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As a human race, we have pursued constant technological progression and advancement. Indeed, our claim to the title of ?superior race? can be attributed in part to the fervor in which we go about improving our own existence through invention and discovery. Thanks to advances in medicine, we have increased the overall lifespan of men and women. Due to continuous improvements in industrial technology, machines now do virtually everything for us that our ancestors had to do with their own hands. Every day, something is created that makes our lives easier. We are blessed with an intellect higher than that of any other creature on Earth, and we make unabashed use of it. Quite possibly, our ancestors foresaw the day when our intellectual capacity would lead us in a direction that we would be ill prepared to follow. That day has arrived with the development of cloning. The cloning of sheep, cows, frogs, and other animals has already been successfully completed and human cloning is now a realistic possibility, the only constraints being the ethical and moral issues associated with reproducing a perfect copy of another human being. In ?The Paradox of Cloning?, the author, James Q. Wilson, argues the benefits of cloning and asserts ?the gains will turn out to exceed the risks?. Wilson is wrong in his assumption. While I concede that cloning technology offers some exciting benefits, total human cloning also carries frightening, worldwide ramifications. While cloning is still in the infancy stage, we, as a worldwide society, should collectively reject any efforts to further technology in the area of human cloning.
Wilson states that we need not react immediately to human cloning. He cites the 277 attempts that it took to clone one sheep, and insists that the road to human cloning will be ?long and difficult?. I fail to see the logic here. Regardless of how long successfully cloning a human actually takes, allowing laboratories to proceed with research and development would be a mistake. In allowing the process to begin, we are essentially making the decision to legalize cloning. Advocates would like nothing more than to be given the green light to proceed with experimental research. Half of their battle would be over and eventual cloning would be inevitable. It is irresponsible to say that we need not worry about it because it is a long way off. To argue that we need not address the issue of cloning now is comparable to advising young parents not to worry about college for their children because the possibility is 18 long years away. In asking society to look the other way while cloning is in the developmental phase, Wilson?s motives appear suspicious. Perhaps, he knows that by allowing billions of dollars to start pouring in for the purpose of subsidizing cloning research, we are effectively opening a door that cannot be shut.
Suppose that human cloning is permitted and deemed legal. Contrary to Wilson?s beliefs, it would be a very short time before we possess the scientific knowledge necessary to successfully clone a human. In fact, scientists at Advanced Cell Technology have already cloned a human embryo by injecting genetic material into a cow egg. The embryo was allowed to live for 12 days before it was destroyed, primarily to pre-empt the inevitable ethical outcry (Sung 1). An embryo, it seems, can not be considered human until it attaches itself to the wall of the womb, which occurs at about 14 days. In allowing the progression of cloning, we must consider one basic issue. How do we handle the failures and mistakes that occur during the early experimental stages? Many eggs were destroyed at various stages of development before scientists were able to create Dolly the sheep, the first successfully cloned animal (Bailey). What happens to the human embryos that live to be a fully developed fetus before scientist discover a ?flaw? in their DNA? Do we discard these babies and continue on in the name of science? And how do we handle young children clones that start to show signs of a weakened immune system? Do we murder these children and call them an experimental loss or do we build orphanages to house the early misfit clones? Who wants to explain to these kids that they simply will never be good enough because it just isn?t in their genes? Keep in mind we?re not talking about a few children here and there. Hundreds of biotechnology firms worldwide are eager to enter the realm of cloning research, each with virtually unlimited finances. All of these companies will likely endure hundreds of failed attempts before one successful clone is created. Complicating matters, there will be a race between these firms to be the first company to successfully clone a human being. This environment will not lend itself to patient, measured advances but instead to countless mistakes due to the frenzied pace of the experimental research. As a society, we should not fool ourselves into believing that we will be the benefactors of cloning without first destroying thousands of lives in the process.
Upon perfecting the cloning process, another question would still remain. Do we really want to clone human beings? Anyone who can answer yes to this question must be willing to relinquish the individuality and uniqueness that we now enjoy. No longer would individual talents set us apart because any talent would be reproducible. Michael Jordan wouldn?t stand out any more than any other basketball player if his athletic abilities were available off the shelf at the local biotech clinic. Mark McGuire?s unique talent for crushing a baseball would be mediocre if we stocked every team with a clone that possessed his same ability. What fun would watching any sport be if all athletes were identical in skill level? Competition is essential to all sports and cloning would virtually eliminate competition by mass-producing athletes with identical athletic ability.
What would we learn in music appreciation if Mozarts, Bachs, and Beethovens were a dime a dozen? How valuable would a Rembrandt painting be if every museum paid a Rembrandt clone to produce their own works. And the atrocities do not stop there. A company wishing to increase productivity could employ only clones that were genetically designed to be tireless and diligent workers, never needing a break or time off. How could the rest of us ?genetically challenged? people hope to even land a job? Suppose you graduate with a degree in mathematics, hoping to fulfill your dream of becoming a teacher, only to learn that the schools and colleges are staffed with Einstein clones that possess knowledge far superior to yours. Their knowledge would be born from an implanted genetic inclination whereas yours would come only from hard work. You need not be an Einstein, or an Einstein clone, to identify the loser in this situation. Human cloning holds many possibilities that would be detrimental to mankind in just this manner. Thankfully, to date, legislators are holding off the wave of supporters and lobbyists pushing for the legalization of cloning. In banning federal funds from being used for cloning research, President Bill Clinton stated that,
?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?? (Odyssey 3).
According to a Time/CNN poll, most people echo this sentiment. In the poll, an overwhelming 89 percent of Americans feel that it is ?morally unacceptable? to clone humans (Sung). With roughly 9 out of 10 people in opposition, it appears that most people see the nightmarish possibilities of human cloning as a reality waiting to happen.
While drawing the line at complete human cloning, there are still many benefits to be derived from this new technology. I would venture to say that the majority of people opposed to cloning would not deny the promise that lies therein for the treatment of disease, deformities, and other genetic flaws. The technology that exists now has armed us with a new knowledge that has far-reaching promise. We stand on the brink of witnessing the elimination, or at the very least, drastic reductions of everything from infertility to leukemia. For example, through cloning of individual cells, a leukemia patient could receive an infusion of bone marrow grown outside his body that matches his own perfectly. There would be no danger of rejection or the need to take powerful anti-rejection drugs, which have a long list of side effects. Burn victims could receive skin grafts of completely healthy patches of new skin, dramatically reducing scarring. People with macular degeneration, a disease that destroys vision, could receive a transplant of healthy retinal tissue, ensuring that they would not be robbed of their vision (Nash). In addition, organ transplant recipients would receive organs that are nearly identical copies of their own, once again eliminating the possibility of rejection. Ppl Therapeutics, the same Scotland company that produced Dolly, also successfully cloned 5 female pigs and touted them as a major step in the field of transplantation. Physiologically, pigs are one of the closest animals to humans and by genetically altering the DNA of a pig, organs could be grown that could later be ?successfully transplanted into humans.? Dave Ayares, vice president of research at Ppl Therapeutics, says ?It has the potential to essentially revolutionize the transplantation field? (WFMY). While these examples might seem like futuristic scenarios, they are actually realistic possibilities that are on the very near horizon. New and innovative techniques are being continuously developed as research progresses at a furious pace. In fact, Ppl claims that transplantation of genetically altered pig organs could begin in as little as four years. This is not a technology that offers promise for just our children and later generations, but one in which we ourselves stand to benefit. Dr. Robert Winston of London?s Hammersmith Hospital says, ?Given its potential benefit, I would argue that it would be unethical not to continue this line of research.? (Nash). I agree with Dr. Winston in his contention that we should definitely proceed with research in this field. Although adamantly opposed to the monstrosity of human cloning, I feel that individual cell cloning for the purpose of treating disease and advancing transplantation technology is an arena that we must enter into.
Historically, we have taken advantage of every new technology made available. In many cases, technology has enriched our lives with little or no disadvantages. I believe that our desire to improve our existence through new inventions or discoveries has ultimately created a better world for future generations. However, human cloning must be considered an exception. Although a true marvel, human cloning would eventually lead to a disastrous outcome. Our uniqueness and individuality were not meant to be tampered with, as they are the essence of human nature. Variations in personality and intellect are what drive us to be the people we are. Individual differences are an integral part of our society. Creating ?perfect? clones and ?weeding out? our imperfections threatens to destroy that environment and, consequentially, make for an incredibly boring world to live in. Our society has reached a threshold that would be morally and ethically wrong to cross. I assert that we can reap the benefits of cloning technology without crossing that threshold. The realization is upon us that, for once, we need to keep our technological drive in check. It is imperative that society makes a collective statement now. Yes, we want to do all that is possible to combat disease, through all possible means. Yes, we want to advance transplant technology to where people are not dying because of a failed organ. Yes, we want to offer new life to people with genetic deficiencies or deformities. No, we do not want to build the Frankenstein monster of the new millennium.
Bailey, Ronald. Send in the Clones. June 1998.
*http://www.reason.com./9806/bk.bailey.html* 1 March 2000
Nash, J. Madeleine. The Case for Cloning. 9 February 1998. *http://www.time.com/time/magazine/1998/dom/980209 1 March 2000
Odyssey.com. Potential Benefits of Plant and Animal Cloning. 8 August 1997. *http://www.ncgr.org/gpi/odyssey/dolly* 3 March 2000
Sung, Ellen. First Human Embryo Cloned. 3 March 2000. *http://www.policy.com/news/dbrief/dbriefarc265.asp* 5 March 2000
The Good Morning Show. Robert Marshall. WFMY Channel 2. 14 March 2000.
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