Editorial: “Brave New World” or brave new scientists?


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For many, Monday’s news that scientists have successfully managed to clone a human embryo conjured up images of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” Thoughts swirled of a society in the not-too-distant future in which the human race is entirely comprised of clones who are subliminally conditioned into their respective social classes from birth. A society where the few remaining breeders are rounded up and confined to camps out in Arizona. A society that is cold, heartless, robotic … wait a second, isn’t this getting a little bit unrealistic?

Perhaps, but that seems to be what conservative politicians and religious sects (not to mention a great deal of the public) are afraid of. The White House and Vatican have both denounced the experiment as “immoral,” and Congress is looking to outlaw all human cloning. The National Right to Life Committee even went so far as to speak of “embryo farms opening for business soon.”

Meanwhile, the biotechnology company responsible for all the hubub — Advanced Cell Technology, Inc., from Worchester, Mass. — has no plans to create some massive army of clones, or even to create a full fledged human being. Their aim is to extract stem cells that can be used in the treatment of diseases, ranging from Parkinson’s to juvenile diabetes.

So what we’ve got on the table, underneath it all, are two legitimate concerns. One side says that these technological / scientific advances are tampering with the core of humanity, and could grow to have disastrous results, and the other side wants to use said advances to actually help humanity.

It’s a difficult issue to tackle, but it’s not one that we should blow out of proportion. Think about it; the use of stem cells could help terminally ill people, easing or even curing their suffering. It could advance medical technology by leaps and bounds. And this is supposed to be a bad thing?

Its risky, yes … its a little strange, but it isn’t anything we should be afraid of.

At the same time, the medical labs undertaking this practice have to make sure they keep themselves in check. If they don’t keep cloning limited to disease treatment, if they allow the technology to grow and grow and reach less positive ends — specifically, actual human replication — then that’s a little scary.

But when it comes down to it, the lab currently working on the project has no motive but to help humankind and cure disease, and that’s just something we can’t argue with. So until we see a disturbing jump in the number of blond hair, blue-eyed people out on the street, there’s no need to worry.

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