B. Priestley is a 16 year old student from Australia. He had to present a 7 minute speech that discussed the topic “Send in the Clones.” Although he is pro-human cloning, he had to present both sides of the issue. He says that “The research that I did for this speech was invaluable in strengthening my support for human cloning, and your site was invaluable in my research.”
In the first few weeks of March last year, the headlines were ablaze. Time magazine declared: THE AGE OF CLONING, The Washington Post proclaimed: BRITISH SCIENTISTS SUCCESSFULLY CLONE ADULT SHEEP, The Australian’s headlines read: ANIMAL CLONING SETS SCIENTIFIC MILESTONE. The reason for this media explosion was that Scientists had managed to create an identical genetic copy of a mammal, a feat that was previously thought impossible. When the world learnt about Dolly, the cloned sheep, it automatically moved on to the next, and ultimately more important conclusion: if you can clone a sheep, then you probably can clone a person, too.
To understand the issue of cloning, the most first thing is to understand what cloning is. Sci-fi books and movies can create all sorts of wrong perceptions about cloning, with everything from headless monsters to mind control. Cloning is the creation of a genetically identical creature from the DNA of an other. In essence, there were clones before Dolly was around, identical twins. Although the DNA of a set of identical twins is the same, and they look very similar, they are still individual separate beings. The difference between a clone and an identical twin was that if I had an identical twin here now, we may be a few minutes apart in age, whereas if I was cloned now, by the time my identical twin was born, we would have a 17 year age difference !
So then, why should we send in the clones? Dr.Ian Wilmut, the Scottish scientist who created Dolly, the Cloned Sheep suggests that we should clone animals to produce genes and hormones that could help cure such diseases such as hemophilia and cystic fibrosis. Harold Varmus, director of the American Institute of Health suggests that cloning could be used to create more productive livestock and organs suitable for human transplants. And then there comes the big question: Should we clone humans?
While some people are avid sticklers for human cloning, others are equally opposed to it. In the words of the father of cloning, Dr. Wilmut, to send in human clones would be inhumane. Soon after the cloned sheep was announced, and people began to inquire about human cloning, Bill Clinton issued this statement: “Any discovery that touches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry, it is a matter of morality and spirituality as well… Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science…” In response, U.S. Senator Thomas Harkin replies: To those like President Clinton who say we can’t play God, I say OK, fine, you can take your side alongside Pope Paul V who in 1616 tried to stop Galileo, they accused Galileo of trying to play God too.
Dr. Wilmut says that there is no viable reason for cloning humans, but others argue that there are at least two. The first main reason suggested for cloning humans is that we could clone exceptional people. Think of how a clone of Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton would help advance science! Or think about sport and movies for the next 50 years if we cloned Michael Jordan or Steven Speilberg!
The other, perhaps more important reason for cloning humans would be to allow childless couples to have genetically related children. Doctor Richard Seed, an American infertility expert made headlines late last year, when he announced that he was going to open a cloning clinic for this purpose. His reasoning behind it was this: God made man in his own image. God intended for man to become one with God. Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA as the first serious step in becoming one with God.
While Seed considers that God would support Human Cloning, many religious leaders have spoken against it. The Vatican issued a statement specifically condemning the cloning of humans. In fact, religion is one of the main reasons why people object to human cloning. As well as this there are many other reasons. Some people, like Bill Clinton consider cloning to go against the sanctity of human life. Some think that as well as gifted people being cloned, people like Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein could also be, and in fact Mr. Hussein unveiled his plans early last year to be cloned. Some think that people could create monsters through cloning, or that cloned children could turn out to be retarded or deformed. Some think that people could clone themselves for the purpose of obtaining body parts.
Some think that if couples want a baby, why not adopt one than go through the risky process of cloning. And one of the most common objections to human cloning is a queasy, uncertain feeling, best summed up in the words of Adelaide scientist, Paul Davies: “Most people have a natural repugnance for genetic manipulation, especially when it comes to plans for human cloning, yet they find it hard to pin down exactly what is wrong with it.”
The founding father of cloning, Dr. Wilmut is certainly against Human Cloning. In Adelaide recently for the 14th Australasian Biotechnology Conference, I went to hear him speak. His message was loud and clear; society, ethics, morality and science would not tolerate Human Cloning. While he said that it was appropriate to clone animals, he and his colleagues could not think of a reason to clone humans. Over the next 20 years, as a result of animal cloning research, he hoped to see cures to such afflictions as Parkinsons disease, muscular dystrophy and nerve damage.
The topic of cloning is certainly a controversial one, and at the moment many people are grappling with it. The best solution to the problem now is to neither totally ban cloning, nor to totally encourage it, but discuss it, research it, and wait a little longer before we decide whether or not we should send in the clones.