"The more knowledge, the more distress," says the Talmud. How true that seems for the field of genetics. As soon as advances in laboratory animals are announced, the news is used to forecast a revolution in human reproduction: Let's make genetically ideal babies, let's clone human copies, let's make headless fetuses for transplantable spare parts.

Biology has become a convenient target for moralists and politicians who condemn science and are eager to ban new experimentation. "To benefit from scientific advancement" is a basic human right defined by the United Nations. Exercising this right implies defining the limits of the permissible and weighing the moral conditions of action. Ethics committees ought to explain the potential benefits of scientific applications and create guidelines for their use, rather than try to have them outlawed upfront.

Fear of eugenics and of illusory social manipulations has led several governments to outlaw applications of cloning to...

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