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ss triple helix - summer 2002,  Clones - The clowns of technology? (Book Review)

Clones - The clowns of technology? (Book Review)

Clones - The Clowns of Technology? - Gareth Jones - Paternoster Press 2001 - £12.99 Pb 192 pp ISBN 1842270869

Lighten up, says Gareth Jones. Don't take ethics so seriously. Think about it, yes. Work hard with it, yes. By all means be intellectually rigorous, but then add a dash of humour.

His title poses a question: Clones - the clowns of technology? Clowns, he says, are eccentrics who live on the edge of society and entertain by invoking introspection: 'Their inconsequential bumblings are caricatures of our own folly; they reveal what we seek to hide… they help us laugh at our failings, and laughing to realize that humans are sometimes stupid and often frail.'

In rehearsing the arguments about the excessive hype surrounding biotechnology and the need to form a biblically inspired view of what it is to be human, he develops two themes. One is that human reproductive cloning is exceptionally unlikely to take place, and the other that even if it does occur, it shouldn't be seen as shocking. He even opens the book with an imaginary view of life in 2050 in which the majority of Christians have accepted reproductive cloning, but sadly, he presents no potential chain of events that lead to this change in opinion.

Jones' enthusiasm for therapeutic cloning is evident throughout the book. The centre of the book provides a simple guide to some of the techniques involved, but more usefully presents a run through of various strands of ethical thinking from many secular and religious points of view. This makes it a useful read for anyone wanting to discover the historic context underlying current debate.

For Jones, a key characteristic of humanity is our freedom, and he maintains that cloning will not alter an individual's ability to be free. Jones' aim is to bring us face-to-face with the clone, to force us into asking what we make of him or her, and what that person tells us of ourselves. His or her presence may make us laugh at ourselves, at our pretensions and extraordinary belief in our own abilities. From Jones' original definition, this may make clones clowns, however, Jones concludes that clones would not be clowns but rather, normal people living at the centre of society. So, who is the clown and who is laughing?

Reviewed by:
Pete Moore
Freelance Science Writer and Editor of the CMF Files

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