Cloning More Ethically Acceptable than Global Warming
One day soon, human clones will walk among us. Does the thought send a shiver up your spine? How about the notion of eating french fries from a potato engineered with jellyfish genes to make its leaves bioluminescent? We should consider our responses to both issues now, before reality comes knocking at the door. Several groups have announced intentions to clone humans, and the bioluminescence gene has already been successfully incorporated into potato plants.
If those prospects make you squirm, you're not alone. The public's emotional response to the issues of human cloning and biotechnology far outstrips its response to global warming and widespread species extinction. When Dolly the sheep was first cloned by Scottish scientists, political leaders around the world sensed the negative reactions among their constituents and moved to pass legislation banning the new technology in humans. Any new developments in the area stir up fresh controversy, such that the cloning issue is frequently featured on the front page of major newspapers. These articles seem to suggest that apart from a few mad scientists, most everyone agrees that cloning humans is wrong.
But why is it so wrong? Consider the Monitor's quotes from the experts. Professor Chen, vice-president of Beijing University, says about human cloning, "There isn't a controversy. There's no real discussion. We know it's wrong and not natural." John White, who is secretary for science policy at the Australian Academy of Science, is equally willing to speak authoritatively on the issue: "We clearly oppose cloning whole human beings. There are too many troubling ethical and moral issues."
Of course, there are troubling issues that need to be considered. The new technology suffers from several technical challenges, such as a low rate of successful implantation and a low rate of subsequent survival. We certainly wouldn't want cloned children to suffer illnesses caused by imperfect technology. Others voice their concern that parents who employ the techniques to recreate a lost child will place burdensome expectations on the cloned child, who - despite sharing the genes of the lost child - will be a unique person. Indeed, the word "clone" is misleading, since such children will be less similar to the original child than would be an identical twin (the clone will not have shared the same womb at the same time). But do such issues justify an outright ban on human cloning? The technical challenges will soon be overcome with the help of new research, and...