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Ethics

Playing God or Frontier of Science?

On February 23, 1997, Dolly the lamb was literally made. She is not the work of nature but of a man named Ian Wilmut and his team of scientists.  Dolly came into being as the genetic replica of an ewe, of whom she is a clone. When the bewildering news spread around the world, there was substantial debate over the issue as Dolly opened the doors for other types of cloning, including the possibility of cloning humans. Most concerns that were raised emphasized on the ethical issues, yet there are no clear answers to the questions. The Los Angeles Times opined that such a discovery” opens the door to a “blade Runner” world of human replicants. The Wall Street Journal asked business leaders and newsmakers whether they would like to have themselves cloned.

So, what is cloning exactly?

“Cloning is the creation of an individual that is a genetic replica of another individual. The process transfers a nucleus from a somatic nonreproductive cell into an “enucleated” fertilized egg, one that has had its own nucleus destroyed or removed. The genes in the transferred nucleus then direct the development of a complete organism from the altered fertilized egg. Two individuals who are clones have identical genes in their cell nuclei, but differ in characteristics that are acquired in other ways.” ~ Bookrags Research Article

For decades, cloning has caused ethical, moral and religious debates.  This controversial medical evolution brings about two points of view, either good or bad, there are no greys in between.

As cloning gives rise to an organism with the exact DNA as the original, the promising benefits that cloning may offer would be welcomed by those who suffer from immobilizing diseases, those that wish to save their loved ones or those suffering from infertility.  Just imagine, if you could clone the vital organs of humans and use them for transplantation, many lives could be saved with new organs.  There is no doubt that scientists with this new found science will get bolder; it would probably won’t come as a surprise that the world will try to clone influential people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Martin Luther King Jr. so they can carry forward their legacies for generations after.

Cloning brings hope for those who are unable to have children.  People can just get themselves cloned and have a baby exactly like themselves.  With a little help from genetic engineering, “designer babies” are exact copies of the parents with some additional talents and looks; people can choose certain genetic traits (which Megan’s post further explains).  In addition to human cloning, plants and animals can be cloned as well.  If you have ever watched Jurassic Park, the scientists managed to recreate the entire species from the Lost World with a single strand of DNA.  Perhaps the world repopulated with clones of extinct animals isn’t such an absurd idea anymore.  Plants that are cloned can be modified with genetic engineering, thus providing more enhanced plants that features more than just the characteristics of the original. All these possibilities make cloning look like necessity to help save not only the human race, but also plants and animals.

However, with the good, comes the bad.  The idea of being able to use exactly compatible cells to save lives sounds like a beautiful vision…but is there a way to actualize this miracle without creating an embryo and killing its life?  Cloning, in a sense, is playing God; where we test the boundaries of the natural order of life. Many Christian ethicists argue that human cloning would “create substantial issues of identity and individuality.”  With two identical organisms living, people will lose uniqueness that is so accentuated in the society today.  Or let’s say the scientists recreate a different version of yourself, where the clone bears no negative traits of the original human.  It has the best physical features, the highest IQ possible, and the inhuman qualities that humans can only covet.  Wouldn’t you develop an inferiority complex if your own clone was better than you? What would if be like to live in the shadows of your clone when you are the original? Imperfections is what makes a human, a human.

There are also the individuals who want clones to meet their selfish motives.  If say a man is diagnosed with brain cancer, to clone another man to provide a compatible brain is for the benefit of the original; resulting in the death of the clone without the clone’s consent.  And how far does it go for a clone to demand his/her or even its rights?  Religiously, cloning is a denial of the basic aspect of reproduction, according to the Catholics, clones “lack a spirit and soul as it fails to go through the natural cycle of reproduction”.  Cloning is also highly ineffective: Dolly had taken 277 attempts and its life span was half of that of the original clone.

Though no one knows how human clones will effect the human identity and relationships, but can you imagine how the clone would feel to be called a copy of someone who is already existed and not someone who is unique? But ethically, it is already wrong to inflict harm to one’s feelings and confidence.

Human cloning seems to be an ambitious idea for the moment, but both sides of this issue are presented to you.  What’s your take?

http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~mbernste/ethics.cloninghumans.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_(sheep)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloning

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/353-the-ethics-of-human-cloning

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/ethical-issues-of-cloning.html

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Playing God or Frontier of Science?

  1. Hi Steph,

    Thanks for a well-rounded post on cloning that gave me a lot of things to question about! Your post led me to think about nature vs nurture, and in the situation of cloning, how much each individual is influenced by the people and the places around them. Because the experiences that each person goes through is never quite the same as another person’s, each person’s individuality is built very much through nurture. Can a clone turn out to have the same characteristics, personalities, talents, and interests as the person in which the DNA was copied from? If Albert Einstein was cloned and raised, would he become a ground-breaking physicist again? I think not. Even with the exact same DNA as Einstein, the DNA of the clone does not guarantee a physicist, it simply holds the potential of one.

    For those who believe that souls exist, cloning slides right into the grey area of defining what makes a soul. As you said, “according to the Catholics, clones ‘lack a spirit and soul as it fails to go through the natural cycle of reproduction.’” With DNA, the created clone’s brain will be able to carry out the chemical reaction that cause the clone to feel what we know as happiness, satisfaction, fear.. When does something cross the line between physiological reactions to a conscience, and even to a soul? When does a human become his/her own self? Does a person own their DNA? So if a clone is created from their DNA, can they claim ownership of the clone? Until we can answer those questions, I feel cloning humans would be a very dangerous, though potentially enlightening door to open.

    -Iris

    Posted by irishung | December 11, 2012, 7:40 am
    • Hey Iris,

      True, just because clones are the genetic replicas of another individual, doesn’t necessary mean they will become that person mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. But how does a clone become “their own self”? It’s a bizarre idea really. Imagine two identical people (not twins) walking on the face of the earth: same fingerprints, same face…etc. Where does uniqueness come in?

      I’ve also been thinking about the extent of a clone’s right if they will always be known as so-and-so’s genetic copy. Do you think clones would be able to live normally as any regular being or will they always be around as “spare parts”?

      Thank-you so much for your input! Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

      ~Steph

      Posted by stephsmiles777 | December 12, 2012, 3:36 am

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