playingGod - New York Times Findings Are Scientists Playing...

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New York Times November 20, 2007 Findings Are Scientists Playing God? It Depends on Your Religion By JOHN TIERNEY Correction Appended Now that biologists in Oregon have reported using cloning to produce a monkey embryo and extract stem cells , it looks more plausible than before that a human embryo will be cloned and that, some day, a cloned human will be born. But not necessarily on this side of the Pacific. American and European researchers have made most of the progress so far in biotechnology. Yet they still face one very large obstacle — God, as defined by some Western religions. While critics on the right and the left fret about the morality of stem-cell research and genetic engineering, prominent Western scientists have been going to Asia, like the geneticists Nancy Jenkins and Neal Copeland, who left the National Cancer Institute and moved last year to Singapore. Asia offers researchers new labs, fewer restrictions and a different view of divinity and the afterlife. In South Korea, when Hwang Woo Suk reported creating human embryonic stem cells through cloning, he did not apologize for offending religious taboos. He justified cloning by citing his Buddhist belief in recycling life through reincarnation. When Dr. Hwang’s claim was exposed as a fraud, his research was supported by the head of South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, the Rev. Ji Kwan. The monk said research with embryos was in accord with Buddha’s precepts and urged Korean scientists not to be guided by Western ethics. “Asian religions worry less than Western religions that biotechnology is about ‘playing God,’” says Cynthia Fox, the author of “ Cell of Cells ,” a book about the global race among stem-cell researchers. “Therapeutic cloning in particular jibes well with the Buddhist and Hindu ideas of reincarnation.” You can see this East-West divide in maps drawn up by Lee M. Silver, a molecular biologist at Princeton. Dr. Silver, who analyzes clashes of spirituality and science in his book “ Challenging Nature ,” has been charting biotechnology policies around the world and trying to make spiritual sense of who’s afraid of what.
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