What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.



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03/09/02 05:40pm link

Korean scientists clone human embryo using cow eggs. According to The Korea Herald, the Maria Life Engineering Research Institute said yesterday that it has transplanted the nucleus from a human somatic cell into cow eggs. The resulting embryo, whose DNA had all the characteristics of human DNA except for the mitochondria genes from the cow eggs, was cultured for eight days, and Institute's Dr. Park Sae-pil hopes to eventually use the technique to produce stem cells that mimic human cells for research.

At 99% human DNA the resulting stem cells would not be useable for the treatment of humans, but they could speed up research. Cow eggs are a lot easier for researchers to to get than the human type, and there is no risk of producing a cow-human hybrid:

Dr. Park cautioned that the cloned embryo has been produced for research purposes as part of a process to extract stem cells, not produce a human-cow hybrid, which is technically impossible under any circumstances.
(Whew!)

Prof. Leon Kass
Good news for medical research is good news for all of us, right? I'm sure Professor Leon Kass, head of the George W. Bush Council on Bioethics, won't have a problem with this research technique. After all, it circumvents both of his objections to non-reproductive cloning, which he described in his Congressional testimony supporting the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001:

I am here to testify in favor of a national ban on human cloning and, in particular, in favor of HR 1644, "The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001," for two reasons. First, I believe that human cloning is unethical, both in itself and in what it surely leads to. Second, I believe that this bill offers us the best-indeed, the only-reasonable chance at preventing human reproductive cloning from happening.
The Maria Institute cloning technique cannot possibly lead to the birth of a cow, a human, or anything else, so Prof. Kass's second concern is fully addressed. And his two-part test in the first reason appears to be met as well, since this is not really human cloning - it's partially-human cloning at best - and can only lead to the development of useful medical treatments, or it may lead to nowhere at all.

So I'm sure Prof. Kass will be pleased.

03/08/02 08:45am link

Salman Rushdie
The problem's name is God.Novelist Salman Rushdie writes an Op-Ed piece in today's Washington Post that is not to be missed. The primary focus of the article is the current wave of religious mayhem in India, but Mr. Rushdie's summation is universal:

The political discourse matters, and explains a good deal. But there's something beneath it, something we don't want to look in the face: namely, that in India, as elsewhere in our darkening world, religion is the poison in the blood. Where religion intervenes, mere innocence is no excuse. Yet we go on skating around this issue, speaking of religion in the fashionable language of "respect." What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion's dreaded name? How well, with what fatal results, religion erects totems, and how willing we are to kill for them! And when we've done it often enough, the deadening of affect that results makes it easier to do it again.

So India's problem turns out to be the world's problem. What happened in India has happened in God's name. The problem's name is God.

Amen to that.

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Busy, busy, busy.

What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



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