Letter: Cloning: the `experts' must learn to listen

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Sir: I know exactly what Professor Dawkins is complaining about in his article, for I have no doubt which radio discussion programme provoked it just two days before his article appeared.

In a three-sided BBC World Service discussion between myself, the professor and a distinguished rabbi, the latter slightly overstated his case about individuality being compromised by genetic identity between clones. Professor Dawkins was on to him like a shot, using the example of identical twins to show that clones already occurred naturally, and with consummate cross- examining skill drove him further out on to the limb which he had tentatively ventured on to.

Clearly the rabbi did understand the science correctly, and could have made the perfectly sound point (which he made to me immediately afterwards) that while identical twins did indeed occur in nature, it would be ethically questionable to create them deliberately.

For the record, Professor Dawkins did agree with me that if there were going to be laws on human cloning there had to be some public debate about what those laws should contain, and in a democratic society it was absurd to suggest that religious people should not be allowed to take part in such debates (or not take part as vigorously as they could in order to win the argument).

Thus was he forced to retract his earlier allegation that religious people were trying to "tell the rest of us how to behave". I suppose I could have written a supercilious article for you about how scientists like him do not understand the democratic process, citing something I had heard one of them say recently in a radio studio.