Human cloning will happen – and soon. It is important to permit cloning research that can further efforts to cure disease, but equally crucial to prohibit abusive uses of cloning technology.
Johannes Gutenberg, the famous 15th century German innovator, should be feeling rather uncomfortable right now. His printing press, previously acknowledged as mankind’s most significant invention, is about to be dramatically upstaged by another human ‚advancement.’
Within a matter of months or years, some scientist is going to announce experimental results that will change the world forever. This pioneer will declare success at cloning a human being. Whether humanity is ready or not, such a revelation will probably come sometime before I graduate college.
Scientifically speaking, it’s just not that hard to clone a human. It is mostly a matter of trial and error. The process involves fusing DNA from a donor egg with a random skin cell from the same human, and then using an electric current to stimulate cell growth. Such scientific work can be accomplished relatively cheaply from clandestine facilities. Proof of the relatively sketchy nature of this scientific process is evident by how one of the leading candidates to clone the first human is the Raelians, a religious sect.
Their leader, Ral, a French-born race-car driver has pursued this research since 1973, when he encountered a four-foot, green alien who told him that humans had been created in a laboratory by advanced beings from another planet. On subsequent visits to the alien spacecraft, Ral experimented sexually with ‚six voluptuous and bewitching’ female robots. And yes, this sect is honestly one of the front-runners in the race to clone a human.
The principal threat involved in the advancement of human cloning derives from the failure of the U.S. government, or any government for that matter, to develop a reasonable plan to deal with this inevitability. Contemporary discourse on the subject has been set by fringe elements on both sides of the issue, making rational public policy impossible to enact.
The Human Cloning Foundation, Clonaid (the venture company started by the Raelians) and other similar organizations have claimed that humans should have the inherent constitutional right to make genetic copies of themselves and that parental ability to decide the aptitude, hair color and personality of children is the essence of individual liberty. Proponents are quick to point to the potential ‚benefits’ of cloning. Imagine the ability to help an infertile wife or husband have a child. Or imagine the ability to alleviate the parental grief associated with the death of a child by allowing the parents to make another child with the same genetic makeup.
However, upon logical examination from a larger perspective, this extreme view quickly reveals itself to be an ethical and practical nightmare. Hundreds, if not thousands, of babies would be born deformed as results of cloning experiments. The famous cloner of Dolly the sheep, Ian Wilmut, has called current human cloning efforts ‚criminally irresponsible.’ And even if the techniques were perfected, they would have larger negative effects on society.
Cloning would fundamentally shift our understanding of human identity and perversely reshape the relationship between a parent (donor) and a child (clone). It would also redefine the meaning of death and grief, as for the first time in history, there would actually be a way of ‚replacing’ the deceased. Groomed to be substitutes, clones would be expected to fit a certain pattern of behavior set by their predecessors. A great potential for abuse exists, especially when cloning evolves to the point at which donors can actually begin selecting specific physical or mental attributes for their clones. One of my friends, only half-kidding, commented that he would willingly genetically engineer his children to eliminate any characteristics that he would find annoying. In addition, since Arnold Schwarzenegger has already announced that he is eager to clone multiple copies of himself, can we really risk the danger caused by numerous Terminators making movies?
On the opposite extreme, the Catholic Church and other similar organizations have opposed any cloning research as an artificial interference with the miracle of life, even going so far as to advocate the ban of all scientific research involving human stem cells or embryos. While I agree with many of the fundamental precepts of the ‚anti-cloning’ side, their principles are taken to dangerous excess. There is considerable scientific sentiment that someday, through cloning techniques, it will be possible to cure Parkinson’s disease by growing neurons to replace nerve cells in the brain and also to heal diabetes by growing insulin-producing pancreatic cells. Even diseases like heart disease and Alzheimer’s could potentially be cured. Someday it may also be possible to grow organs in a laboratory setting, thereby alleviating the chronic supply problems associated with finding suitable organ donors.
The resistance to this technology parallels the initial opposition to currently accepted medical techniques of blood transfusions, organ transplants and in-vitro fertilization. Yet society must move past such Luddite fears and embrace the demonstrated ability of some cloning technology to save lives.
However, the needs for legal and moral limitations on the uses of cloning technology are equally evident. These norms need not be any different than the than the standards of behavior expected for other types of technology. For example, in international policy, countries are ‚allowed’ to use nuclear weapons as implied deterrents but are ‚prevented’ from using the same nukes as offensive weapons.
However, such rational cloning policy is impossible to implement when extremists — naive idealists and dogmatic fundamentalists — dominate political discourse. It is vital though to move past radical rhetoric and engage in serious and reasoned debate over this incredibly important issue.
By Aaron Page, Cornell University
|acknowledged as||uznany za|
|human being||istota ludzka|
|to derive from||pochodzić, wywodzić się|
|inevitability||nieuchronność, nie do uniknięcia|
|to alleviate||zmniejszać (ból)|
|to be eager to do sth||bardzo chcieć coś zrobić|
|to advocate||być zwolennikiem|
|to excess||do przesady, przesytu|
|to embrace||przystawać do czegoś|