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[ Sat. Mar. 8. 2003 ]

Farewell, Dolly: Robbie Hudson finds the cloned sheep honoured at brilliant scientific forum www.

Are you going to be part of the last generation to die, or the first one to live for ever? Ask this on a daytime phone-in show and you would attract fanatics calling down divine vengeance. 

Canvass a select group of theorists who like to "ask each other the questions they are asking themselves", however, and you might prompt a serious discussion of issues usually consigned to science fiction. 

This is Edge's raison d'etre. The website grew out of a debating society called the Reality Club. Taking the debate online gave us access to its intelligent forum, where luminaries such as the experimental psychologist Steven Pinker and the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins lock horns with other able minds. 

Edge's huge list of topics includes mankind's ability to become one with machines, and the implications of Dolly the cloned sheep's recent death. An enjoyable feature is the annual question asked of the contributors. This year's was: "Imagine you are George W Bush's scientific adviser. What would you do?" 

Suggestions included $ 1 billion to be spent on science fellowships for scholarsfrom Muslim countries and travel to Mars. 

Edge's combination of political engagement and blue-sky thinking makes stimulating reading for anyone seeking a glimpse into the next decade.

Copyright © 2003 Times Newspapers Limited