Human Exceptionalism

Saletan on Hwang

I have been waiting with some anticipation Will Saletan’s take on the Hwang scandal. Even though I disagree with Saletan often, I find him to be one of the most provocative and interesting writers covering the science and ethics beats. Good for Slate for giving him seemingly free rein.

Saletan has now weighed in on Hwang, and I confess that I am a bit disappointed. He focuses intensely on the charlatan’s exploitation of women for their eggs and on the lies he apparently told to make cloning seem efficient enough to be used in regenerative medicine. Saletan also regrets that Hwang may not have cloned human embryos at all.

I hope human cloning cannot be done. One reason is that, as Saletan has written about in other columns, there is simply no way that the use of cloned human life would be limited to harvesting early embryos in Petri dishes for their stem cells.

But Saletan’s support for therapeutic cloning is not why I feel a bit let down. And I certainly agree with him about the egg issue. I think this column misses the true import of the Hwang fiasco, issues that should be in Saletan’s sweet spot for hammering over the center field wall.

But then, there is only so much room to opine in one column. Hopefully Saletan will return to Hwang and address crucial issues the scandal raises such as peer review, the lack of skepticism about biotech in the mainstream media, the politicization of science, and other matters of pertinence and concern.

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