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News for Sociology of Religion--Sat Mar 1 06:26:03 EST 1997

  • CLONED SHEEP STIRS DEBATE ON ITS USE ON HUMANS
    The cloning of an adult mammal offers a striking example of how technology can outpace the moral and social thinking that would guide it, setting off a debate among ethicists, psychologists and (New York Times) (*)

  • JAILED SERBS' `VICTIMS' FOUND ALIVE, EMBARRASSING BOSNIA
    SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina—In a major embarrassment for the Bosnian government, two Muslim brothers, whose supposed slaying was used as evidence in the most publicized war crimes trial of the war (New York Times)



    CLONED SHEEP STIRS DEBATE ON ITS USE ON HUMANS

    By GUSTAV NIEBUHR<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service=

    The cloning of an adult mammal offers a striking example of howtechnology can outpace the moral and social thinking that wouldguide it, setting off a debate among ethicists, psychologists andtheologians over how this new science might change the world.

    The dawn of the era of cloning is ``a little like splitting theatom,'' said Dr. Glenn Bucher, president of the GraduateTheological Union in Berkeley, Calif., ``with enormous prospectsfor evil and enormous prospects for good.''

    Cloning seemed utterly remote until last Saturday, when anembryologist in Edinburgh, Dr. Ian Wilmut, stunned scientists andnonscientists alike by announcing that he had created a lamb fromthe DNA of a ewe.

    Talk inevitably leaped ahead to the idea of cloning humans, apossibility that raises a host of moral, psychological and legalquestions, not to mention highly likely opposition from somepowerful religious authorities like the Vatican.

    Until now, human cloning has been a territory mainly explored byscience-fiction writers like Aldous Huxley, who saw in it darkconsequences for humanity.

    For those who would consider such a development from a religiousstandpoint, the pertinent question turns mainly on the morality ofthe act, rather than whether a cloned person would be anintrinsically lesser being.

    ``The way I read the Bible,'' said Ted Peters, a professor ofsystematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary inBerkeley, ``the status of that person before God would not be anydifferent from anyone born the old-fashioned way.''

    Although Peters, author of ``Playing God? Genetic Determinismand Human Freedom'' (Routledge), said he did not think that thecloning of a human was unethical ``in principle,'' he added that itwould be ``unwise'' for such experiments to proceed withoutwide-ranging debate.

    He raised a question about whether in efforts to clone humans,would human embryos be destroyed or discarded? ``If so,'' he said,``there's an ethical issue.''

    Peters added that he favored a moratorium on any suchexperimentation until ethical issues could be debated.

    But the human possibilities raised by Wilmut's experiment alsocarry important psychological dimensions, not least that they mayexcite people with the belief that a sort of immortality is athand.

    ``It tempts our narcissism enormously,'' said Dr. Robert Coles,the child psychiatrist at Harvard, ``because it gives a physicaldimension to a fantasy that one can keep going on through thereproduction of oneself.''

    In addition, the news about the cloning appears to have deeplytouched upper-middle-class anxieties about family life, said Dr.Dennis G. Shulman, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist inManhattan.

    Speaking about discussions that he has heard on the radio andelsewhere, Shulman said, a number of people seemed to have fixed onthe idea of cloning as offering an opportunity to create ``theperfect child,'' free of emotional or physical problems.

    ``It's part of the whole general sense of trying to control theuncontrollable,'' Shulman said.

    The possibility of cloning people also raises legal questions,said Robert A. Destro, an associate professor of law at CatholicUniversity in Washington. Would clones be seen as having the samestatus and legal rights as other people, particularly if they werecreated to perform specific work?

    ``If they are created to be used,'' Professor Destro said,``then we have already differentiated them from regular people.''

    From a philosophical standpoint, Dr. Coles, the author of``Moral Intelligence in Children'' (Random House), said, thepossibility of cloning humans also would offer a materialisticparallel to the Eastern religious belief in reincarnation.

    ``It prompts us to think, prodded by biology and genetics, in away not unlike people in other cultures when they talk about a soulmoving from body to body,'' he said. ``We're talking about genesmoving from body to body.''

    Dr. Maher Hathout, a cardiologist who serves as a spokesman forthe Islamic Center of Southern California, said that from a Muslimperspective there were no limits on research because ``knowledge isbestowed on us by God.''

    ``We believe that God gave us creativity, that he is the best ofall creators, according to the Koran,'' Hathout said.

    As for the issue of cloning, he added, ``the only problem willcome with how are we going to use it, for good or for bad.''

    From Jewish and Christian standpoints, there is an elementaltension in the dawn of this new technology. Genius may be a giftfrom God, but the Bible tells how the human tendency to disobey Godrenders the use of genius unpredictable, a potential fordestruction as much as for creation. In other words, whiletechnology may be neutral, human behavior is not.

    Regardless of what it might say about Wilmut's achievement, theVatican is highly unlikely to give its stamp of approval to thecloning of humans. Roman Catholic teaching, as expressed by theCongregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rejects reproductivetechnology that replaces sexual intercourse.

    In the case of in-vitro fertilization, that stand has provencontroversial among some Catholic theologians. But opposition tohuman cloning would be supported by other arguments.

    The Rev. Richard A. McCormick, a professor of Christian ethicsat the University of Notre Dame, said the obvious motives forcloning a human were ``the very reasons you should not.''

    He said he was concerned that people would see cloning as a wayto replicate themselves, to ``replace'' a dying child or to createsomeone who could be a compatible organ donor.

    Cloning would tempt people to try to create humans with certainphysical or intellectual characteristics, McCormick said, elevatingmere aspects of being human above the ``beautiful whole that is thehuman person.''

    ``Who decides what are the desirable traits, what are theacceptable traits?'' he asked.

    Rabbi Richard Address, director of the committee on bioethics ofthe Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which represents 1,000Reform synagogues, distinguished the idea of cloning humans fromthe development of technology to eliminate genetic diseases.

    Although the intention of eliminating diseases is healing,Address said, the development of human clones seems to be closer todesigning people ``to our specifications,'' an enterprise that helikened to trying to be God.

    Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor Jewish medical ethics atYeshiva University in New York, said, ``The real problem iswhenever man has shown mastery over man, it has always meant theenslavement of man.''

    Although cloning domestic animals might produce tangiblebenefits like a sheep that produces more wool, involving humanswould present murkier possibilities, Tendler said. Cloning anotherEinstein ``might be nice,'' he said, but cloning ``a bunch ofmuscle-bound'' soldiers might well be another matter.

    Others say that people who adopt a blanket opposition to humancloning risk losing the opportunity to influence futurediscussions.

    An associate professor of Christian philosophy at the FullerTheological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., Nancey Murphy, said shehoped that religious ethicists would ``concentrate their efforts onsaying what we should do with this, rather than saying it shouldn'tbe done, because people have rightly said it can't be prevented.''

    Murphy said a person could argue that the possibility of cloningpeople with qualities like high intelligence would involvepromoting a valued trait, not an effort to eliminate a negativeone.

    ``The main thing to worry about,'' she said, ``is whether ourculture has its priorities well enough thought out'' to make thosechoices.

    Bucher, at the Graduate Theological Union, which includes nineseminaries, said he thought that much of the concern about theethical implications was premature. He said he doubted that therewould be ``a rush to this activity'' anytime soon.

    In the meantime, he said, ``This could have the potential ofcreating a conversation between scientists and theologians, whichwe haven't had much of.''

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    JAILED SERBS' `VICTIMS' FOUND ALIVE, EMBARRASSING BOSNIA

    By CHRIS HEDGES<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina—In a major embarrassment for theBosnian government, two Muslim brothers, whose supposed slaying wasused as evidence in the most publicized war crimes trial of the warto condemn two Bosnian Serbs to death, have been found living in aSarajevo suburb.

    The finding of the brothers, which has led the lawyer for one ofthe imprisoned Serbs to file for a new trial, has raised troublingquestions about the guilt of the men, currently in a Sarajevoprison, and the death sentence handed down by the military court.

    It has exposed what defense attorneys say was the undue haste ofthe trial, which went ahead without any physical evidence, and theheavily charged political atmosphere that colored the judicialruling.

    The trial, which was widely covered by the international press,was used by the Muslim government to publicize the brutal ``ethniccleansing'' campaign then under way by the Bosnian Serbs.

    The March 1993 trial of Sretko Damjanovic and Borislav Herak wasthe first attempt by the Sarajevo legal system to try Bosnian Serbsfor genocide and other war crimes. It was intended to begin ajudicial process that would see those Serbs responsible for thekillings of tens of thousands of Muslims brought to justice.

    But it was also used to convince Europe and the United Statesthat the Serbs were guilty of genocide and other crimes againsthumanity.

    The case against Damjanovic, 36, now appears especially weak.

    Damjanovic was found guilty, based largely on a confession helater said was made under torture, of killing the brothers and athird man, Krso Ramiz, in the trial.

    But in yet another blow to the case, the Sarajevo PublicProsecutor's office, according to internal documents, has chargedthree other Bosnian Serbs—Nenad Damjanovic (not related toSretko), Vukovic Miro and Jeftic Bozo—with carrying out Ramiz'smurder.

    During the trial, Sretko Damjanovic recanted his confession andsaid he had been severely abused by the Muslim police until hesigned the document. The court doctor confirmed at trial thatDamjanovic had four knife wounds and a broken rib that appeared tohave been inflicted while in police custody.

    In Damjanovic's confession, he stated that he was responsiblefor the killing of the two brothers, Kasim and Asim Blekic, whostill live in Sarajevo.

    ``The two principal pieces of evidence used to convict my clientwere his signed confession, where he supposedly admitted tomurdering two men who we now know are alive, and the testimony ofhis co-defendant Borislav Herak,'' said Damjanovic's lawyer, BrankoMaric.

    ``How can my client's supposed confession be considered validnow? And how can the testimony of Mr. Herak, who said he witnessedthese alleged murders, also be accepted by the court?''

    Government officials were reluctant Friday to discuss the caseand the appeal for a new trial.

    Azra Omeragic, president of the Sarajevo county court, saidthere would be an evaluation of the request for a new trial. Butshe added that the decision was not the responsibility of heroffice and had been handed over to the public prosecutor's office.She said she did not want to comment further.

    The chief public prosecutor, Domin Malbasic, said the requestfor a retrial had never reached his office.

    Herak said in the trial that he saw Damjanovic kill Kasim andAsim Blekic as well as Ramiz. He said he also saw Damjanovic killthree other people who were not identified in the trial. No otherwitnesses were presented to the court to back Herak's accusations.

    Herak confessed to a series of war crimes that included 42individual killings and 16 rapes that were followed, according tohis confession, by the killing of 11 of his rape victims. He saidhe also witnessed the killing of 220 civilians during Serbiancampaigns of ethnic cleansing.

    Kasim Blekic, who now raises sheep in a small shed next to hishouse in the Vogosca suburb of Sarajevo, said he was unaware thathis supposed killing had been used to indict Damjanovic until ayear ago when Vogosca, which was under Bosnian Serb control, washanded back to the Muslim government as part of the Dayton peaceagreement.

    Blekic, his wife and two children had fled their small home inVogosca in May 1993 when they found themselves living along whatbecame the front line.

    His house was destroyed in the fighting. Blekic, 43, became anambulance driver for the army during the war. He and his brotherlived in Sarajevo until the fighting ended.

    ``I didn't return to Vogosca until last year when the Serbs wereleaving,'' he said, standing next to a small, muddy pen that heldabout two dozen bleating sheep.

    ``I was buying cattle in those days from a lot of the Serbs,including many of my old neighbors. I went to see the uncle ofSretko Damjanovic, an old friend, and he said he couldn't believe Iwas alive. He told me his nephew had been sentenced to death forkilling my brother and me. They all looked at me as if I was aghost.''

    Blekic said he knew Damjanovic and his family. He described hisrelationship with the condemned man as ``normal.'' He said he neversaw Damjanovic in April and May 1992, when the killings weresupposed to have occurred.

    U.N. international police monitors showed up last summer atBlekic's new house in Vogosca, which once belonged to a Serbneighbor, to photograph him and copy the information on hisidentity card. But this was the last he heard from the U.N. team.

    ``We are the only Blekic family in Vogosca,'' he said. ``Thereare no others.''

    At the end of last year relatives of Damjanovic reached hislawyer in Sarajevo with the news. And in December Maric filed amotion for a new trial.

    Herak and Damjanovic were arrested in November 1992 by theBosnian Muslims after their car took a wrong turn and they droveinto a Muslim checkpoint.

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