Friday, June 12, 2015

On Human Cloning [Clinton Wilcox]

I recently made an appearance on the Atheist Analysis podcast to talk about stem cell research and cloning. In this podcast I decided to focus on non-religious reasons for my position since I was talking to two atheists. However, I recently received a follow-up e-mail from a listener regarding what the theological response to cloning would be. I was informed that this would make a good topic for an article, so here it is. Most of the information contained in this article was influenced by Edwin Hui's fantastic book, At the Beginning of Life: Dilemmas in Theological Bioethics. I don't agree with absolutely everything in the book, but that's only a small minority. If you are interested in more information on cloning, or most other topics relating to bioethics, you should read that book. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "do it! Do it now!"

Basically, there isn't really a theological case against (or for) human cloning because like abortion, there really isn't a discussion of cloning in the Bible. However, unlike abortion, in which it was occurring in pagan nations but there is silence in Scripture because Christians simply weren't engaging in the practice, the Bible is silent on cloning because at the time the Scriptures were written the practice wasn't even on humanity's radar as a reality. So in regards to human cloning, we can take what we know from Scripture and then come to a conclusion whether or not human cloning is permissible from there.

Biblically, we are considered full human beings made in the image of God from fertilization (see my article Does the Bible Justify Abortion? for more on this). God is the author of life, and only he has authority over it. In certain cases, that authority has been given to human beings (such as the ability to deliver capital punishment), but only in those specific cases. In the cases of abortion and human cloning, that authority has not been given to us.

With Jurassic World out today (don't worry, no spoilers!), I think it's appropriate to talk for a moment about Ian Malcolm. The original Jurassic Park was a movie about cloning Dinosaurs, not human beings, but something that Malcolm says in that film is something that I quote often, and I think about whenever I hear about some of the things scientists are willing to do. It is also appropriate in the context of cloning humans. Malcolm said, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should." This is an excellent example of why science needs philosophy. Left unchecked, scientists can do just about anything once they learn enough. But as the Federation President once said in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, "Just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we must do that thing."

So I think it's important to point out that I don't hate technology, and I'm not afraid of technology, per se. I just think that when it comes to what technologies we ought to be using and developing, we need to think carefully about it.

One of the main problems with human cloning is that it hasn't be perfected. There has been some success in cloning animals, such as the sheep Dolly. However, before Dolly was successfully cloned, 277 attempts in cloning were made, with only 29 resulting in embryos that lived longer than six days (Hui, At the Beginning of Life, p. 241), This means that hundreds (perhaps many more than in cloning sheep) of human embryos would be destroyed and experimented on for the purpose of scientific advancement. If the unborn are full human persons (as I have argued elsewhere), then this is tantamount to human experimentation, which is highly immoral.

The problem with some reproductive technologies, like cloning, is that it places the desires of the parents above the natural rights of the child. Two of the main reasons for cloning are to grow body parts or organs to replace your failing ones, or to replace a loved one who has died. In both cases, the natural rights of the child (even if the child is biologically identical to you) are ignored.

A cloned human being would be a full human being, just like any other person. This means that it would be wrong to kill them unjustly, even if the purpose for their creation was to replace your failing body parts. Growing a clone for his/her body parts will treat this new human as merely a means to an end, which is highly immoral, as all human beings must be treated as ends in themselves.

A cloned human being to replace a loved one suffers a different problem. If a grief-stricken parent loses a beloved child and attempts to clone the child, there is no guarantee the child will be exactly the same. In fact, the child likely will not be. Even identical twins have differences. In some twins, one is right-handed while the other is left-handed. This is because genes, even identical ones, express themselves differently. And since nurture is at least as important as nature in our development, a cloned child likely will not turn out exactly the same. If we could somehow find Mozart's DNA and clone him, he may very well turn out to be a drunken deadbeat, or an athlete, since he would not have the same overbearing father the first Mozart had to drive him to greatness as a composer.

Children have natural rights as human beings, which includes the right to life. This also includes the right to uniqueness. To usurp these rights for the desires of the parents would be very wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated. We reject all comments containing obscenity. We reserve the right to reject any and all comments that are considered inappropriate or off-topic without explanation.