2 minute read
Philip Elmer-Dewitt

You almost have to feel sorry for the scientists at South Korea’s Kyunghee University Hospital. In any other week the world’s press would have trumpeted the news that they had taken a cell from a thirtysomething infertile woman, given it the Dolly-the-sheep treatment and created the world’s first cloned human embryo. Sure, the researchers managed to generate a little buzz in the local press when groups like Green Korea United blasted them for meddling with Mother Nature. But around the world (and especially in the U.S.), their claim to fame was overwhelmed by colliding headlines about impeachment and cruise missiles.

Even worse than being ignored, however, was being disbelieved. Because they had destroyed the embryo after only two cell divisions (well before the critical 16-cell stage), because they hadn’t videotaped their work and, most of all, because they hadn’t published it in a peer-reviewed journal, the rest of the scientific community didn’t feel obliged to take the Korean claims seriously. Even RICHARD SEED, the unemployed Chicago physicist who has taken it on himself to give cloning a bad name, was taking potshots. “I am supportive of the work,” he told TIME, “but you can’t trust it.”

–By Philip Elmer-DeWitt. Reported by Wendy Cole/Chicago

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