Stephen Hawking is one of a group of "Humanist Laureates", along with Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick, who after the birth of Dolly issued a statement supporting cloning, including human cloning, and attacking the "Luddites" who opposed it.
In item 1 below Hawking blithely talks about "improved" (ie genetically modified) humans and there is the usual techno-optimist contempt for the role of civil society in decision making:
"[Human] Genetic engineering will happen in the next millennium whether we want it or not"
Sadly, Hawking's dubious 'Brave New World' scenarios appear to have been received reverentially by the reporter and the rest of Hawking's audience who were, we're told, "awe-struck" by the "genius".
1. Human genetic engineering a scientific reality: Hawking
2. 'The dead are the lucky ones' - Boston Herald on ANDi includes e-mail adde to object to NIH funders
3. Genetic advances spark fears of science gone awry (Reuters)
Genetic engineering a scientific reality: Hawking
Times of India, 15th January 2001
MUMBAI: Renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking on Sunday said genetics engineering, existential growth of human population and rapid strides in computer technology were some of the major scientific realities that the world would have to confront in the future.
The development of ``improved humans'' would create more social and political problems compared to the ``unimproved humans'', the Lucasian professor of mathematics told a packed audience at the Shanmukhnanda auditorium here during a public lecture on ``Science in the Future''.
"Genetic engineering will happen in the next millennium whether we want it or not,'' the professor, who received a standing ovation, told the audience. "We will grow babies outside the human bodies,'' he asserted while exploring the various scientific possibilities in the next millennium.
The changing complexities of the human race and DNA would need improved human qualities to meet the new challenges of the next millennium, Hawking said.
Issuing a stern warning about the possible repurcussions of the rapid existential growth in human population, Hawking said the current growth of human population was moving at 1.9 per cent per year, which meant that the world population would double in the next 40 years. ``This existential growth cannot go on indefinitely,'' he warned.
"One possibility is that we will wipe out ourselves. The real danger is we will kill everything on this planet now that we have power to do so,'' Hawking said adding, ``If we did not we will get down to Barbarism.''
He said the future of the world would not be like the one pictured in ``Star Trek'', while screening a clipping of the famous scientific television serial, in which the leading theoretical physicist appeared for a brief role.
Expressing strong skeptism over the predictions of the next millennium, he said that predictions could go completely wrong as the ``unexpected might happen.''
It was only 400 years ago that the human race began understanding the laws governing the universe after Galileo first initiated the debate on the subject but the real understanding of the universe would finally dawn once the ultimate unified theory was put in place probably by the end of the 21st century, Hawking said.
Elaborating on the rapid strides taken by computer technology, he expressed a possibility of computers developing intelligence on the basis complex electrical circuits similiar to complex chemical molecules within the human brain and duplicating themselves for complex tasks.
Pointing out to Moore's Law on the speed and complexity of computers doubling every 18 months, he said this could not go on indefinitely because of the limitation imposed by the speed of light and by the atomic nature of matter.
On the issue of life outside the planet, Hawking expressed a possibility of life outside Earth and UFOs containing aliens. ``Exploring the galaxy we might find primitive life but no beings like us. We will be on our own but developing in biological and electronic complexities.''
Explaining complex issues like ``closed loop histories of particles'', the ``Casimir Effect'', the calculable probabilities and the infinite energy contained in closed loops, the genius, through diagrams, tried to simplify the complex rules of science for the benefit of the audience.
Hawking, whose lecture was punctuated by punch lines, a humorous clip from the comic strip Simpsons, with an episode on Hawking, graphic designs and clippings of film strips, received a thunderous applause from the awe-struck audience.
2. Creating monkeys to suffer puts humans on slippery slope
By Beverly Beckham
The Boston Herald January 14, 2001 Sunday
It's a comic's routine, the ultimate "by the way." Insert the stunning headline into the middle of some ordinary news and hope people don't notice. "How was your day, honey?" "Oh fine. I walked the dog. Cleaned the house. Killed your mother. Picked up the laundry."
AOL and Time Warner finally got their merger. George W. Bush picked Elaine Chau for his labor secretary. The peace process in Israel seems to have gone belly up. The Army admitted that GIs in Korea killed civilians at the beginning of the war, and oh, yuh, by the way, scientists in Oregon have engineered the first genetically altered monkey.
ANDi, (inserted DNA spelled backward; isn't that clever?) was born in Oregon in October but not in the usual way. Man created him, not God. Jellyfish DNA was added to 224 rhesus monkey eggs then fertilized by sperm injection, then implanted in host monkeys and out of 40 transferred embryos, ANDi was the sole survivor. The dead are the lucky ones.
Many animals have been genetically engineered since Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996. But ANDi is the first primate to be born with a gene from another animal inserted in his genetic makeup. Because rhesus monkeys are primates closely genetically linked to man, (we share 95 percent of the same genes, according to scientists) scientists say that research on them will advance cures for deadly human genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.
In lay terms, scientists hope to manufacture monkeys with human genetic diseases to study and experiment on them, in order to find a way to eliminate these diseases in man. "We have learned a lot from transgenic mice, but we would like to use the monkey as a model to bridge the gap between mice and human beings . . . I think the big picture is to make a perfect human disease model," said Anthony Chan, head of the team at the Oregon Regional Primate Research center.
A perfect human disease model.
Ethicists are concerned. "What is of interest . . . is the possibility that one could learn about certain types of diseases in ways that we really couldn't in humans," said Patricia Backlar, an ethicist at Oregon Health Sciences University. "But there's also the issue that maybe we shouldn't do this on nonhuman primates."
The maturation process of human beings, according to psychologists, is divided into stages. When we're young we believe the world revolves around us. "Why is the moon following me?" every child has asked. As we mature, we realize that we are not the center of the universe. That's the theory, anyway. As we age, we eventually see the big picture and view the world not as our private playpen but as our shared responsibility. Apparently we're a country of ethical infants because it certainly isn't responsible to create a creature to suffer.
The picture of ANDi that was in all the papers should move us to action. Are we indifferent because monkeys aren't house pets? If a golden retriever had been genetically engineered with the long-term goal of creating thousands of golden retrievers with, say muscular dystrophy, would we turn the page?
Scientists are not engineering genetically altered primates simply to say, look what we did and to have their creations splashed on the front pages of papers all over the world. This is just the beginning. What won't ever be on the front pages are all the future animals born diseased, creatures that share 95 percent of our genetic makeup, born solely to suffer. This is the future and it isn't right. If scientists can create sick monkeys, why not sick human beings? Colonies of them, unknown and unnamed, born for research and for spare parts.
Far-fetched? In central Russia last week, a husband and wife who ran a travel agency offering inexpensive trips to the United States were in fact murdering their clients and selling their body parts. A doctor and a university professor, they were arrested after a search of their apartment netted parts of six bodies, 60 stolen passports and $ 40,000 in U.S. currency.
Genetic advances spark fears of science gone awry
By Patricia Reaney LONDON (Reuters)
RTna 01/12 1223
A genetically modified monkey and a lethal man-made virus, once restricted to the realms of science fiction, have become reality and are raising concerns that science is out of control. A day after news broke that Australian researchers had accidentally made a killer animal virus with technology that could be used against humans, U.S.
scientists announced the creation of ANDi -- the first genetically modified monkey. His makers say the cute little primate could accelerate cures for human diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's. But tinkering with the genes of humankind's closest relatives and altering viruses to increase their potency have left researchers wondering if some scientists have gone too far. "Without a doubt, all the necessary checks and balances are not in place, but I'm not sure that we know exactly what we need to do yet either," said Dr. Christopher Exley, a research fellow with an interest in ethics at Britain's Keele University. "You will always have irresponsible individuals, almost James Bond bad-guy-like people, who are out there and who want to do something different. I guess all we can do is do our very best to regulate it and make sure everything is as open as possible."
DESIGNER BABIES Exley said that prior to the announcement he had not been aware that U.S. scientists had been working on the ANDi project. "Therefore, we must assume lots of other things like this are going on," he added. Like other scientists, he has expressed doubts about how the transgenic monkey will spur advances in medicine. Some fear ANDi is more likely to lead to genetically modified humans. "This is yet another step to designer babies," said Dr. David King of Britain's Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering. France's Le Figaro newspaper voiced similar concerns. "If it's possible to introduce a ... gene into a rhesus monkey, we can imagine the same thing happening to men, with specially selected genes," it said.
New Scientist magazine, which broke the news of the killer Australian virus, said the scientists who created it could not have foreseen the potential danger. They had hoped that the altered mouse virus, similar to the smallpox virus in humans, would act as a contraceptive to control the pests but not to kill them. Although more stringent vetting of research proposals will never catch everything, the weekly magazine said education and vigilance were the key to safe science.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and veteran anti-nuclear campaigner Joseph Rotblat is perhaps more aware than most researchers of the potential dangers of scientific advances. The Polish-born nuclear physicist worked on the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb and has spent 40 years campaigning against nuclear weapons. "Almost any development of science which has brought benefits to mankind has also created dangers and could be applied either one way or the other," he told Reuters. "Scientists have the responsibility to see to it that what they are doing is not going to be applied for the detriment of mankind."
REUTERS [Entered January 14, 2001]