This report aims to address various issues and concerns regarding human cloning. "On Sunday morning, 23 February 1997, the world awoke to a technological advance that shook the foundations of biology and philosophy. On that day, we were introduced to Dolly, a 6-month-old lamb that had been cloned directly from a single cell taken from the breast tissue of an adult donor." (Brannigan, 10) But that was a sheep and as of today, there have been no confirmed occurrences of any human beings having been cloned. However, the Dolly phenomenon has brought human cloning as an event into the realm of possibility. Although it is rarely thought about by the average person on the street, man as a species is still in a constant battle to survive and evolve within the confines of nature. Through science and technology, man is on and will continue to be on a constant search for new and viable approaches to eliminate disease, disability and of course, death. Cloning is one such technology even though there are still many questions pertaining to the more controversial aspects of human cloning. "For instance, will cloning lead to objectification and exploitation of the human clone? What are likely consequences of human cloning upon siblings and upon society? The media has played a conspicuous role in fueling the debate and shaping the contours of the discussion. A deeper issue lies in the public's apparent fascination with cloning." (Brannigan, 184) This report will therefore attempt to present an understanding of what cloning really is and give insights into some of the potential highs and lows for current and future human beings.
Where are we today?
Human cloning calls into question the very nature and extent of moral rights. Aldous Huxley saw cloning as way to save the human race as far back as 1932 in his novel called 'Brave New World.' "One egg, one embryo, one adult -- normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety six human beings grow where only one grew before." (Huxley, 3) In 'Brave New World', cloning represented the general mood of the citizens to wipe out a bitter past and seek a more utopian society after the devastating effects of World War I. There is no doubt that cloning still can be seen as a possible solution for man and his attempt to create a world that is different from the present.
Consider that many social, political and religious debates are being argued right now that concern the technology and how human cloning will affect our future. It is ironic that there are so many disparities among man's cultural and ethnic lines when it comes to the acceptance of technology. In some circles for instance, a breakthrough can be instantly labeled as a serious threat to the overall well being of man and in another setting that same technology can be seen as a saving grace.
Like beauty, technology and scientific advancement such as the ability to clone humans is held in the eye of the beholder. Put another way, a nuclear arsenal could be seen as a beneficial necessity while in the hands of the United States but as the media makes us all very well aware, that same technology would be a potential world disaster in the hands of some other nation such as Libya or North Korea. Cloning may not have the same destructive potential as nuclear fallout, but there is just as much optimism and controversy associated with the topic.
Many individuals not in the scientific arena think that cloning is simply a process like 'in vitro fertilization' of human eggs. "And this, said the Director, is the fertilizing room." (Huxley, 3) Cloning is a complex process and can actually be thought of as the making, or yes, creation of an identical copy of some specific molecule, cell, tissue or an entire organism. Other definitions consider cloning as a form of asexual reproduction that would be very similar to how all pure cell cultures of bacteria reproduce.
The process entails hereditary of material created in a mutation process where all members of a clone of a single cell are genetically identical. "Cloning has been defined by a number of North American reference books, works of fiction, the entertainment industry, and the scientific literature. Webster's digital dictionary explains that the word, "clone," is from the Greek kion, which means "twig." The term "clone" was probably first used in the botanical field to describe the process of budding. Several current uses of the term are also given, one of which is generally accepted, namely, that cloning involves creating a genetically identical individual from a single, normal, body cell." (Brannigan, 153)
As noted, since Dolly, scientists have gone ahead and cloned other mammals such as mice, monkeys and cows. Yet, with each new success there is an associated and inherent urgency to answer ethical questions surrounding prospects of human cloning.
Cloning is seen in many circles as a continued source for the demise of the 'mother and father' familial structure we humans see as a basic foundation of human society. There are a number of ethicists, religious leaders, and others who call for the complete banning of any and all human cloning experiments or any associated technological research. The fear or potential has even made its way into the United States government which has outlawed many required aspects of the human cloning process.
Of course, this negativity may all just be based on the implications created by the media and science fiction movies. These associations may have inadvertently assigned many unclear identities to the prospect of human cloning or simply created the bad reputation that cloning now holds. "When cloning becomes an established procedure, as a result of the cooperative endeavors of pure science, applied science, and engineering, can anyone deny that it too will stretch the mind and enlarge the horizons of man? Nor do we need to wait for the fulfillment of what today is still largely a science-fiction dream for an example of how science stretches the mind. Think of Newton, of Darwin, of Einstein, of Watson and Crick." (Schilpp, 14)
Cloning and the Media
There is a definite interest around the world about human and animal cloning. Thus, there is a plethora of cloning statistics available according to Dr. Patrick Dixon who is the editor of the Human Cloning web sight. Movies and books on the subject abound and consider that there were more than five and a half million visits to web sites that house cloning content and more than thirteen thousand news stories regarding either human or animal cloning in just the past year. With all of this information available, how close is the scientific community to actually cloning humans?
Stories released a few years ago suggested that human cloning had already begun. The story by top reporters at CNN and 20/20 a few years ago told an amazing tale about a company called Clonaid. "Clonaid claims birth of first human clone (Eve) by caesarian section on 26th December 2002 and a second child in Europe (Netherlands) to a lesbian couple in early January, a third in late January to a Japanese couple who cloned their dead son, plus another to a couple from Saudi Arabia and a further child - country of origin not declared. But no evidence of any kind had been offered by mid February to substantiate their claims." (Dixon, Dr., Patrick, Human Cloning Headlines) Of course, no official confirmation was ever provided about Clonaid's claims and we as a nation are still waiting to see if this was nothing more than some elaborate hoax.
The Clonaid story certainly brings about questions for potential uses of cloning. But it also creates an entirely new form of potential racism and prejudice for our future. Who decides who can clone a person and on what would we as a species base those criteria? Basically, should a government establish some new future protocol or set of laws that would allow the process to systematically work for some and eliminate others or should cloning be allowed to move along without regulation and intervention?
Should we allow sick people to clone even when there is no cure for what ails them or should we attempt to create Harvard smart and Olympic ready children? "Licenses could be limited to healthy women between the ages of 20 and 40. In addition, licenses could be denied to women who are carriers of recessive genes that could be passed on to disadvantaged offspring. Similar rules would of course apply to men where appropriate. Suppose a wife is licensed but her husband isn't. This problem could be dealt with by using artificial insemination with government-approved sperm." (Pollock, 73)
As demonstrated by the example of Dolly the sheep, man currently…