Notre Dame ReSource: ND professor cautions against cloning of embryos

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South Korean scientists’ announcement this week of creation of the world’s first mature, cloned human embryos points to the inability of the scientific community to internally control its own?even with the ethical standards currently in place, according to a University of Notre Dame professor.p. Though this latest scientific advancement could speed the development of new medical treatments, it also brings scientists one step closer to cloning humans, reigniting a longstanding debate over human cloning and embryo research.

“The work of the Korean team from inside respectable science, with its report published in the main organ of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, indicates the fallacy in the assumption that the scientific community would itself be able to prevent these developments from taking place by the operation of its own internal ethical standards,” said Phillip Sloan, a professor in the Program of History and Philosophy of Science.

Each embryo was grown from a single cell taken from a woman?with no contribution from a father?and developed past the stage at which fertility doctors typically put embryos into their patients’ wombs. This resulted in a form of replication never before achieved in humans.

“The reductive assumption that life is only a complex state of matter needs to be examined again,” Sloan said. “The reasons given for this research?its assistance in the use of stem cell technology?raise again the questions concerning the degree to which nascent human life can rightfully be used as a commodity for the improvement of existing life.”

The call for legislation banning the creation of cloned babies has failed to pass because of the insistence by some that the legislation not only prohibits the creation of cloned humans but also prohibits advancements in the creation of embryos for medical research.

Said Sloan: “Unless the scientific community recognizes the need for profound reflection on these questions before proceeding over this line, then the union of modern science and biotechnology may only be controllable by thoughtful and well-reasoned legislation drawn up by people outside the scientific community who are willing to consider issues, rather than potential medical benefit, as a normative guide.”

Contact: Phillip Sloan is chair of the Program in Liberal Studies and former director of Notre Dame’s Program in Science, Technology and Values. He also teaches in the graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science. He is available for interviews at 574-631-7172 or at sloan.1@nd.edu: .

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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