stem cells. The 140-page
report is available at


Article and book on transhumanism: Carl Elliott, "The
Transhumanist Adventure: Humanity 2.0," Wilson Quarterly
(Autumn 2003). After attending this summer's transhumanist conference,
Elliott cautions that, "[a]s far over the edge as the transhumanists
often appear, they represent a number of ideological strands
evident throughout American society. One is a brand of individualistic,
libertarian ideology…A second is independent, quasi-religious
thinking…A third is idealistic faith in the power of technology
to make the world a better place."


Brian Alexander strikes a very different note in Rapture:
How Biotech Became the New Religion: A Raucous Tour of Cloning,
Transhumanism, and the New Era of Immortality
(Basic Books,
2003). Rapture is a well-researched and largely admiring
account of the blurring of the ideas of fringe groups such as
Extropians and Transhumanists and those of more traditional
scientists. Carl Elliott reviews Rapture in The American


Race, Gender and Justice in the Gene Age resource packet:
Short articles, fact sheets, and other documents compiled for
the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health and Sexual
Rights National Conference held in November in Atlanta.


Bill McKibben review and interview: Timothy Lenoir,
"A Case for Constraints," Science (November
14, 2003). McKibben's landmark Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered
Age has been criticized by some scientists. But a positive review
in the premier US science journal concludes that it is a "balanced
appraisal" that "we should ponder seriously."

(payment required).

Sierra magazine (Nov-Dec 2003) interviews McKibben in
"'We Are Plenty Good Enough' On Brash Plans to Tinker with
our Genes."


Articles on Judaism and genetics: Edwin Black, "The
Power to Classify," and Mark Washofsky, "The Power
to Cure," Reform Judaism (Winter 2003). Black, author
of War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign
to Create a Master Race
, here warns of "genetic dossiers
on each of us [that portend] a `genetic divide' no less abhorrent
than separating people by race or religion." Washofsky
notes that Reform Judaism has "regarded science as a force
for human betterment and liberation," but that technology
"can wreak incalculable damage when its use is not guided
by morality and social responsibility." In that spirit,
important Reform Jewish organizations have adopted positions
supporting somatic genetic engineering but not germline genetic


Essays on race and genetics: Troy Duster, "The
Hidden Eugenic Potential of Germ-Line Interventions," in
Designing our Descendants: The Promises and Perils of Genetic
, edited by Audrey R. Chapman and Mark S. Frankel
(The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Troy Duster, "Buried
Alive: The Concept of Race in Science," in Genetic Nature
/ Culture: Anthropology and Science Beyond the Two-Culture Divide
edited by Alan H. Goodman, Deborah Heath, and M. Susan Lindee
(University of California Press, 2003).

Policy statement from disability advocates: "Resolution
on Pre Natal Diagnosis and the Right to be Different,"
adopted by the European Disability Forum Annual General Assembly
on 24 May 2003 in Athens.



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