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Identity, equality and stem cells
François Jacob Scientist
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Actually, we always say that people are equal when faced with illness. But it isn't true. They are different when faced with illness. They aren't equal in front of therapy, if you will. But identity and equality aren't the same thing at all. Identity is biology and equality is culture. And it's because people are different that the notion of equality is necessary.

[Q] But I think that it's a very dominant confusion, for example with cloning.

I agree, but I find it silly. Everyone's talking about it. Equality when faced with this and that. It's not an equality, it's a difference.

[Q] And the problems with stem cells which was also largely talked about, what do you think about it?

I think that it's still a fantastic tool and that it needs to be handled with precaution. But I don't think we can go without stem cells. What we need is simply to set barriers on the exercises which we can carry out with stem cells. But it is still an incredible tool.

En fait, on dit toujours que les gens sont pas égaux devant tel truc, devant la maladie. Mais c'est pas vrai. Ils sont différents devant la maladie. Ils sont pas égaux devant la thérapeutique si vous voulez. Mais c'est pas du tout la même chose, l'identité et l'égalité. L'identité, c'est la biologie, et l'égalité, c'est de la culture. Et c'est parce que les gens sont différents qu'il faut avoir l'idée d'égalité.

[Q] Mais ça je pense que c'est une confusion qui est très dominante, par exemple pour les clones à nouveau.

Je suis d'accord, mais je trouve ça stupide. Tout le monde en parle. L'égalité devant tel truc. C'est pas une égalité, c'est une différence.

[Q] Et le problème des cellules souches qui fait beaucoup parler aussi, qu'est-ce que vous en pensez?

Je pense que c'est tout de même un outil fantastique et qu'il faut y aller avec précaution. Mais je pense qu'on ne peut pas se priver des cellules souches. Ce qu'il faut, c'est simplement mettre des barrières aux exercices auxquels on peut se livrer avec des cellules souches. Mais c'est quand même un outil formidable.

François Jacob (1920-2013) was a French biochemist whose work has led to advances in the understanding of the ways in which genes are controlled. In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Jacque Monod and André Lwoff, for his contribution to the field of biochemistry. His later work included studies on gene control and on embryogenesis. Besides the Nobel Prize, he also received the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science for 1996 and was elected a member of the French Academy in 1996.

Listeners: Michel Morange

Michel Morange is a professor of Biology and Director of the Centre Cavaillès of History and Philosophy of Science at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. After having obtained a Bachelor in biochemistry and two PhDs, one in Biochemistry, the other in History and Philosophy of Science, he went on to join the research unit of Molecular Genetics headed by François Jacob, in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Pasteur Institute, Paris. Together with Olivier Bensaude, he discovered that Heat Shock Proteins are specifically expressed on the onset of the mouse zygotic genome activation. Since then he has been working on the properties of Heat Shock Proteins, their role in aggregation and on the regulation of expression of these proteins during mouse embryogenesis. He is the author of 'A History of Molecular Biology' and 'The Misunderstood Gene'.

Michel Morange est généticien et professeur à L'Université Paris VI ainsi qu'à l'Ecole Normale Supérieure où il dirige le Centre Cavaillès d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences. Après l'obtention d'une license en Biochimie ainsi que de deux Doctorats, l'un en Biochimie, l'autre en Histoire et Philosophie des Sciences, il rejoint le laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire dirigé par le Professeur François Jacob à l'Institut Pasteur. Ses principaux travaux de recherche se sont portés sur l'Histoire de la Biologie au XXème siècle, la naissance et le développement de la Biologie Moléculaire, ses transformations récentes et ses interactions avec les autres disciplines biologiques. Auteur de "La Part des Gènes" ainsi que de "Histoire de la Biologie Moléculaire", il est spécialiste de la structure, de la fonction et de l'ingénerie des protéines.

Tags: illness, therapy, equality, cloning, stem cells

Duration: 1 minute, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008