Ian Wilmut’s foray into cloning Dolly has proved to be an appetizing entrée to mankind, with the next step being the cloning of endangered species, and eventually, humans. Although his team of researchers had qualified to the public that it is unethical to clone humans1, the very prospect of being able to replicate creatures of our own kind is nevertheless enticing.
Think of all the possible benefits that make many scientists prepared to cross those ethical boundaries: Firstly, couples who have tried a long time for identical twins, triplets (or even quintuplets!) may now be able to have them by producing clones from a single embryonic cell. Secondly, the cloning of genetically altered cells or “genetically superior” cells, can allow for genetic selection of more desirable traits such as slim build, reduced genetic predisposition to cancer, etc. Thirdly, being able to mass-produce subjects for experimentation may eventually become a cheap alternative compared to paying for non-clones, and can even speed up the pace at which life science is advancing. Human cloning will also kick-start a whole new business where surrogate mothers offer their wombs for rent. This can be an attractive source of livelihood for less-educated people in poor countries.
Much as cloning of humans is enticing, there are a host of issues over its practicality besides the risks involved and the low success rates.2 For one, genetic selection via cloning will result in reduced genetic diversity, and the well being of the genetically similar population will be at stake. We fail to realize that sometimes, even people with certain genetic defects have something to offer us. For example, the deaf community can teach us about the use of sign language. If genetic selection exterminates the deaf community, and it so happens that a disease strikes that makes us all dumb, we would not know how to communicate with one another via hand signs! Secondly, cloning undermines the need for a reproductive system in some ways, and it will eventually become redundant. Might we then evolve to become creatures with no reproductive organs, such as Ape-man had evolved from his crouched body to today’s human form? It is hard to imagine what we will look like in the future. The pleasures of sex and natural birth will also be greatly...