Society has always scorned the scientific threat to people’s firm beliefs and the laws of nature. From the rejection of the heliocentric theory to the opposition of birth control, prominent institutions have constantly attempted to suppress the advancement of science. Now the prospect of human cloning is challenging people’s sacred beliefs about reproduction and life. In February of 1997 the announcement of Ian Wilmut’s successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly has revealed the possibility of cloning a mammal and ultimately a human. This success has also sparked an onslaught of moral and ethical debates about cloning. Religious bodies and lawmakers adamantly disprove the moral and ethical implications of cloning humans. These critics view the physical duplication of a person as a threat to human dignity, individuality, and rights. However, a ban on cloning would be foolish because cloning presents potentially valid medical uses while the moral and ethical implications are clearly unlikely in a modern society. In turn, a ban would actually threaten people’s right to utilize science and the valuable benefits of cloning to improve their lives. Therefore, the apparent benefits and applications of cloning prove that the government should not ban cloning in order to prevent its vague and highly speculative implications.
This widespread and controversial debate about human cloning is a result of the successful cloning of an adult cell into a fully functioning organism. Though some attempts successfully cloned plants and lower forms of life, Wilmut’s successful cloning of a mammal presents the possibility of cloning humans. The actual process of cloning produces a genetic copy or replica. The procedure Wilmut used to produce Dolly involved removing the nucleus from the adult cell of an organism and placing it into an egg that had its nucleus removed (Sternberg 2). Then scientists placed the embryo into a uterus until the mother carried the embryo to full term. The second method involves splitting the cells or blastomeres of an early multi-celled embryo before the cells have begun to differentiate (Morell 3). Each cell now has the ability to become an identical organism to the organisms created by the other separated cells. These embryo cells would also grow to full term in a surrogate uterus. Though these procedures seem apparently simple, the implications of cloning humans have provoked widespread criticisms and objections to cloning.
While many ethical concerns worry about medical risk and the use of embryos many critics and the media have focused on the danger to people’s individuality and uniqueness. The media has portrayed clones as exact carbon copies with no uniqueness or identity because a clone would be psychologically and physically identical to his or her DNA donor (Hopkins 2). A U.S. News and World Report cover features a drawing of an ink stamp pressing out thousands of crying babies. This image portrays cloning as a frightening mass production of sameness while cloning treats clones as commodities with no identity or soul. The fear of losing identity reflects people’s belief in genetic determinism where genes determine a person’s personality and behavior as well as his or her physical characteristics (Bailey 2). In this view a clone would have the same personality, thoughts, and identity as his or her predecessor. However, it is the environment that influences people’s behavior and personality (Wray 2, Lygre 46). Genes can only dictate the shape and number of neurons in the brain while the arrangement and connections of neurons determine personality, thought, and behavior. The events and experiences influence these connections in the brain and ultimately influence personality and behavior. Most humans have separate identities and unique personalities because no one possesses the same exact experiences in his or her life. Thus a clone of a parent would not be entirely identical because the greatly divergent experiences of the clone and parent would wire the clone’s mind differently than the parent. In fact, twins are more similar than clones because twins share the same uterine environment and live in the same family environment. However, even twins who grow up together have separate personalities and identities (Wray 2, Robertson 7). Clones would also be biologically different. The DNA that is inserted into another person’s host egg would pick up maternal factors from the proteins and mitochondria in the egg which would alter the embryo’s development (Bailey 2). Physiological differences between the womb of the original predecessor’s mother and the clone’s surrogate mother would also affect the clone’s development. The use of cloning poses no threat to humans’ identity and uniqueness which are impossible to replicate. Cloning would not be a threat to society, but cloning would aid society by producing more individuals with unique ideas.
While the threat to individuality and uniqueness is improbable cloning presents various possible benefits to medicine. Cloning research could cure many different diseases such as cancer. There would also be help for organ recipients and infertile couples. It is clear that cloning would provide a positive influence to medicine and physical health, and these benefits prove too valuable to eliminate cloning in order to prevent the unlikely implications. Along with the elimination of cloning’s possible problems, a ban would ultimately eliminate the possibility of improving the lives and health of humans.
An evident improvement to mankind’s health would be the possibility that scientists could clone humans in order to create organs for people in dire need of an organ transplant. Scientists would first create an embryo that would be the clone of the organ recipient. When the embryo is six weeks of age, it would have the collection of cells that form the brain, the telencephalon, removed. As a result, the clone would never be human because it would lack a brain (Kahn 3). Then the clone would grow to term in a surrogate uterus. After a Cesarean section delivery of the embryo the clone would grow to appropriate size by intravenous feeding and hormone injections. All the cloned organs would be identical to the donor’s organs because the clone would have the same genetic makeup as the DNA donor (Kahn 3). These cloned organs could successfully replace the diseased organs with no possibility of rejection (Lawern 1). Doctors could also use the telencephalon for brain cell transplants. These organs would prolong the lives of many people in need of new organs. As a result, cloning would contribute to more security and benefits to organ donation. However, a ban based on vague and speculative fears would eliminate this possibility.
Though the benefits of cloning organs would improve people’s lives, cloning organs would also present a major ethical problem. Some critics are concerned with the existence of factories that would clone humans primarily to harvest their organs (Kahn 5). If people exploit humans for their organs, cloning would be a threat to human rights and liberty. However, the cloned embryos would not truly be humans because they would lack a brain. Without the existence of a brain, emotion, thought, and intelligence, the clone would only have status as living tissue. The clone would not have a mind or a soul, so it would not have the natural rights all humans possess. These rights do not pertain to organic material with no intelligence or soul. However, abortion critics also argue that the embryos would have the possibility of becoming true humans, but doctors would take away this possibility by removing the brain (Kahn 5). It may seem unethical to deprive a clone of a mind and life, but the needs of living people clearly outweigh the ethical implications of cloning. The desire of many organ recipients to live is stronger than the possible moral implications of using embryos. Everyone deserves the right to live and sustain their his or her life. Cloning would protect this right, but a ban would take away this way to sustain life.