Book Review: A double take on clones: Two insightful books delve into the mysteries and future of reproductive science
By Will St. John

Knight-Rider Syndication
January 20, 1998
749 words

CLONE By Gina Kolata William Morrow; $ 23; 288 pages.

REMAKING EDEN By Lee M. Silver Avon Books; $ 25; 318 pages.

Last Feb. 23, the world learned that an obscure Scottish scientist had cloned an adult sheep - re-created an animal that already had lived its life and died a few years before.

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New York Times science writer Gina Kolata takes readers inside her newspaper's reaction to the news, then through a discussion of the ethical and philosophical impact of the successful cloning in Clone: The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead.

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Though she closes with a look at the future, a better and more extensive consideration is that of Lee M. Silver, a Princeton biologist, in Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World. His book was well under way when Dolly's existence was announced. And it is clearly focused not so much on cloning per se as on what various techniques to manipulate human reproduction might mean for the human race.

Although Mr. Silver carefully considers objections to all sorts of assisted reproduction, the tone of the book is quite cheerful. And the list of possible new techniques and their consequences is impressive.

For instance, Mr. Silver says the selection of sex and a number of other characteristics is only a few years off through manipulation of embryos. Perhaps not much further off is the possibility of children who have two mothers and no father, or two fathers. By 2050, Mr. Silver suggests, scientists may be able to manipulate genes to prevent diseases. And at the same time, perhaps, women will be giving birth to clones of themselves.

It is the combination of these last two abilities to manipulate humanity that would create what Mr. Silver sees as the ultimate opportunity and danger: The world's population might split between a genetically enriched upper caste and a natural, unmanipulated underclass. And that upper class would have every advantage science could offer: better health, higher IQs, superior strength and mental stability. It's quite a question how those unable to afford genetic enhancements for their children would respond. It could be a socially dangerous situation.

Mr. Silver is as good on the science as on the social situation. His descriptions of just how sperm and egg grow into a human being are lucid and complete, and they show just how complicated the sequence really is. Even those interested only in understanding current techniques of in vitro fertilization will find the early chapters ofÊ Remaking EdenÊ valuable.

These books together cover the past, present and future of genetic manipulation of reproduction. They are important contributions for those interested in this compelling aspect of human life.