James is a concerned high school student in the United States.
Society has always scorned the scientific threat to people’s firm beliefs and the laws of nature. From the rejection of the heliocentric theory to the opposition of birth control, prominent institutions have constantly attempted to suppress the advancement of science. Now the prospect of human cloning is challenging people’s sacred beliefs about reproduction and life. In February of 1997 the announcement of Ian Wilmut’s successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly has revealed the possibility of cloning a mammal and ultimately a human. This success has also sparked an onslaught of moral and ethical debates about cloning. Religious bodies and lawmakers adamantly disprove the moral and ethical implications of cloning humans. These critics view the physical duplication of a person as a threat to human dignity, individuality, and rights. However, a ban on cloning would be foolish because cloning presents potentially valid medical uses while the moral and ethical implications are clearly unlikely in a modern society. In turn, a ban would actually threaten people’s right to utilize science and the valuable benefits of cloning to improve their lives. Therefore, the apparent benefits and applications of cloning prove that the government should not ban cloning in order to prevent its vague and highly speculative implications.
This widespread and controversial debate about human cloning is a result of the successful cloning of an adult cell into a fully functioning organism. Though some attempts successfully cloned plants and lower forms of life, Wilmut’s successful cloning of a mammal presents the possibility of cloning humans. The actual process of cloning produces a genetic copy or replica. The procedure Wilmut used to produce Dolly involved removing the nucleus from the adult cell of an organism and placing it into an egg that had its nucleus removed (Sternberg 2). Then scientists placed the embryo into a uterus until the mother carried the embryo to full term. The second method involves splitting the cells or blastomeres of an early multi-celled embryo before the cells have begun to differentiate (Morell 3). Each cell now has the ability to become an identical organism to the organisms created by the other separated cells. These embryo cells would also grow to full term in a surrogate uterus. Though these procedures seem apparently simple, the implications of cloning humans have provoked widespread criticisms and objections to cloning.
While many ethical concerns worry about medical risk and the use of embryos many critics and the media have focused on the danger to people’s individuality and uniqueness. The media has portrayed clones as exact carbon copies with no uniqueness or identity because a clone would be psychologically and physically identical to his or her DNA donor (Hopkins 2). A U.S. News and World Report cover features a drawing of an ink stamp pressing out thousands of crying babies. This image portrays cloning as a frightening mass production of sameness while cloning treats clones as commodities with no identity or soul. The fear of losing identity reflects people’s belief in genetic determinism where genes determine a person’s personality and behavior as well as his or her physical characteristics (Bailey 2). In this view a clone would have the same personality, thoughts, and identity as his or her predecessor. However, it is the environment that influences people’s behavior and personality (Wray 2, Lygre 46). Genes can only dictate the shape and number of neurons in the brain while the arrangement and connections of neurons determine personality, thought, and behavior. The events and experiences influence these connections in the brain and ultimately influence personality and behavior. Most humans have separate identities and unique personalities because no one possesses the same exact experiences in his or her life. Thus a clone of a parent would not be entirely identical because the greatly divergent experiences of the clone and parent would wire the clone’s mind differently than the parent. In fact, twins are more similar than clones because twins share the same uterine environment and live in the same family environment. However, even twins who grow up together have separate personalities and identities (Wray 2, Robertson 7). Clones would also be biologically different. The DNA that is inserted into another person’s host egg would pick up maternal factors from the proteins and mitochondria in the egg which would alter the embryo’s development (Bailey 2). Physiological differences between the womb of the original predecessor’s mother and the clone’s surrogate mother would also affect the clone’s development. The use of cloning poses no threat to humans’ identity and uniqueness which are impossible to replicate. Cloning would not be a threat to society, but cloning would aid society by producing more individuals with unique ideas.
While the threat to individuality and uniqueness is improbable cloning presents various possible benefits to medicine. Cloning research could cure many different diseases such as cancer. There would also be help for organ recipients and infertile couples. It is clear that cloning would provide a positive influence to medicine and physical health, and these benefits prove too valuable to eliminate cloning in order to prevent the unlikely implications. Along with the elimination of cloning’s possible problems, a ban would ultimately eliminate the possibility of improving the lives and health of humans.
An evident improvement to mankind’s health would be the possibility that scientists could clone humans in order to create organs for people in dire need of an organ transplant. Scientists would first create an embryo that would be the clone of the organ recipient. When the embryo is six weeks of age, it would have the collection of cells that form the brain, the telencephalon, removed. As a result, the clone would never be human because it would lack a brain (Kahn 3). Then the clone would grow to term in a surrogate uterus. After a Cesarean section delivery of the embryo the clone would grow to appropriate size by intravenous feeding and hormone injections. All the cloned organs would be identical to the donor’s organs because the clone would have the same genetic makeup as the DNA donor (Kahn 3). These cloned organs could successfully replace the diseased organs with no possibility of rejection (Lawern 1). Doctors could also use the telencephalon for brain cell transplants. These organs would prolong the lives of many people in need of new organs. As a result, cloning would contribute to more security and benefits to organ donation. However, a ban based on vague and speculative fears would eliminate this possibility.
Though the benefits of cloning organs would improve people’s lives, cloning organs would also present a major ethical problem. Some critics are concerned with the existence of factories that would clone humans primarily to harvest their organs (Kahn 5). If people exploit humans for their organs, cloning would be a threat to human rights and liberty. However, the cloned embryos would not truly be humans because they would lack a brain. Without the existence of a brain, emotion, thought, and intelligence, the clone would only have status as living tissue. The clone would not have a mind or a soul, so it would not have the natural rights all humans possess. These rights do not pertain to organic material with no intelligence or soul. However, abortion critics also argue that the embryos would have the possibility of becoming true humans, but doctors would take away this possibility by removing the brain (Kahn 5). It may seem unethical to deprive a clone of a mind and life, but the needs of living people clearly outweigh the ethical implications of cloning. The desire of many organ recipients to live is stronger than the possible moral implications of using embryos. Everyone deserves the right to live and sustain their his or her life. Cloning would protect this right, but a ban would take away this way to sustain life.
The aid to sustain life through cloning is also valid in the possible cures for numerous diseases such as cancer and leukemia. The stem cells of cloned embryos would have the capability of differentiating into different tissues such as muscle or skin (Weiss 2). Then scientists alter the genetic makeup of these stem cells to force the
cells to differentiate into a specific tissue needed for a patient (Mckinnell 50, Wilmut 4). This could lead to cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and leukemia. These diseases involve a pathological process that damages specific cell populations which are unable to repair or replace themselves. Doctors could use the genetically modified stem cells taken from the patient to replace the damaged cells (Wilmut 4). The study of the differentiation of cloned stem cells could provide information about aging or the causes of cancer (Kasisser 2). While cancer involves gene mutation during the duplication of cells scientists can study the progression of genes in the duplication of cloned stem cells. This could also prove to be helpful in the study of aging because many scientists believe that gene mutation in cell reproduction or duplication causes aging (Willams 3). The effects of this new technology on medical research would be invaluable because the cure to diseases such as cancer and the answers to aging would prolong many people’s lives. Thus cloning has the potential of saving millions of lives. This significant effect proves to be far too valuable to sacrifice in order to eliminate the unlikely implications of cloning.
While cloning would save many lives the use of cloning would also aid in the creation of life. Infertile and homosexual couples would be able to use their own DNA to produce children. If the husband were the source of the DNA and the wife provided the donor egg that received the nuclear transfer, the infertile couple would have a child biologically related to each of them rather than using anonymous gamete or embryo donation (Robertson 1). New cloning technology would also prevent the transmission of genetic disease. Doctors could use advanced forms of gene therapy to treat embryos at high risk of inheriting genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia. The modified DNA from the embryo could be transferred to eggs to create children entirely free of the genetic disease (Elmer-Dewitt 3). Therefore, cloning would promote life and fulfill the desires of many couples to have children. This advancement in reproduction would aid society by giving more people the opportunity to live and contribute to society.
However, many religious activists argue that cloning is unnatural because it separates reproduction from human sexual activity (McCormick 47). Though cloning is not natural, it is not necessarily immoral (Madigan 5). People have always carried an instinctive antipathy for anything unnatural such as nuclear power or genetically engineered plants (Madigan 5). However, unnatural and man-made objects are not necessarily bad. It is unnatural to wear clothes or fly, but clothes keep people warm while flying is efficient transportation. These man-made things prove that many unnatural things improve lives. Cloning is no exception because it aids the creation of life. A ban would only suppress life and prevent many couples from producing and raising their own children.
These religious objections are not solely based on the unnatural reproduction of cloning. Various religions claim that cloning is an attempt to defy God’s control over human life and the creation of life. However, these claims are only dogmatic pronouncements without any objective reasoning. This prejudiced thinking is apparent because people always connect morality and religion. When doubts about the morality of new scientific developments confront people, they immediately turn to their sacred writings and religious leaders for guidance. However, morality does not necessarily require God’s word. People must first determine what is moral before they decide what God believes is right. As Plato pointed out, people cannot deduce ethics from divine revelation until they first determine which of the many competing revelations are true and authentic. They must discover which revelations make moral sense. Thus morality is logically prior to religion. Religious biases are also unreliable because most religious traditions developed in ancient times under different conditions. Though some religious rules are still valid because they reflect enduring problems of civilization, other precepts lack contemporary relevance. The authors of religious texts such as the Bible and the Koran did not have the knowledge to address the problems that confront people today such as the ethics of in vitro fertilization or cloning. It is impossible to apply these religious precepts to modern society. Therefore, cloning is not necessarily wrong due to religious beliefs.
The most common religious objection is that cloning would defy God’s authority over human creation and life (Goodfield 94). The passage from the Koran, “He alone grants life and deals death, and unto Him you all must return,” serves as a reminder of God’s incomparable power (Dworkin 3). This concern over “playing God” was apparent in the debate over birth control, organ transplants, and assisted suicide. Any attempt by humans to control their destiny and shape their lives is always met with the objection that people are “playing God.” Critics claim that God intended nature to take its course without any human interference. Any defiance of nature would be a defiance of God’s authority. However, disease is a part of nature, but advancing technology helps people survive disease and improve their lives. If all humans have the right to live, they have the right to do whatever is possible to sustain their lives even though their methods defy the course of nature. Cloning would be justifiable because it also promotes and improves life by sustaining the lives of the sick and aiding reproduction. As a result, the benefits of cloning to medicine and fertility show that cloning does not usurp God’s authority but only aids life.
Though these religious criticisms are untrue and unjustified, people still believe that cloning would threaten morality and ethics. The one idea that surfaces from many criticisms is that society is treading on the edge of disaster by attempting to duplicate humans. However, objective reasoning proves that the possible implications of cloning are clearly unlikely. Cloning would not threaten people’s identity and uniqueness because clones would have unique and separate personalities from their predecessors. The use of cloned organs would not exploit clones for their organs, but cloning would enable others to sustain their lives with new organs. Though cloning would not necessarily be natural, the benefits to infertile couples and disease research would promote life. These benefits clearly outweigh the unlikely implications of cloning. As a result, it would be unfair to humans if the government eliminates these benefits in order to eliminate the unlikely problems of cloning. Cloning would enable humans to exceed their natural limitations in reproduction and health, but this advancement would not defy God’s authority over human life. If God gives people the right to live, they must also have the right to sustain and improve their lives. Scientific advancement enables people to improve their well-being and future. Advancements such as in vitro fertilization and organ transplantation raised many ethical questions, but people eventually accepted these advancements after noticing the widespread benefits to medicine and society. Cloning is no different from the scientific and technological advancements in the past because people refuse to accept the limits established by nature such as aging or disease. The medical benefits of cloning is one more way human beings have devised to overcome the constraints of the uncaring natural world (Levine 348). Therefore, the real threat to humankind is the shackling of scientific advancement and inquiry. By eliminating the unlikely implications of cloning, the government will also eliminate the invaluable benefits to medicine and society. Scientists must have the opportunity to experiment with cloning in order to find its best uses and learn from mistakes. Cloning research should be free to innovate to eventually solve the biological limitations and problems that plague humans. Humankind could rejoice in the profits of scientific and technological advancement.
About the Human Cloning Foundation