- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

In the press one sees all manner of objections to cloning, such as that we don't know enough, it's against God's will, we would probably produce a lot of deformed children, it wouldn't work anyway, and so on.
For what it's worth let me give you a tech reporter's point of view. Some of it is (I hope informed) opinion.Some is just observation.
I'm on e-mail lists from places like the National Institutes of Health, have friends in the patent racket, and read a lot of technical stuff that most people don't. A lot is happening in fields like molecular biology, genetic manipulation, and what you might call bioinstrumentation.
You don't hear about it because most of it consists of small, incremental progress.Some team at Whatever U. has found a better vector for getting a gene for an incomprehensibly named and not very interesting protein into mouse cells, where it expressed itself to a certain degree.It doesn't really do anything. As a story, Pearl Harbor would definitely get more placement.
But it's a step forward.It's something that hadn't been done before, and couldn't have been done before. And there are lots of these stories, all the time.Cell biology and its cousins are an active field.I suspect (and so do the researchers involved) that we are close to having the base of knowledge to do remarkable things.
Now, cloning. It has been done successfully with various mammals sheep, goats, what have you.The way technology works is that what you can do today with many failures and botched results, you can do cleanly with few failures tomorrow, and a week later bright high-school students are doing it for a science project.When cloning gets easy enough, somebody is going to do it to people.I think that's a given.
The incentives are powerful.For the team that did it, cloning a human would be an enormous first, which gives it ego appeal. Scientists have egos. Other countries don't have our scruples.
A market will exist, a profitable market.Wisely or not, a fair number of people with money will want copies of themselves in baby form, or copies of dead children.Totalitarian countries intent on Olympic medals would, I suspect, clone champions and raise them in athletic camps.
The question arises: Can we control cloning when it becomes easy?Sufficient demand produces supply.When abortion was illegal, you could still get one in a back alley (with septicemia tossed in for free). For a higher price, you could get a clinically competent abortion.Would not the same occur with cloning?
I see no obvious reason why some country or other that wanted a buck, perhaps in the Caribbean, shouldn't allow cloning clinics to set up, as abortion clinics once did. What could such a clinic charge? Maybe $100,000 or perhaps, if catering to the very rich, a million? It wouldn't take many megarich people who wanted a copy of Grandma to make a clinic very profitable.
Suppose it worked: The clones were normal people, healthy, happy. Would not that push cloning into semilegitimacy, lead to more demand, and eventually to legalization? If not, why not?
In today's competitive world, first-rate minds are crucial to laboratories, to corporations, to countries.What if, say, China found 1,000 people, or 10,000,with IQs over 180, and started vigorously cloning them? Whether this would be immoral could be debated.A case could be made that it was simply a way of providing better people to solve humanity's problems.
A nation that had unlimited numbers of the best minds on Earth would have a major competitive advantage.Would the United States then feel obligated to respond in kind? Instead of competition in arms would we have competition in heads?
And how would this class of massively intelligent people regard the rest of us? As absolute dummies, and with cause. They would probably intermarry like crazy, sincethere would be no one else to talk to. Soon they would be a super-race, and aware of it. Where would that lead?What do that many people of that much intelligence do, invent, and discover? Or do for, or to, the hugely less bright surrounding them
I know. You're thinking, "This is dreamworld stuff. Fred must be on drugs again." Actually I think we are about an announcement away.When it's not Dolly the sheep, but Amanda Smythe of Yorkshire, the very image of her sterile mother, we'll be off and running.In, I'd guess, about five years, maybe 10.


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