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Genetic Crossroads
October 4th, 1999

— "Scientific American Presents: Your Bionic Future."

The current issue of the SciAm quarterly (on newsstands until 11/22)
includes upbeat articles on near-term possibilities for artificial
wombs, head transplants, cloning and genetically engineered children.
Editors Clenn Zorpette and Carol Ezzell say, "In the next decade or
two, the flight from nature will soar to new heights. Those willing
to grasp the implications of the coming fusion of biology and
technology, with all its potential for beneficence and havoc, will
find the exercise exhilarating" (page 3).

— Two recent articles by key promoters of techno-eugenics are
available on the web. Gregory Stock and John Campbell discuss the
objections that they know will be made to designer babies and human
clones, and suggest counter-arguments and technical fixes.

Here are some excerpts and the URLs:

"The Prospects for Human Germline Engineering," Gregory Stock

"[H]eritability would be an undesirable property for the germline
modifications envisioned today…By the time recipients of even
the best engineered chromosome are ready to have children, it will
be twenty or thirty years after they themselves were conceived.
Their once state-of-the-art artificial chromosome will be hopelessly
out-of-date, and they'll want to give their child the latest gene
cassettes and artificial chromosomes. It's not so different from
upgraded software; they'd want the new release."

"[H]uman cloning is most significant as a symbol: it has served
notice that humanity is going to change more than the landscape
we inhabit; the powerful technologies we are developing are
reflecting back upon ourselves and will intrude into the most
private and intimate aspects of our lives."

"Human Germline Engineering: The Prospects for Commercial
Development," Gregory Stock and John Campbell

"The real question is not whether [cloning and germline
modification] will be applied to humans, but when, how, and to
what extent…[E]ven if illegal and morally opposed by most
people in most countries, they [will] become as uncontrollable
as euthanasia or abortion."

Stock and Campbell are also co-editors of a forthcoming book,
"Engineering the Human Germline: An Exploration of the Science
and Ethics of Altering the Genes We Pass to Our Children"
(Oxford University Press, 2000). It is expected to be out
in February. The book, based on the March 1998 conference
organized by Stock and Campbell at UCLA, is likely to have a
major influence on elite opinion. (For a summary report of
the conference, see http://www.ess.ucla.edu:80/huge.)


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