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Science vs. Ethics

An elderly man is diagnosed with an aneurysm, the thinning in the wall of the aorta. In order to repair his failing artery, he receives a patch of healthy tissue-cloned from his own cells and cultured in a laboratory. A child is born free of the gene that allows sickle-cell anemia, despite both her parents being carriers. How was this possible? In the embryonic cell from which she was cloned, normal DNA was used replaced the flawed gene. Could a genius clone Hitler? Could a wacko clone Einstein?

These futuristic scenarios are not yet part of the debate over cloning, but they should be. Science fiction is now science fact and cloning is at our fingertips. This new god-like power is extremely unsettling to some. In fact, many want an immediate worldwide ban on the procedure. Despite the applications of cloning veering more towards medical applications rather than the regeneration of lost organisms. Ethical and social concerns driven by fear and ignorance still give reason for a major question to arise: Should genetic cloning be banned? Absolutely not, I feel it should remain unrestricted especially while still in the developmental stages.

Cloning has recently become a possibility that seems much more feasible in today’s society than it was twenty years ago. Cloning is achieved when many living cells are created from a single cell. In the case with Dolly, a living ewe provided the necessary “mammary cell”. Mammary cells, like all cells, contain a copy of every gene needed to make a duplicate of itself or the whole organism. The mammary cell continues to grow and divide then, due to a lack of nutrients, enters an inactive state. The egg is kept alive in a laboratory dish. A second ewe provides a living egg. “The nucleus is removed from the egg”. Then the egg is electrically fused with the mammary cell, this results in an embryo. “The embryo is then implanted within a surrogate mother”, which then gives birth to a genetically identical lamb (Begley 56-57).

There are several dangers associated with cloning that are not necessarily addressed by the media. The human species is characterized by its diversity (Starr 476-479). Cloning could stop the free mixing of human genes and perpetuate only the genes of a few individuals. The prevention of gene flow is dangerous to species, because it can lead to the loss of an entire gene or trait (276). Despite the famed success, there are rarely mentioned failures that proceeded the cloning of Dolly. Scientist were able to successfully clone Dolly after 276 attempts (”Cloning Special” Internet). These 275 engineering failures died because of severe mutations. The most feared danger is the possibility of cloning a dead historical figure. This fear is lives only in Hollywood as expressed in the 1978 film “The Boys From Brazil” in which there is a plan to clone Hitlers (Begley 55). This would be possible if there were cell from his body. The clone would not necessarily look or act like Hitler because of environmental influence (”Cloning Special” Internet).

As matters involving cloning begin to shift toward human applications, many condemning concerns arise from religious beliefs. The major religious groups are quick to object and publicly voice any rashly formed opinion. Many religious leaders have spoken on the announcement of the recent success of animal cloning activities, Dolly in particular, and what this means about the possibility of cloning humans. Even within different religious groups there are similarities concerning the moral and ethical sides of cloning humans and animals. As felt by the majority of religions “the divine power to create life” is a power that humans should not possess. “Pope John Paul II made a recent statement against cloning of all life forms. The Vatican issued statement specifically condemning the cloning of humans but has not come out officially against cloning of other animals”(” Ethical Positions” Internet).

Ideas based on religion and easily avoidable fears should not stop the advancements of an extremely beneficial science. Cloning has several existing medical benefits, as well as many that have yet to be explored. There are possibilities for organ farms and banks. The furnished organs would come from cloned tissue. Only the organs would be cloned, not the whole organism. This procedure has unlimited medical possibilities. Parents could have a cloned embryo frozen, then stored for later regeneration in the case of a child’s death or as an organ donor (”Cloning of embryos” 1117). Cloning can be applied as a screening process to avoid genetic disease or strengthen a bloodline. “Rabbi Moses Tendelr, professor of medical ethics at Yeshiva University” recommends cloning over sperm donations for “Holocaust survivors” (Woodward 60).

Cloning is pushing the way for new medicines:

Cloning is the latest enhancement of a biotech field called transgenics?

transgenics companies have been altering the embryos of goats, pigs

and mice with human genes so they can produce proteins and drugs

for treating cancer and other diseases.( Reibstein 58)

In fact, some companies, with the help of cloning, are currently working on ways to make pigs grow unrejectable human hearts and kidneys, a tissue glue for use in surgery and a drug for cystic fibrosis (58). Scientists are also working on cattle for aid in human medicine:

US scientists announced that calves George and Charlie have joined Dolly

the sheep in the growing pantheon of cloned farm animals. Massachusetts’s

bioengineers James Robl and Steven Stice used an advanced genetic technique

to produce the calves, the first in what the duo hopes will become a

commercially successful herd of cows that will produce drugs in their

milk for use by humans.( Marquand Internet)

Aside from the human development and medical research values of cloning, there stands the idea that cloning could be used to save endangered species. Recently, at the Louisville zoo, a horse gave birth to a zebra. This ended the debate concerning the possibilities of interspecies birth (Reibstein 59). In light of this breakthrough, cloning would be useful in bringing back lost species or increase populations of threatened animals. For example, the passenger pigeon is now extinct. Despite no living birds, preserved specimens do exist in museums. Because it takes one cell and a similar species it would be possible to implant a cloned embryo into a common pigeon. Although, the success rate of cloning is very low, if it improves and is applied it could be compared to the biblical belief of Genesis.

Cloning has a very good chance of becoming part of our every day lives. The cloning of animals and plants for agriculture is likely to affect most people. If a farmer has a cow that produces more milk than all of his other cows, he could have that cow cloned. The cloned cow would contain all the characteristic of the abundant milk producer. The milk from the colne would find its way to grocery stores all across the country. The same would hold true for beef cattle except the meat could be made healthier for human consumption. Herds of cloned high milk yielding and leaner beef cattle are only the beginning. Plants are not exempt from cloning, but they do lack the ethical concerns. Cloned farm produce could be made resistant to diseases and flourish in new climates.

It has often been said that man was never intended to fly- that it was only a feat for the birds. But now flights only opposition comes from personal fears and superstitions. Cloning has the potential to produce benefits much greater than flying ever could. Many instruments of destruction are manufactured daily and are capable of killing millions. These deadly devices pass into society unnoticed; yet the power to recreate life receives relentless bombardment. Cloning is too young- it’s still a growing procedure. Cloning should not be banned. Because cloning is still developing, it is difficult to predict the direction it is going. If cloning is banned, there will be no telling what could be lost. There are many medical and research producers that are just becoming available because of cloning. A final scenario; at the funereal of a lost child, tears of grief are stifled as a young mother is handed a reassuring business card. The card reads “Human Cloning: Specializing in Unexpected Infant Death”.

Works Cited

Begley, Sharon. “Little Lamb Who Made Thee.” Newsweek. 10 March

1997: 55-57.

“Cloning of embryos stirs ethical concerns.” November 10, Christian Century.

Chicago: Christian Century Foundation, 1993.

“Cloning Special Report.” New Scientist. 1998. Internet, Yahoo.

(April 20, 1998.)

“Ethical Positions on Animal Cloning.” updated: Aug 7, 1997.

Internet, Yahoo. (May 06, 1998.)

Marquand, Robert. “Cloning Bolts Ahead … Toward People?”

The Christian Science Monitor. January 22, 1998. Internet, Yahoo.

(April 22, 1998.)

Reibstein, Larry, and Gregory Beals. “A Cloned chop, Anyone?”

Newsweek. 10 March 1997: 58-59.

Starr, Cecil, and Ralph Taggart. Biology the Unity and the Diversity of Life.

7th ed. Albany: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1995.

Woodward, Kenneth L. “Today the Sheep?.” Newsweek. 10 March

1997: 60.

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