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Sheila Maynard Smith


Dolly the sheep, and would you clone yourself?
John Maynard Smith Scientist
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I'm genuinely puzzled by Dolly the sheep. I think it's a fascinating problem... I mean I think it's a fascinating result. But I read the paper in Nature and it didn't seem to answer the... I mean, it convinced me that the phenomenon is a genuine one, and that's exciting, but it didn't offer any explanation of why it worked, because I would not have expected it to work, and most people in the trade would not. So, I think there's a very real puzzle about Dolly.

[Q] If somebody came along and said we want to clone Maynard Smith, what would you say?

Not on your life, I think. My feeling is that the only person whose interest should be considered in the matter of cloning human beings is the future clone. I really would not wish to be a child, being brought up, knowing that I was genetically identical to this old twerp. I mean, you know it goes back to... I remember when it wasn't cloning but it was artificial insemination by famous donors, was a popular scheme. And I had this image of this wretched child who had been conceived by sperm derived from Francis Crick, and I had this picture of two parents looking down at the child and saying, 'When are you going to discover something?' It'd be awful. And I think it would be terrible to be brought up as a child, knowing that in some way or other you were expected to be... the genetic replica... sort of follow in the footsteps of some already existing adult. I mean, if somebody cloned me and took the clone away and could be absolutely certain that the child would never know who he was or who he was meant to be like, I don't think it would matter, but then I don't suppose they'd want to do that. No, I think the child is the person you have to mind about in these contexts, not the person who thinks how nice it would be to have lots of copies of me.

The late British biologist John Maynard Smith (1920-2004) is famous for applying game theory to the study of natural selection. At Eton College, inspired by the work of old Etonian JBS Haldane, Maynard Smith developed an interest in Darwinian evolutionary theory and mathematics. Then he entered University College London (UCL) to study fruit fly genetics under Haldane. In 1973 Maynard Smith formalised a central concept in game theory called the evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS). His ideas, presented in books such as 'Evolution and the Theory of Games', were enormously influential and led to a more rigorous scientific analysis and understanding of interactions between living things.

Listeners: Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins was educated at Oxford University and has taught zoology at the universities of California and Oxford. He is a fellow of New College, Oxford and the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Dawkins is one of the leading thinkers in modern evolutionary biology. He is also one of the best read and most popular writers on the subject: his books about evolution and science include "The Selfish Gene", "The Extended Phenotype", "The Blind Watchmaker", "River Out of Eden", "Climbing Mount Improbable", and most recently, "Unweaving the Rainbow".

Tags: Dolly the sheep, Nature

Duration: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: April 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008