At large: Felix domestica redux

At large: Felix domestica redux

Matthew JC. Powell senses an eerie familiarity: why can't these cool cats go away?

If George Lucas is intending to make a comment on modern society by calling his next film Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, I think he's spot on. We live in an age of clones, where innovation is secondary to derivation.

There is small irony in the fact that the most talked-about scientific development of recent times is the science of cloning - when innovation means better copies, we rejoice. Hey, it worked for Xerox, right?

A group calling itself Genetic Savings and Clone (boom-tish) in the US has developed a means by which to clone pussycats, and has unveiled the first successfully copied kitty.

While I can sort of understand why you'd want to clone a commercial animal like a sheep, I cannot understand why you would clone a cat. Not even a little bit. The things breed with - excuse the pun - consummate ease. I would use the clichéd simile of rabbits, but frankly I don't think rabbits could compete. Why, I ask, would you want to reproduce the things artificially?

The company that's done it was founded by a fellow who wanted to preserve the DNA of his beloved dog, so that when it inevitably expired he would be able to resurrect it. Or at least a reasonable facsimile.

And this, folks, is wrong. This is the whimsy of a pet owner who can't let go. And if we justify cloning because we can't bear to part with our pets, then what are the limits to what we'll do?

Think about this: the sons of William Hewlett and David Packard, Walter and David respectively, have both spoken out against the impending merger of HP and Compaq. The shareholders listen to these people, partly because they own great chunks of the company, and partly because of who they are. If Walter Hewlett says, "Bill wouldn't have wanted this", you listen because, well, he knew Bill and you didn't. But you nevertheless vote with self-interest, because, well, Walter's not Bill.

But what if Bill had had the technology to not merely reproduce but to clone himself? What if his filial representative was, for all intents and purposes, him? Then you'd listen, wouldn't you?

And why stop at Bill and Dave? Why not clone all of the true pioneers, the innovators, the original thinkers? With these folks back in action, the rest of us mere mortals would never have to have another original thought. Such a burden would be lifted from our shoulders.

Just remember, if this horrible vision ever comes to pass, it started with a cat, not a sheep.

Matthew JC. Powell is really more of a dog person. Exchange puppy-dog tales on

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