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You have been told that you are unique. The belief that there is no one else like you in the whole world has made you feel special and proud. In the near future, this belief may not be true.
The world was stunned by the news in the summer of 1995, when a British embryologist named Ian Wilmut, and his research team, successfully cloned Dolly the sheep using the technique of nuclear transfer. Replacing the DNA of one sheep?s egg with the DNA of another sheep?s udder created Dolly. Plants and lower forms of animal life have been successfully cloned for many years, but before Wilmut’s announcement, it had been thought by many to be unlikely that such a procedure could be performed on larger mammals and life forms. The world media was immediately filled with heated discussions about the ethical implications of cloning.
Some of the most powerful people in the world have felt compelled to act against this threat. President Clinton swiftly imposed a ban on federal funding for human-cloning research. Bills were put in the works in both houses of Congress to outlaw human cloning because it was deemed as a fundamentally evil thing that must be stopped. But what, exactly, is bad about it? From an ethical point of view, it is difficult to see exactly what is wrong with cloning human beings. The people who are afraid of cloning tend to assume that someone would, for example, break into Napoleon’s Tomb, steal some DNA and make a bunch of emperors. In reality, infertile people who use donated sperm, eggs, or embryos would probably use cloning. Do the potential harms outweigh the benefits of cloning? From what we know now, they don’t. Therefore, we should not rush placing a ban on a potentially useful method of helping infertile, genetically at-risk, homosexual, or single people to become parents.
Do human beings have a right to reproduce? No one has the moral right to tell another person that they should not be able to have children, and I don’t see why Bill Clinton has that right either. If humans have a right to reproduce, what right does society have to limit the means? Essentially all reproduction done these days is with medical help at delivery, and even before. Truly natural human reproduction would make pregnancy-related death the number one killer of adult women.
Some forms of medical help are more invasive than others. With in-vitro fertilization, the sperm and egg are combined in a lab and surgically implanted in the womb. Less than two decades ago, a similar concern was raised over the ethical issues involving “test-tube babies”. Today, nearly 30,000 such babies have been born in the United States alone. This miracle has made many parents happy. So what principle says that one combination of genetic material in a flask is acceptable, but not another?
Nature clones people all the time. Approximately one in 1000 births is an identical twin. However, despite how many or how few individual characteristics twins have in common, they are still different people. They have their own identities, their own thoughts, and their own rights. They enter different occupations, get different diseases, and have different experiences with marriage, alcohol, community leadership, etc. Twins have different personalities as would cloned individuals. Even if someone cloned several Napoleons, each would be different and even more unique than twins; the cloned child would be raised in a different setting. Therefore, cloning does not rob individuals of their personality.
Perhaps the strongest ethical argument against cloning is that it could lead to a new, unfamiliar type of family relationship. We have no idea what it would be like to grow up as the child of parents who seem to know you from the inside. Some psychological characteristics may be biologically, or genetically, based. The parent would know in advance what crises a cloned teenager could go through and how he or she will respond. Because the parents may understand what the child is going through, to greater degree than most parents, it may produce a good and loving relationship in the long run. On the other hand, most children want to have their own space. Simply because a family relationship is new and untried is no reason to automatically condemn it. In the past, many types of family relationships were considered harmful, but later showed to cause no harm to the children. Among these is joint custody after divorce, gay and lesbian parenting, and interracial adoption. As with adoption, in-vitro fertilization, and the use of donor sperm, how the child will react to the news about his or her arrival in this world will depend on how the parents feel about their mode of reproduction. Parents and children may adjust to cloning far more easily than we might think, just as it happened with in-vitro fertilization.
One recurring image in anti-cloning propaganda is of some evil dictator raising an army of cloned warriors. But who is going to raise such an army. Clones start out life as babies. It is much easier to recruit young adults than to take care of babies for twenty years. Remember that cloning isn’t the same as genetic engineering. No one can make another superman and his super powers might have a slim chance of being genetically determined, but nothing is certain.
Some might think that cloning is playing God. However, can you really say that you know God’s intentions? There is substantial disagreement as to what God’ s will is. Armstrong wrote, ?Anyone who has truly proved God exists; that God isn’t only Creator, but Life-giver, Designer, Sustainer, and Ruler over all his creation, knows that the human family began with one man, and that a wife, miraculously created form his own body and as unique and original a creation as Adam himself, formed the first family. Though God’s miraculous creation of Eve was far from cloning, it is interesting to note in passing that God’s own Word says He used Adam’s rib-physical bone and tissue – to create Eve.?
Another argument against cloning is that it would only be available to the wealthy and, therefore, would increase social inequality. What else is new? This is the story of American health care. We need a better health care system, not a ban on new technologies. Hopefully our new president will help us with this problem as well.
The U.S. Federal Government should not deem human cloning and cloning research illegal. It may provide a way for completely sterile or homosexual individuals to reproduce, and will probably provide valuable basic research and possible spin off technologies related to reproduction and development. Our society has respected general rights to control ones body in regarding reproduction, and finally prohibiting it would violate the fundamental freedom of scientific inquiring.
Will human cloning be done? Undoubtedly. The technique used in sheep cloning does not require a highly sophisticated laboratory. Since the United States government does not support research on human cloning, and the United Kingdom, France, and Germany have banned it, the research making cloning possible may take place in Asia, Eastern Europe, or the East. Much cloning may also take place in secret, and will occur regardless of United States policies. Approximately eighty percent of Americans feel that cloning is wrong. However, the vast majority of people, including those who rail against cloning research, owe their lives to previous medical discoveries. Don’t let the forces of ignorance and fear turn us away from new types of research.
Works CitedArmstrong, Garner Ted Cloning: Will They Soon Clone Human Beings?
Princeton University, Bioethics Speaker Biographical Information
Nash, J. Madeleine Was Dolly a Mistake? March 2, 1998 VOL. 151 NO. 8, TIME
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