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Cloning Debate Kicks Off Series of Forums

By Lisa N. Brennan-jobs

With a public debate on genetic cloning, the Harvard Political Union (HPU) launched a series of public forums last night intended to spur student interest in social issues.

The event was the first of a string of debates that allow all participants to get involved, a departure from past HPU events which featured designated speakers.

"Student debate has always been a focus of the union," said HPU Chair Kent B. McNellie '99. "But in the past, we mainly listened to students debate. In these debates anyone can talk and it is open to the public."

To be more accessible, the debates--which will take place in Boylston Hall's Ticknor Lounge at 8 p.m. every two weeks--are held in the Yard rather than at the Institute of Politics, as in the past.

"The idea is that they're easy to go to and get involved in," McNellie said.

Future debate topics may include euthanasia, gun control, multiculturalism and assimilation. Topics are chosen at HPU's Monday meetings.

"People have opinions they wouldn't otherwise get to express," said HPU member Aadil T. Ginwala '00.

McNellie said cloning was chosen as the first week's topic due to the prominence of recent scientific discoveries and because HPU felt students needed a forum to express their views.

Last night's debate was fast-paced: impromptu speeches lasted a minute and a half each and were followed by questions and answers.

Professor of History and Science Everett I. Mendelsohn created a list of questions relating to cloning prior to the event. However, he was not present at the debate, which was attended by about 20 people.

"We'd invite him," said McNellie, "but we want students to talk."

The cloning debate, which raged heatedly for the full hour, involved hypothetical issues such as the possible cloning of "warrior races" and "pacific races," as well as the potential moral and social implications of cloning humans and animals.

Students stepped in occasionally to clarify scientific procedures, but the debate mainly focused on the political and ethical ramifications of cloning.

Some students were pessimistic about the idea of human cloning, while others thought that humans could turn the technology to pragmatic ends.

"I think it is excellent," said Yuri Agrawal '00. "A lot of people in this room will be doing public policy in the future and it's good that they're learning about these issues before they go into the world of politics.

"I think it is excellent," said Yuri Agrawal '00. "A lot of people in this room will be doing public policy in the future and it's good that they're learning about these issues before they go into the world of politics.

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