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NEWS AND POINTERS REGARDING TECHNO-EUGENICS

Genetic Crossroads
May 10th, 2000

1. "The Eugenic Temptation"
by Everett Mendelsohn

An excellent article by Harvard professor of the history of
science

Everett Mendelsohn, titled "The Eugenic Temptation: When
Ethics Lag

Behind Technology," appears in May's Harvard Alumni magazine.


Mendelsohn concludes: "The institutions of genetic, scientific,
and

technical research, and the industries of genetic application,
are

relatively well organized and generously funded. Their imperatives

are clear: push toward new knowledge and its applications. By

contrast, our ethical, social discussion is unfocused, episodic,
and

scattered. We need to harness moral thinking to genetic technique.

The need for organized, intelligent debate involving an active
public

and committed scientists has never been clearer. Solving the

"technically sweet" problems first (the phrase is
from atomic

scientists) and only then turning to deal with the moral and
social

consequences has in the past proved much too costly, and will
again."


Full text: <http://www.harvard-magazine.com/issues/ma00/eugenics.html>.



2. "On the New Eugenics" by
Steve Talbott


The on-line newsletter "NetFuture: Technology and Human
Responsibility"

devoted most of its February 16 issue to techno-eugenics and
the new

human genetic technologies. In an essay titled "On the
New Eugenics,"

NetFuture editor Steve Talbott writes:


"The genetic engineers and cheerleaders…seem remarkably
confident

that they have mastered what the rest of us have not: namely,
what it

means to be human. This is odd considering that most or all
of them

would profess discomfort with the language of meaning as opposed
to

the instrumental language of science. Without hesitation they
talk

about making human beings *better*, as if this gave us an obvious

roadmap for the re-engineering task."


Current and past issues of NetFuture, and subscription information,

are available at <http://www.oreilly.com/~stevet/netfuture/>.



3. SOS Human Genome: Campaign to Ban Patents
on Human Genes


The April 20 issue of Nature magazine carries a news article
titled

"Politicians seek to block human gene patents in Europe."


According to the article, a new campaign called SOS Human Genome

has been launched, calling for an end to the patenting of human
genes.

German MP Wolfgang Wodarg and French MP Jean-Francois Mattei
hope the

campaign will force the European Patent Office to temporarily
stop

issuing patents on plants and animals as well as human genes.


The call for a moratorium followed a report prepared by the
two

politicians, which argues that human material should not become

private property. The report will be debated by the Council
of

Europe's parliamentary full assembly in June.



4. Genetic Scientist Would Ban Human Germline
Modification


In a front-page article on the Human Genome Project in the
San

Francisco Chronicle (April 25, 2000), biotechnology reporter
Tom

Abate quotes geneticist Eric Lander asserting that most scientists


"would abhor the notion of tinkering with human inheritance."

Lander states, "I would like to see a moratorium or a ban
on

[germline] modifications that would have to be repealed if there


were ever to be a compelling case to be made for it."


Lander is director of the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts

Institute of Technology, one of the major research labs involved
in

the public Human Genome Project.

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