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Ban on Human Cloning Is for the Best

In his column, A. Arif Husain '97 ["Critics of Cloning Can't Accept Change," March 21] argues that President Clinton's decision to ban research on human cloning is a case of uninformed governmental meddling and obstruction of scientific research. Husain believes that fears of human cloning are founded in ignorance and an archaic fear of new developments in science. Upon more careful evaluation of the issue, however, a different picture emerges.

Husain suggests that selectively mating two animals is no worse than selectively cloning one of them. The issue at hand concerns not animal cloning but people cloning. Equating selective mating and cloning on a moral level may or may not be valid, but it is a moot point because selectively breeding humans is an idea that repulses most people.

Arguing for the potential positive benefits of human cloning, Husain writes, "Cloning may allow us to weed out genetic disease, enhance desirable traits, even deliver made-to-order progeny." Some of these ideas are precisely what bother many people. During World War II, the Nazis implemented a program of eugenics with the aim of eliminating "undesirables" from the human gene pool. Setting ethics aside, from a purely biological point of view, when you begin to artificially manipulate the gene pool by cloning, you may lower diversity and place the population at an increased risk for death on a large scale because of environmental changes.

To condemn the scientific community as "stupid researchers" who should have put "a reasonable fight" against the human cloning ban is to misunderstand them. Many scientists believe that the ban is reasonable and we should proceed with caution.

There are genuine ethical concerns involved with the potential for human cloning. Currently, people have not come up with any compelling reason to pursue human cloning that would override these ethical concerns about using human clones. Husain writes, "I hope that the leaders in our community of science are stable enough to trust themselves with risky research." Does he have enough trust to let them to decide for themselves whether such risky research is inherently worthwhile?

Michael Y. Shao '97