July/August 2002

The new human genetic technologies are arguably the most consequential technologies ever developed. Many applications have great potential to prevent disease and alleviate suffering, but others would open the door to a new, high-tech eugenics that could destabilize human biology and undermine the foundations of civil society.

Humanity needs a crash course in the science and politics of the new human genetic technologies. We need to distinguish benign applications from pernicious ones, and we need to adopt policies affirming the former and proscribing the latter. We need to repudiate eugenic political ideologies and deepen our commitment to the integrity of the human species and the dignity of all people. We need to do this on a global scale and within less than a decade.

Two new technologies are of critical concern: reproductive cloning and inheritable genetic modification. Reproductive cloning is the creation of a genetic near-duplicate of an existing person. If I cloned myself, would the child be my son or my twin brother? In truth, he would be neither. He would be a new category of biological...