Picks and Pans Review: Clone: the Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead

updated 03/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Gina Kolata

Leaving aside Mary's little one, Dolly has become the most famous lamb in history—and the subject of a fierce religious, ethical and scientific debate. In this passionate and authoritative account, New York Times science writer Gina Kolata picks up the story long before Dolly was cloned from a sheep's udder and born in Scotland on July 5, 1996, and peers well into a murky future.

It was inevitable that Dolly's birth would spawn a round of cloning jokes. (One played off William Blake's famous line "Little lamb, who made thee?" Answer: a significant udder.) But we should not underestimate the power that may be unleashed by this technological and biological breakthrough, Kolata emphasizes, comparing it to Einstein's theory of relativity or the splitting of the atom.

The goal of the Scottish researchers was to develop animals that could produce drugs for human use. But the world soon considered the inevitable question: What about cloning humans? Kolata, who herself seems open-minded about cloning's potential, skillfully turns our attention to the larger question: Is there knowledge that it would be better for us not to have? "Many-people wonder," she quotes one Princeton University theologian asking, "if this is a miracle for which we can thank God, or an ominous new way to play God ourselves." (Morrow, $23)

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