Godsend Returns

The Godsend Institute story is making the rounds. Marketplace had a piece on it, and did the San Francisco Chronicle

The Chronicle piece was written by science writer David Ewing Duncan

Here's what he had to say:

Still, there is a danger in "Godsend's" fear factor -- that the distinction between reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning will be blurred even further by the film and by the fake but all too credible Web site.

Already, many people confuse reproductive cloning with therapeutic cloning -- a confusion that plays into the agenda of conservatives who believe that life begins at conception and oppose all cloning.

Conservatives have sought to lump together the two types of cloning, knowing that nearly everyone wants to outlaw reproductive cloning, while many favor therapeutic cloning -- or would, if they really understood its potential value and how it has been approved and regulated in other countries, such as Britain.

The language of this stem cell and cloning debate is fascinating, especially this "reproductive cloning" and "therapeutic cloning." They are the same procedure--called somatic cell nuclear transfer--in which the DNA from an egg is removed and the DNA of a mature cell is implanted. While the end is different--getting a child versus creating an embryo--the procedure is identical.

Ewing doesn't believe that this Godsend film will lead to a ban on cloning--though he ads that "fear and confusion continue to dominate the discussion."

There is little talk about the actual science and the possibilities, and about the notion of allowing promising research to continue -- under strict guidelines -- to see if it is viable or not.

There's an interesting link here between "fear and confusion" and religion, at least the conservative side. But it's the line about actual science I find most interesting. Wthen Ewing argues that there's a difference between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning, he's not talking about real science either. He's talking about a moral and ethical judgement--that the value of potential research outweighs the value of the embyro.

That's not a pure science question by any means.

He also note's that Godsend references Pandora's Box in talking about cloning.
Writer Robin Marantz Henig uses Pandora in the title of her new book on in-vitro fertilization called "Pandora's Baby."

She also turns to science fiction -- in this case, Mary Shelily's Frankenstein to find a metaphor for the ethical dilemnas of ivf.

"Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

Kathryn Joyce of The Revealer notes that the moral of Sci-fi movies like Godsend is always the same:

"advanced technology plus immoral/hubristic scientist and/or naïve/lazy/wrongthinking civilian equals one whopping morality tale, reminding us not to mess with God’s plan/fly too high/want what we can’t have."

When it comes to cloning, I think the same old morality tale may work just fine.

Henig's book on IVF compares the current questions about Stem cells and cloning with the 1970s- 1980s debates over "test tube babies."

"Perhaps the biggest difference between in vitro fertilization and cloning is the focus of our anxieties about them. In the 1970s the greatest fear about in vitro fertilization was that it might fail, leading to sorrow, disappointment and possibly the birth of grotesquely abnormal babies. Today the greatest fear about cloning is that it might succeed."

I don't think we can handle the consequences if cloning works.


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