Book tour: Edwin Black, author of the recently released
War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to
Create a Master Race, is speaking in cities across the US
and Canada. Major stops include Washington (Thurs. Oct. 23;
Tues. Nov. 4) and New York (Thurs. Oct. 23). For a complete
itinerary, as well as excerpts, reviews, and other information,
Book review: Tony Platt, emeritus professor of social
work at Cal State Sacramento, reviews War Against the Weak
in the Los Angeles Times:
Book: Designing Our Descendants: The Promises and Perils
of Genetic Modifications (Johns Hopkins University Press,
2003), edited by Audrey R. Chapman and Mark S. Frankel. This
collection of 20 essays is based on an American Association
for the Advancement of Science project to "assess the scientific
ethical, theological, and policy issues related to inheritable
genetic modification" (IGM). Several of the contributors
emphasize, to a greater or lesser extent, the "perils."
Others argue for the "promises," and a couple lay
out technical or public opinion strategies for implementing
IGM as soon as possible. Julie Gage Palmer, a longtime IGM advocate,
contributes an appendix titled "Consent Form for Participation
in a Study of Inheritable Genetic Modification." She describes
the consent form as part of a "model protocol of an imaginary…IGM
study" that was "shelved as premature and inefficient"
by the AAAS working group.
See CGS' comments on the AAAS report (2000) summarizing the
project on which Descendants is based:
The AAAS report is available at
Report: Reprogenetics and Public Policy: Reflections and
Recommendations, A Special Supplement to the Hastings Center
Report (July-August 2003), by Erik Parens and Lori P. Knowles.
This 24-page report reviews the range of concerns about reproductive
genetics, and then turns to policy considerations. It includes
sections on the historical roots of the policy deficit in the
US, a comparative analysis of regulatory approaches in the UK
and Canada, and a proposal for an HFEA-like oversight body "that
can respond to the technological and ethical realities of reprogenetics
in this country." The authors demur from taking positions
on particular technologies or applications, but stress that
the "future of reprogenetic practice is too important to
be decided solely by the market." The report is available
Essay: "Eugenics-Sacred and Profane," The
New Atlantis (Summer 2003), by Christine Rosen. A resident
fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and senior editor
of the conservative journal The New Atlantis, Rosen examines
a premarital genetic screening program for Tay-Sachs—and
an increasing number of other genetic conditions—among
Orthodox Jews, and the expanding use of embryo screening (preimplantation
genetic diagnosis, or PGD) at US fertility clinics. She concludes
that some eugenic behavior is inevitable, and some is likely
to be acceptable, but that "we ought never [to] allow good
intentions (or claims of holiness) to blind us to moral realities-especially
the ways a new privatized eugenics, directed by individuals
or specific communities, will affect the range of human possibilities
Commentary: "Of Sheep and Men," The Daily
Star (Sept. 16), by Koïchiro Matsuura. The Director
General of UNESCO condemns human reproductive cloning, and sees
its connection to genetic enhancement: "This is why we
must investigate further upstream, and examine the motives which
are behind such a [cloning] project, and the underlying vision
of the human race and of society. This type of manipulation
would consider clones as carriers for a particular genome, chosen
for its specific qualities. It would not be difficult to imagine
the disastrous psychological and social consequences of such
a form of eugenics." He advocates a global ban on reproductive
cloning, and notes that UNESCO could serve as the proper forum.
Commentary: "How Perfect Do We Want to Be?"
The Globe and Mail (Aug. 29) by Margaret Somerville.
A Canadian legal scholar and ethicist comments on transhumanism:
"I believe that we must have a profound respect for the
natural-especially for human nature itself. And we must have
strong justification for interfering with it. Further, we must
not radically change it so as to destroy its essential essence.
This view will be dismissed by the 'science without limits'
camp as anti-science. It is not: Rather, it works from a premise
that we must be able to justify what we do with science. And
not everything can be justified."