05 April 2007

Damaging UK Science

BBC: Hybrid embryo ban 'unnecessary'In the debate over the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has come down on the side of the 223 medical charities and patient groups who have petitioned the government to sanction the research, suggesting that any ban could potentially harm UK science.

Earlier in the year, the think tank Demos claimed that Britain risks being sidelined in the global science revolution and suggested that "Britain should promote itself as a cosmopolitan centre: open and willing to support the best ideas and the most innovative talent from across the world." However, we need to make a distinction between being cosmopolitan and being liberal. For, in seeking to reinvent ourselves for the new age of globalisation, we risk losing another strength for which we used to be known. As I wrote a month ago, where our reputation used to be as a moral leader, our apparent dismissal of a number of international ethical agreements means we are increasingly becoming known as an ethical rogue state.

Demos was right that Britain is "sleepwalking out of its special relationship" with many countries, not just for the reason they suggest – our failure to invest and engage in collaborative research – but also because not enough people have woken up to how fast other countries are developing and too few are even aware that our legislation lags a decade behind our global competitors. If Britain is not to be left behind completely and become a marginal science and innovation player in world terms, we must stop being ashamed of what once made Britain Great and must rediscover the moral foundation that helped establish this nation as a world leader.

UPDATE: Want to know who else is dabbling in chimeras? Iranian professor Esmail Zanjani from the University of Nevada has just created the world's first human-sheep! For some of the possible unexpected consequences, see this New Scientist report into human-pig chimeras from three years ago.


James said...

The Lib Dem MP who chairs the Committee reckons, "This is a test of the Government's commitment to science." Yes, but also a test of the Government's commitment to the Christian heritage that forms the legal and cultural foundation to this country. Sadly, we know they have already demonstrated in other areas that they have no regard for that heritage. Therefore expect no surprises when the draft Bill is published next month and we find Labour has "listened to the experts." Baa-aah.