In a Pod

Document Type


Publication Title

Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology

Publication Date

Fall 1997


The conclusions presented by the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC or Commission) to President Clinton in its Report on human cloning' are neither dramatic nor surprising. They are the practical responses of Western thinkers to the questions spawned by the announcement in February 1997 that a sheep had been cloned. The NBAC Report is also, by design, a meditation upon culture. It addresses many of the central conundrums of the age in considering what cloning means, and in expressing an underlying apprehension of contemporary culture.

The conundrums include the comparative values of scientific discovery and social responsibility, of biological and social conceptions of personhood, of individualism and community, and of free choice and political regulation. The underlying apprehension, deeply ingrained in the nation's history, flows from the essentially contradictory demands of enduring, solidary community, and of unfettered individuality and choice. In mediating these demands, the NBAC Report resorts to an intellectual and practical compromise-one that is socially responsible and also protective of the freedoms of choice and action that are essential to autonomous individuality. Although ostensibly siding with community and social responsibility, the Report hedges its recommendations so as to protect freedom and choice. Ultimately, this compromise may prove more successful at masking the underlying apprehension than at balancing the consequences of apparently unending choice.



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