Against a Prohibition on Cloning
Back when my wife, Lesley, and I thought we may be having children of our own, we had two names picked out in case our child was a girl: Theresia and Penny. I have used both names in discussions of this subject; here, I speak of Theresia.
However, because of a childhood illness, the only way that Lesley can have a child that is biologically hers is through the technology associated with cloning. Doctors had told us this for a long time, but we were slow to accept it. And so we continued to hope, for a while.
The technology of cloning provides a way fulfilling those hopes. Yet, many are eager to prohibit this. If there were good reason to keep her from having her own biological children, then she would have to shrug and accept it. But none of the reasons offered against cloning are very good. In some cases, it is horrifying to listen to what many people say in defense of such a prohibition.
These reasons can be divided into seven families:
1. Religious Objections
2. Identity and Sanctity of Life Objections
3. Technological Terror Objections
4. Defective Child Objections
5. Slavery and Spare Parts Objections
6. Selfishness Objections
7. Funny Feeling Objections
These include arguments ranging from "my god does not want people to clone," to "cloning is playing god," to "clones will not have souls."
First, to those who claim that their god does not want Theresia coming into this world, I say that this is between you and your god. We are not a part of your religion. You may preach, implore, and attempt to convert us, but you have no right to use the law to drag Lesley in front of your preachers so that they may refuse her permission to have her own child.
Your religion may prohibit the eating of pork, but you may not prohibit grocery stores from selling it to those not of your religion. Your religion may prohibit the use of contraceptives, but the Supreme Court ruled (Griswold v. Connecticut) that you may not prohibit the sale of birth control to those not of that religion. Similarly, your religion may prohibit you from cloning, but does not give you the right to prohibit medical professionals from selling this service to Lesley and others in her situation.
Second, cloning no more involves "playing God" than other forms of reproduction, including sex. All of it, equally, creates life from life. And where the objection is that cloning is "unnatural;" artificial insemination, surgery, and the use of antibiotics are equally unnatural, yet still permitted. Indeed, Lesley and I both exist in defiance of nature; Lesley having been cured of a cancer that would have otherwise killed her, and because my mother obtained medical treatments that prevented yet another miscarriage. Theresia would, in fact, be carrying on a family tradition.
Third, I had hoped that society had advanced far beyond the age when one would question whether a person indistinguishable from humans could be lacking a soul. "There is no soul" is an assertion that belongs back in the age where people sought to rationalize genocide and slavery as activities that did not victimize real people. Theresia would be, and would be entitle to the treatment that is due anybody who is, fully human.
I can well imagine playmates and adults telling Theresia that she has no soul, and I would teach her that these people are as worthy of contempt as any bigot. I would tell her of relatives who told me, when I was young, said that marrying somebody of a different race and having children was selfish, because it showed
disregard to the suffering and rejection that the child would experience at the hands of others. And I hope that Theresia would quickly be able to understand that the moral fault lies, not with those who bring this child into the world, but with those others who refuse to accept her.
Identity and Sanctity of Life Objections
Some have objected that cloning threatens their sense of identity, and assert that they find it easier to get out of bed in the morning knowing that they are unique. Others assert that cloning, by making it possible to duplicate people, will cheapen individual lives.
Both misunderstand what is possible through cloning.
Those who find it easier to get out of bed knowing they are unique must be grateful that they do not have an identical twin. For identical twins have much more in common than Lesley would have with Theresia. Identical twins are usually raised in the same household by the same parents, in the same culture, facing the same trends and pressures at the same times in their lives.
Lesley, who underwent surgery for cancer at the age of fourteen, married me, and who (hypothetically) had herself cloned so as to have the daughter that the cancer otherwise would have prevented her from having, will still be a unique person ¯ importantly different from any clone that might come into existence, simply can not be duplicated by cloning.
Theresia would live in a different time, spend part of her childhood logged onto personal computers, serf the internet, and live in a society that has the capacity to clone humans and with the understanding that she is a clone. She will be raised by a different set of parents than Lesley was.
I have no doubt that I will find it easy to tell Lesley and Theresia apart. And I expect they will have even less trouble. And having neither in the world will in any way lessen the importance, or the uniqueness, of the other.
Besides, the identical twins I have known have expressed no such misgivings over having such a twin. None have expressed an attitude that twinning, in this way, is a curse to be avoided if possible, and to be endured only if necessary. If the value and uniqueness of the separate lives of identical twins is of no real concern, then this alleged "danger" of cloning is imaginary.
Technological Terror Objections
This can also be called the 10,000 Hitler objection, since it is most commonly stated as fear that someone would use the technology that gave us Theresia to create an army of Hitlers.