Clones: the clowns of technology?

Before writing this review, I glanced idly at the book cover, and realised how effectively it portrayed our ideas of cloning (the production of genetically identical individuals) - technology, the natural world, and the bizarre. Professor Gareth Jones is head of the Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and a practising Christian. In writing this book, he opens our eyes to the world of 'Genethics', posing questions concerning the techniques involved in, and reasons for, cloning - both humans and animals. Dolly the sheep is put in her place as a subject of media hype, and real issues are tackled, along with the implications of the Human Genome Project.

Professor Jones offers no easy answers; indeed, he admits on several occasions he has none, just questions. He challenges us to face up to how we would regard cloned human beings, a possibility no longer limited to Science Fiction. Are they 'second class citizens' produced purely to serve their progenitors? Will God see in them his own image? Does genetic manipulation lessen our own image of God? Is he a 'God of the gaps' who becomes smaller the more knowledge we acquire? What rights do embryos have, and when? In discussing these and many other questions, he challenges us to root our answers in our understanding of God's Word as given in scripture, regardless of whether we are so-called liberals or fundamentalists. And where a word of caution is needed, one is given.

The book is a tough one to read even for those well grounded in genetics. The useful glossary at the back covers most unfamiliar terms, and a dictionary will help with the many polysyllabic words. The style is not easy, and I found I had to take it in small doses to avoid cerebral overload. It was a stimulating book, but I would only recommend it to someone who has far more than a casual interest. But make no mistake about it, as Christians we will be challenged on our views on this subject, and in the light of recent legislation, it will be sooner rather than later.