Human cloning is inevitable. As part of the progress of science, human cloning will take place regardless of who opposes it. In this paper I will explain what human cloning is, some of the ethical and moral objections to it, some medical benefits it could serve, what many different religions think of cloning humans, and ultimately why I feel that this would be beneficial to our society.
In order to understand the objections and the potential of human cloning, one must know exactly it is and how it is done. In order to clone a living being (animal or human), scientists begin with an egg (ovum) of an adult female. Women generally produce only one each month but can be chemically stimulated to produce more. Researchers remove the DNA-containing nucleus from the egg. Cells from the subject to be cloned are obtained by various methods including a scraping the inside of the cheek, and the DNA-containing nucleus is removed from one of these. Next the adult-cell nucleus is inserted into the egg with a sophisticated nuclear transfer, and the egg is stimulated (electrically or chemically) to trick it into dividing just like an embryo. When the embryo reaches the appropriate stage, you implant it into the uterus of the woman who will give birth to it. After gestation, the clone is born in the normal way (Eibert, par. 2-5).
The child that is born as a result of cloning would be nearly genetically identical (the egg holds some mitochondrial DNA that may potentially alter the new DNA slightly) to the subject cloned. The clone should look similar to the adult it was cloned from, but that’s where the similarities would end. The clone would have a completely different set of life experiences. It would be raised by different parents, grow up in a different era and different location, and have different circumstances happen to it along the way. It wouldn’t be the same person it was cloned from; it would be its own unique individual who just happened to have the same DNA. The characteristics of a person (physical as well as social) are activated by random choices on the DNA. A person has twenty-three chromosomes from his or her mother and twenty-three from the father. Whether or not a person has blue eyes is a random pick from the two sets of chromosomes. Identical twins are also quite different from each other: their fingerprints are different, sometimes one twin will be obese and one not, and sometimes one is gay and one is not. It is these random activations that we can’t control, and these random activations may be different in a clone than they were in the original person.(Eibert, par. 40).
So what is society so afraid of? Why is the subject of human cloning almost taboo? I think the majority of the population envisions cloning as some sort of mass-market where one can order a baby or create millions of identical people. This was the same sort of fear that in-vitro fertilization (IVF, test-tube babies) created when it was started in the 1970’s, and, in theory, this couldn’t be more wrong.
One of the main problems that most people have with cloning of humans is they believe that in an attempt to create another person there will be many unsuccessful attempts. There is a fear that in forming embryos there will be many that are deformed, destroyed, or otherwise experimented on for scientific gain. Marc Zabludoff writes in ?Fear and longing? that ?to get one successful birth, many babies would have to die in failed procedures ? an absolutely unacceptable practice? (6)
It has been widely publicized that in creating Dolly, the cloned sheep, it took 277 tries. This isn’t quite true. What it took to clone Dolly was 277 eggs with a fused nucleus. Only 27 of them divided past the 2-cell stage. Only 13 of these formed embryos and were implanted into a sheep uterus; of these 13, only 1, Dolly, was born. It wasn’t that any of the sheep embryos were deformed or manipulated, the adult sheep simply failed to conceive, much like an unsuccessful test-tube conception (Eibert, par. 12). So this fear of deformed or destroyed humans as a result of cloning is simply an ignorance of the technology used in the cloning process.
There is also a very common fear that a clone of a person will be just like that person. This theory is at the heart of many debates on nature vs. nurture. Would a clone be simply a copy of another person? We all know that an original piece of artwork is far more valuable than any prints made of it. Would that apply also for humans? We have clones existing all over the world today: identical twins. Genes alone cannot determine who we are. A clone of Michael Jordan may prefer playing the violin over basketball. Twins have the exact same DNA and are generally brought up in a very close environment, yet anyone who knows twins knows that they are still uniquely different. Many times one twin can be overweight or gay or an alcoholic, and the genetics are identical, aren’t they? If we do not fear these natural clones, why should we fear deliberate ones? (Colvin 39)
Another problem that many fear with cloning is the clone (the child) would have no ?real? parents or that cloning would eliminate the need for the male role in reproduction. It is my opinion that the woman who gives birth to the child is its mother. In rare cases a woman is unable to give birth herself and a surrogate is hired as a gestational mother to carry the baby to term. In this case, the woman initiating the cloning process would be the parent, and the surrogate would sign over the baby for adoption. There simply can’t be millions of one person created as there would have to be millions of women to carry them (?Many oppose? 20). These clones would be born to a mother who wanted them, a mother who sought out the technology available, took the necessary medications, and carried a child that she wanted. To me, this would be a good parent. There are many single women and lesbian couples who have children; the male role is obsolete in their lives too, but they still can be good parents. If a child has one parent who loves him or her more than anything, that child is a very lucky person.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) can be compared in many ways to current issues in human cloning. Jonathan Colvin discusses some of the topics relating to this in his article ?Me, my clone, and I (or in defense of human cloning) by stating ?Many of the attitudes concerning human cloning are reminiscent of the arguments against in vitro fertilization in the 1960’s when accusations of ?playing God’ and interfering with nature were common. Today, however, ?test tube’ babies are celebrated for their own individuality and as people in their own right? (39). Like cloning, IVF takes place in a test tube with an embryo being implanted into the uterus. IVF doesn’t always produce a child, much like cloning can’t be guaranteed. In-vitro fertilization is becoming extremely popular with more than 300,000 births worldwide. Even many Catholic ethicists now question the church’s opposition to this process. Isn’t it possible that human cloning may become as commonly used? (Clarke 12-13)
Cloning of a human would be very beneficial for infertile couples who cannot conceive naturally or through artificial techniques. Women who have blocked fallopian tubes or cannot produce viable eggs would be able to have a genetically related child through cloning. There can be complications with IVF: anonymity of a sperm donor, a child with genetic flaws, inability of the body to accept a foreign embryo. All of these would be eliminated through cloning. This would lower the necessity for surrogates and sperm donors (Eibert, par. 52). Couples (or women) who want to have children but have a high risk of producing children with genetic problems can use cloning to prevent these diseases.
If we criminalize human cloning, it will still exist, just simply go underground. Lee Silver, a biologist at Princeton and author of several books on human cloning, predicts that the first human clone will be born in a population where no one knows that’s what it is. It will ?sneak in quietly when no one is looking? (?Many oppose? 20).
President Clinton recently signed a bill stating that no federal money would be allocated for cloning. This bill was signed as it was determined that federal money would be better spent providing health care, seeking cures for diseases, etc., and not on cloning. I tend to agree. However, this still leaves private companies open to develop clones as they wish. Only three states have banned human cloning. So cloning is legal in forty-seven states and about two hundred countries around the world (Eibert, par. 68). The University of Edinburgh in Scotland (where the cloned sheep, Dolly, was produced) recently obtained the first patent for a cloned human last December by the European trade commission (Ramirez 4.5).
I think that there are some laws regarding cloning that should be mandatory without banning cloning altogether. I think that one of the main laws should be that one can’t clone someone without permission. People might want to clone celebrities for their own gain. Yet if we really are more than our genes, a cloned Michael Jordan may prefer the violin to basketball. A clone of a recently deceased child would never be able to fully replace the child. Although we all want what is best for our children, these extra pressures on them can never be fully met, and if a celebrity (or someone else who hasn’t given permission) were cloned, the clone is more than likely going to develop into the bearer of unmet expectations (Zabludoff 6).
I also think that it should be illegal to sell DNA. If DNA were to be sold, it would create these same undue pressures on appearance and lifestyles that cloning a celebrity would take. Also, people selling the DNA might have traits that they are unaware of (carriers for certain diseases or recessive genes). Buyers would essentially have no way to know for sure where the DNA (cells) they are procuring actually came from.
How does religion affect this issue? Although religion isn’t a decisive means to allow or disallow any matters, we are all religious in our own accord, and, therefore, the view of religion on cloning means something to us. The Christian perspective is that cloning is against God’s plan. All children are special creations of God. Most Christians believe children should be born out of the procreation between a man and a woman (Meilander 21). It is a belief of many people that this embryo is essentially alive and that destroying it is no different than murder (or abortion) and that experimenting with it is essentially human experimentation. In a response to cloning, the Donum Vitae publication in 1987 by the Catholic Church, makes a defense of human life from ?the first moment of existence,? and this document further states that the embryo ?demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to (human beings in their) bodily and spiritual totality? (Clarke 12-13)
The Islamic view on human cloning is that it is a ?disaster to the world.? Although the cloning of plants and animals is recommended as a cure for illness or for the manufacture of medicines, the cloning of humans is considered a ?cause of evil? as it goes against the natural way that Allah has created people, in terms of reproduction (Zallum 12).
The renowned Hastings Center Report has discussed human cloning to some extent. In July 1999, the organization began to discuss the issue from a religious (Jewish) point of view. Author Jonathan Cohen writes, ?The possibility of cloning human beings challenges Western beliefs about creation and our relationship to God. If we understand God as the Creator and creation as a completed act, cloning will be a transgression. If, however, we understand God as the Power of Creation and creation as a transformative process, we may find a role for human participation, sharing that power as beings created in the image of God? (7). Basically the overall tone of this report is that cloning may actually have some benefits and should not be dismissed without merit. Rabbi Elliott Dorff writes in the same report that ?Cloning, like all other technologies, is morally neutral. Its moral valence depends on how we use it? (10). He compares it to drug use; it can be beneficial when used to improve health but a curse when taken by addicts. Cohen addresses the issue of ?playing God? by writing, ?Seeing God’s hand in the uncertain and mysterious is relatively easy; seeing God’s hand in what we can control may be difficult?.If asked whether we are ?playing God’ by engaging in human cloning, we might respond, ?Yes, for God is in us too.’ We might even stress that creation lies not merely in changing the world, but in changing it for the better? (11).
Ultimately in the issues of cloning, it comes down to a matter of who is able to make the decision. Who decides how a woman can bear a child? Who decides what children should or shouldn’t be born? Aren’t we, as Americans, given the freedom to make these decisions for ourselves?
In the selection ?In God’s Garden,? there is a story of a man who, when deciding whether to raise his children in Israel or the United States, goes to talk to his rabbi about this difficult decision. His rabbi tells him, ?There are two types of fruits in the world: fruit that grows in vineyards, and fruit that grows in the wild. Usually, fruit that grows in vineyards is large, shapely, tasty, and consistent. Fruit that grows in the wild often has blemishes or defects, and much of it is lost to insects and disease. However, it may be quite strong in flavor. How do these two types of fruit compare? Both are pleasing in God’s eyes? (11). Cohen goes on to write, ?In time, we may well see a world in which many people will be cloned or genetically engineered, while others will be created through traditional means. Perhaps both will be pleasing in God’s eyes? (12).
Clarke, Kevin ?Unnatural Selection? U.S. Catholic January 2000: 12
Cohen, Jonathan. ?In God’s Garden (Jewish thoughts on cloning)? The Hastings Center Report
29, no. 4 July 1999: 7 ? 12
Colvin, Jonathan ?Me, my clone, and I (or in defense of human cloning)? The Humanist
May/June 2000: 39
Eibert, Mark ?Human Cloning: Myths, Medical Benefits and Constitutional Rights? 23
September, 1999. Online. Internet. 5 July, 2000. Available http://www.humancloning.org
Kilner, John F. ?Human Cloning Would Violate Christian Ethics.? Winters, p. 13
Lester, Lane P. with Hefley, James C. Human Cloning: Playing God or Scientific Progress?
California: Fleming H. Revell, (a division of Baker Book House Company), 1998.
?Many oppose human cloning? National Catholic Reporter 22 October, 1999: 19 ? 23
Meilaender, Gilbert. ?Human Cloning Would Violate the Dignity of Children.? Winters, p. 21
Ramirez, Anthony ?A Case of Letting the Gene Out of the Bottle? The New York Times 14
May, 2000: 4.5+
Winters, Paul. Cloning: At Issue, An Opposing Viewpoint Series. San Diego. Greenhaven Press,
Zabludoff, Marc ?Fear and longing. (arguments against human cloning and other disquieting
biotechnologies)? Discover May 1998. p. 6
Zallum, Abdul Qadeem ?Islamic Verdict on Cloning, Human Organ Transplantation, Abortion,
Test-tube Babies, Life and Death? Online. Internet. 5 July, 2000. Available