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Clones, Genes, and Immortality: Ethics and the Genetic Revolution
What is cloning and why is the idea of it so disturbing? Why has the birth of `Dolly` the sheep provoked such furious debate through the world? In Clones, Genes, and Immortality , John Harris, an internationally renown figure in the field of bioethics, looks at the ethical issues surrounding the revolution in biology which has provided scientists with an unprecedented ability to control human evolution. From designer babies to genetic screening by employers, his book provides a stimulating introduction to the present concerns about the rapid pace of developments in human biotechnology.
`The social and ethical questions raised by the new biotechnology are enormous. John Harris has written the first book to tackle these issues in a comprehensive and positive way.` --New Statesman
About the Author
John Harris is the Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics and joint founder of the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy at the University of Manchester. He was a member of the Ethics Committee of the British Medical Association 1991-97, one of the founder directors of the International Association of Bioethics, a founder member of the Board of the journal Bioethics, and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Medical Ethics. He frequently appears on radio and television both in the UK and abroad, and has acted as Ethical Consultant to national and international bodies and corporations, including the European Parliament, World Health Organization, and European Commission. He is the series editor of Social Ethics and Policy (Routledge), and is the founder and General Editor of a major new series of books for OUP entitled Issues in Biomedical Ethics.
Discussions and debates on the ethics of genetic engineering these days are frequently accompanied by ridicule and vituperation. An objective observer interested in the issues may be revolted by this situation, and with complete justification. Genetic engineering is a powerful technology, and its ramifications for all life on Earth, both human and non-human, entail that everyone, especially those directly involved in its practice, be very aware of the deep moral issues involved in its use. Scare tactics by those against genetic engineering, exaggerated claims by those supporting it, and very bitter verbal and written exchanges have characterized both sides of the debate, and therefore a calm, rational approach is gravely needed.
The author takes such an approach in this book, and this makes it one of the few in print that would be of interest to those readers who want to take a look at the issues without any masks. The author is clearly supportive of genetic engineering, but that is not to say that every reader will finish the book with the same attitude as the author, for the clarity in which he poses his arguments may allow a reader to formulate alternative points of view. There are many interesting discussions in the book, and it will no doubt, if read with an open, scientific mind, serve as a refreshing alternative to current ones on the subject.
Another virtue of the book is that a reader need not be an expert in genetics in order to follow the presentation, for the author defines the necessary terminology. For example, very early in the book he is careful to differentiate between genetic manipulations of the `somatic line` and those of the `germ line`, the former limited to cells of individuals and not inherited by their progeny, the latter effecting the genomes of individuals and their offspring. Germ line manipulation has been the main topic of confrontation, although somatic line manipulation has also taken a hit recently, due to some problems that have arisen with gene therapies.