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On Cloning: Advocating History of Biology in the Public Interest

Jane Maienschein
Journal of the History of Biology
Vol. 34, No. 3 (Winter, 2001), pp. 423-432
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4331682
Page Count: 10
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On Cloning: Advocating History of Biology in the Public Interest
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Abstract

Cloning -- the process of creating a cell, tissue line or even a complete organism from a single cell -- or the strands that led to the cloning of a mammal, Dolly, are not new. Yet the media coverage of Dolly's inception raised a range of reactions from fear or moral repulsion, to cautious optimism. The implications for controlling human reproduction were clearly in the forefront, though many issues about animals emerged as well. On topics of public interest such as cloning, historians of biology have the opportunity to make a unique contribution. Such debates are often aired as if they have no precedents, either in biology or in the ethical, moral, and social concerns arising in the public arena. The technology leading to Dolly draws on strands of research going back to the 1890s, and the cycle of public response has been repeated often in the past century. What can we learn from examining these events historically, and how can we -- or should we even try -- to inform public opinion? I think we should try and will outline briefly some of the ways that can work.

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