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Cloning Technologies Essay, Research Paper

Humans have within their grasp the ability and technology to

create life. Many believe that this knowledge will lead to

further degradation of the human spirit. But others, like

Prometheus and his gift of fire, believe that new technology is

the key to a new, and better, reality. Genetic engineering and,

specifically, cloning, of human life has become an issue of

extreme gravity in the age of technology where anything may be

dreamed and many things are possible. Cloning is a reality in

today’s world: “Three months ago, Gearhart and Thomson announced

that they had each isolated embryonic stem cells and induced them

to begin copying themselves without turning into anything else.

In so doing, they apparently discovered a way to make stem cells

by the billions, creating a biological feedstock that might, in

turn, be employed to produce brand-new, healthy human tissue.

That is, they discovered how to fabricate the stuff of which

humanity is made” (Easterbrook 20).

Leon R. Kass proposed three perspectives that serve to

classify the ways people think of cloning as beneficial:

The technological perspective “will be seen as an

extension of existing techniques for assisting

reproduction and determining the genetic makeup of

children. Like them, cloning is to be regarded as a

neutral technique, with no inherent meaning or

goodness, but subject to multiple uses, some good, some

bad. The morality of cloning thus depends absolutely

on the goodness or badness of the motives and

intentions of the cloners … by the way the parents

nurture and rear their resulting child and whether they

bestow the same love and affection on a child brought

into existence by a technique of assisted reproduction

as they would on a child born in the usual way. The

liberal (or libertarian or liberationist) perspective

sets cloning in the context of rights, freedoms and

personal empowerment. Cloning is just a new option for

exercising an individual’s right to reproduce or to

have the kind of child that he or she wants … For

those who hold this outlook, the only moral restraints

on cloning are adequately informed consent and the

avoidance of bodily harm. The meliorist … see in

cloning a new prospect for improving human

beings–minimally, by ensuring the perpetuation of

healthy individuals by avoiding the risks of genetic

disease inherent in the lottery of sex, and maximally,

by producing “optimum babies,” preserving outstanding

genetic material, and (with the help of soon-to-come

techniques for precise genetic engineering) enhancing

inborn human capacities on many fronts. Here the

morality of cloning as a means is justified solely by

the excellence of the end, that is, by the outstanding

traits or individuals cloned–beauty, or brawn, or

brains” (Kass PG).

The detractors of cloning cite the loss of human dignity as

the primary adverse effect. The process of cloning includes

extraction of human cells from early life – the use of aborted

fetuses. Many people find this repugnant and recoil from the

potential uses such knowledge could be put to – like Frankenstein

and his creation, is Man playing God? and what are the unforeseen


God created life from the firmament. Dr. Frankenstein

created life from what was once living matter. The scientists of

today propose to create life from life. Frankenstein harvested

his components from the charnel houses of Ingolstadt, whereas the

seeds of life are now reaped from the unborn dead. Perhaps the

hope of cloning is like the wish of Dr. Frankenstein that he

could return to life those nearest and dearest when they are

killed by his creation in revenge for mankind’s rejection of him

and Frankenstein’s destruction of the half-finished female.

Perhaps the proponents, like Frankenstein, will run in fear

from the room after they have found they are successful in

creating a new Being. The revulsion seen in the acts of the

Doctor are mirrored in the response of modern Man to the concept

of cloning. The Being, once brought to life, is grotesque,

unacceptable to others of humankind. Is this what we fear in the

future of genetic engineering? Has modern science, like

Prometheus and Pandora, unlocked a secret for which the control

does not yet exist? Frankenstein admits that “the different

accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human

nature. …now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream

vanished and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” and

is subsequently struck down with physical illness brought on by

the confusion of moral decision making. Once Frankenstein is

immobilized by his own moral dilemma, his creation escapes and in

the act of being unbound, brings about the destruction of

Frankenstein, all that he loves and the world as he knows it. Is

there a lesson in this for modern Man? If we, in our moral

confusion are immobilized and the creation takes on a life of

it’s own – will we inevitably be destroyed? Is this the inherent

repugnance that is felt but not able to be elucidated in the

matter of cloning? Is the fear of a loss of dignity the same as

the creature’s irresponsible rejection by society?

These questions serve as catalyst for comparison between the

creation of life that was Frankenstein’s fall and today’s

scenario of technological advancements that allow the creation of

life through cloning. In the book, the creation knows his

origins and places the blame for his differences and isolation on

the moral irresponsibility of Dr. Frankenstein. Like a child, he

wishes to have the Doctor’s life mirror his own and begins to

murder the people for whom the Doctor cares. The answer seems to

be to create a companion for the creature. A being that shares

his differences from the rest of society. In the process of

creating the companion the Doctor realizes that such a species

could evolve beyond the ability of the current society to control

it and decides to destroy the female. This action brings about

more destruction and pain by the creation and the Doctor has to

find a way to destroy the creature. The creation is also aware

that it is not time for him to be accepted, that he will not find

companionship among these people who are so different from him

and yet, made from the same material. The story ends with the

creation destroying the creator and then himself.

The subtitle to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is The Modern

Prometheus. In one version of the myth, Prometheus defends the

human race against Zeus and, as a consequence, suffers greatly

for a long period of time. Prometheus somehow feels responsible

for the beings for whom he has defied the Gods to bring new

knowledge and new tools. Looking at Frankenstein as Prometheus

the natural comparison is the knowledge of life from death and

the knowledge of Fire. Like Pandora’s box, once opened,

unleashed or unbound, the creator loses control of it’s creation.

Like Frankenstein, the scientists of today must confront the

reality of success in an endeavor that may well unleash knowledge

the consequences of which are unknown. The feeling of repugnance

that has been described as a result of contemplating the cloning

of humans may well be prescient information garnered from the

stories and beliefs of the past. There is generally some truth

to the myths and stories that are perpetuated through time.

The same arguments that are used by proponents of genetic

engineering and cloning techniques could have been raised in

defense of the experiments of Dr. Frankenstein. Learning the

secrets to creating life inevitably provides lessons to extending

and improving life. The problem becomes the ethical or moral

considerations of creation. There is a point where the creator

must take responsibility and where the created gains autonomy.

Like a parent with a problem child, the decisions are generally

made with the best intent but may not meet the needs or satisfy

the urges of the new individual.

The stories of the past, such as Frankenstein and

Prometheus, are the precursors to the future. The central theme

and incidence were plausible and are now on the verge of reality.

The question that society is left with is the moral dilemma that

incapacitated Frankenstein: To what degree do we, as a society,

trust in the moral consequences of past imaginings when

considering the present realities?

Easterbrook, Gregg. “Will Homo Sapiens Become Obsolete?: Medical

Evolution.” The New Republic, (1999): March, p20(1).

Kass, Leon R. “Why We Should Ban The Cloning Of Humans.” The New

Republic, (1997): June, pp. PG.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Hindle,

Maurice, Ed., (London, ENG: Penguin, 1992).

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