Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Unnatural Selection: Chapter 13

We're on the home stretch of this book, thankfully. Only about a third to go. Today's chapter talks about ELSI, "the gentle watchdog" for gene investigation. The best thing about that watchdog is that "[i]t was deliberative and proactive, rather than reactive" (emphasis in original). Since I've hammered the ethical issues of gene therapy to death in past posts, here is a quote to entertain you (all emphasis in original)...
Some bureaucrats at the NIH were skeptical, to say the least. ELSI's first director, Eric Juengst, relates a conversation between one senior NIH official and [James] Watson that same year, just after ELSI had been created. "I still don't understand why you want to spend all this money subsidizing the vacuous pronunciamentos of self-styled ethicists!" the unnamed bureaucrat said. Watson responded that, like it or not, the cat was out of the bag about ethical problems arising from the genome project. "But why inflate the cat?" the official shot back. "Why put the cat on TV?"
Tomorrow it'll be about genetic counseling.

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