1. Cloning Xeroxes a person.
Cloning merely re-creates the genes of the ancestor, not what he
has learned or experienced. Technically, it re-creates the
genotype, not the phenotype. (Even at that, only 99% of those
genes get re-created because 1% of such a child's genes would
come from those in the egg - mitochondrial DNA). Conventional
wisdom holds that about half of who we are comes from our genes,
the other half, from the environment.
Cloning cannot re-create what in us came from the environment; it
also cannot re-create memories. The false belief that cloning
recreates a person stems in part from the common, current false
belief in simplistic, genetic reductionism, i. e., that a person
really is just determined by his genes. No reputable geneticist
or psychologist believes this.
2. Human cloning is replication or making children into
Opponents of cloning often use these words to beg the question,
to assume that children created by parents by a new method would
not be loved. Similar things were said about "test tube" babies,
who turned out to be some of the most-wanted, most-loved babies
ever created in human history.
Indeed, the opposite is true: evolution has created us with sex
drives such that, if we do not carefully use contraception,
children occur. Because children get created this way without
being wanted, sexual reproduction is more likely to create
unwanted, and hence possibly unloved, children than human
Lawyers opposing cloning have a special reason for using these
pejorative words. If cloning is just a new form of human
reproduction, then it is Constitutionally protected from
interference by the state. Several Supreme Court decisions
declare that all forms of human reproduction, including the right
not to reproduce, cannot be abridged by government.
Use of words such as "replication" and "commodification" also
assumes artificial wombs or commercial motives; about these
fallacies, see below.
3. Human cloning reduces biological diversity.
Population genetics says otherwise. Six billion people now exist,
soon to be eight billion, and most of them reproduce. Cloning
requires in vitro fertilization, which is expensive and
inefficient, with only a 20% success rate. Since 1978, at most a
half million babies have been produced this way, or at most, one
out of 12,000 babies.
Over decades and with such great numbers, populations follow the
Law of Regression to the Mean. This means that, even if someone
tried to create a superior race by cloning, it would fail,
because cloned people would have children with non-cloned people,
and resulting genetic hybrids would soon be normalized.
Cloning is simply a tool. It could be used with the motive of
creating uniformity (but would fail, because of above), or it be
used for the opposite reason, to try to increase diversity (which
would also fail, for the same reason).
4. People created by cloning would be less ensouled than normal
humans, or would be sub-human.
A human who had the same number of chromosomes as a child created
sexually, who was gestated by a woman, and who talked, felt, and
spoke as any other human, would ethically be human and a person.
It is by now a principle of ethics that the origins of a person,
be it from mixed-race parents, unmarried parents, in vitro
fertilization, or a gay male couple hiring a surrogate mother, do
not affect the personhood of the child born. The same would be
true of a child created by cloning (who, of course, has to be
gestated for nine months by a woman).
Every deviation from normal reproduction has always been faced
with this fear. Children greeted by sperm donation, in vitro
fertilization, and surrogate motherhood were predicted to be
less-than-human, but were not.
A variation predicts that while, in fact, they will not be
less-than-human, people will treat them this way and hence, such
children will harmed. This objection reifies prejudice and makes
it an ethical justification, which it is wrong to do. The correct
response to prejudice is to expose it for what it is, combat it
with reason and with evidence, not validate it as an ethical
5. People created by cloning could be used for spare organs for
Nothing could be done to a person created by cloning that right
now could not be done to your brother or to a person's twin. The
U. S. Constitution strongly implies that once a human fetus is
outside the womb and alive, he has rights. Decisions backing this
up give him rights to inherit property, rights not to suffer
discrimination because of disability, and rights to U. S.
A variation of this myth assumes that a dictator could make
cloned humans into special SWAT teams or suicidal bombers. But
nothing about originating people this way gives anyone any
special power over the resulting humans, who would have free
will. Besides, if a dictator wants to create such assassins, he
need not wait for cloning but can take orphans and try to
indoctrinate them now in isolated camps.
6. All people created from the same genotype would be raised in
batches and share secret empathy or communication.
Pure science fiction. If I wanted to recreate the genotype of my
funny Uncle Harry, why would my wife want to gestate 5 or 6 other
babies at the same time? Indeed, we now know that the womb cannot
support more than 2-3 fetuses without creating a likely
disability in one. Guidelines now call for no more than two
embryos to be introduced by in vitro fertilization, which of
course is required to use cloning.
Such assumptions about cloned humans being created in batches are
linked to nightmarish science fiction scenarios where humane
society has been destroyed and where industrialized machines have
taken over human reproduction. But this is just someone's
nightmare, not facts upon which to base state and federal laws.
7. Scientists who work on human cloning are evil or motivated by
The stuff of Hollywood and scary writers. Scientists are just
people. Most of them have kids of their own and care a lot for
kids. No one wants to bring a handicapped child into the world.
Movies and novels never portray life scientists with sympathy.
This anti-science prejudice started with Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein and continues with nefarious scientists working for
the Government on The X Files.
People who call themselves scientists and grandstand for
television, such as Richard Seed and Brigette Boisselier of the
Raelians, are not real scientists but people who use the aura of
science to gain attention. Real scientists don't spend all their
time flying around the world to be on TV but stay at home in
their clinics doing their work.
8. Babies created by cloning could be grown in artificial wombs.
Nope, sorry. Medicine has been trying for fifty years to create
an artificial womb, but has never come close to succeeding.
Indeed, controversial experiments in 1973 on live-born fetuses in
studying artificial wombs effectively shut down such research.
Finally, if anything like such wombs existed, we could save
premature babies who haven't developed lung function, but
unfortunately, we still can't - premature babies who can't
breathe at all die. Thus, any human baby still needs a human
woman to gestate him for at least six months, and to be healthy,
nine months. This puts the lie to many science fiction stories
and to many predictions about cloning and industrial
9. Only selfish people want to create a child by cloning.
First, this assumes that ordinary people don't create children
for selfish reasons, such as a desire to have someone take care
of them in old age, a desire to see part of themselves continue
after death, and/or the desire to leave their estate to someone.
Many people are hypocritical or deceived about why they came to
have children. Very few people just decide that they want to
bring more joy into the world, and hence create a child to raise
and support for life as an end-in-himself. Let's be honest here.
Second, a couple using cloning need not create a copy of one
of them. As said above, Uncle Harry could be a prime candidate.
On the other hand, if a couple chooses a famous person, critics
accuse them of creating designer babies. Either way, they can't
win: if they re-create one of their genotypes, they are
narcissistic; if they choose someone else's genes, they're guilty
of creating designer babies.
In general, why should a couple using cloning have a higher
justification required of them than a couple using sexual
reproduction? If we ask: what counts as a good reason for
creating a child, then why should cloning have any special test
that is not required for sexual reproduction? Indeed, and more
generally, what right does government have to require, or judge,
any couple's reasons for having a child, even if they are seen by
others to be selfish?
Couples desiring to use cloning should not bear an undue burden
10. Human cloning is inherently evil: it can only be used for bad
purposes by bad people.
No, it's just a tool, just another way to create a family. A long
legacy in science fiction novels and movies make the word
"cloning" so fraught with bad connotations that it can hardly be
used in any discussion that purports to be impartial. It is like
discussing equal rights for women by starting to discuss whether
"the chicks" would fare better with equal rights. To most people,
"cloning" implies selfish parents, crazy scientists, and out-of-
control technology, so a fair discussion using this word isn't
possible. Perhaps the phrase, "somatic cell nuclear
transplantation" is better, even if it's a scientific mouthful.
So if we shouldn't call a person created by cloning, a "clone,"
what should we call him? Answer: a person.
Copyrighted Gregory E. Pence, 2001.
Professor, Dept. of Philosophy & School of Medicine
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Author, Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?
Reprinted here with permission.