the Cloning Blog

Saturday, December 02, 2006

the sides of the debate -- an introduction

We live in a world ruled by science, a world where scientific research is constantly opening new avenues to what mankind can do. Over time, science has made communication and transportation easier, taking us as far as the moon. It has given us buildings, houses, and huge structures to support the ever increasing human population. Medicine has enabled us to counter many diseases and we have now been over to control and prevent the outbreak of many illnesses and even plagues. One scientific field that has greatly prospered in the past decades has been that of bio-technology. With research in the fields of DNA, genetic engineering, stem-cells, and cloning, things which once seemed impossible now appear over the horizon. But some of these fields have moral and ethical issues attached to them, and there is no better example of this fact than cloning.

Cloning was envisioned by Hans Spemann back in 1938.1 Since then, we have succeeded in cloning of various mammals including cattle and sheep. The first animal to be successfully cloned from an adult was a sheep, named Dolly, cloned in 1996.2 That single event sent shock-waves through the human community. All of a sudden, all newspapers were running articles on Dolly. Many scientists, ministers, and religious leaders were suddenly crying for attempts on human cloning to be banned. President Clinton moved fast, instantly proposing a five-year ban on human-cloning research. What was it about human cloning that made it so controversial? How is it different from any other form of scientific research? The USP of cloning is that for the first time humans are close to being able to create other humans at will, with genes as desired. The whole idea of ‘creating’ humans is associated with many religious feelings, ethics, moral beliefs of people, and the fear of loosing identity and uniqueness. Today, we live in a democratic nation, and in such a country, the people have to decide if and where to draw the line on such research. Couples have the right to reproduce, but do they have the right to technological aid in the process?3 What if the reproduction is not in the child’s best interests?3 In a democracy, the society has to make these decisions.

The strongest argument pro-cloning is the possibility of “improving genetic inheritance.”5 If a person is known to have a genetic disease, and cloning was possible, the child could easily be given the genes of the other parent thereby totally preventing the disease. With cloning, we could aid infertile couple and even lesbians and gays in having children.

As Gregory Pence suggests in the book, ‘Who’s Afraid of Human Cloning?’,

“Yes there might be mistakes in trying to give children a better genetic start in life (but there are mistakes in choosing schools, in trying to plan conception of children, in estimating one’s capacity to be a good parent, and such mistakes don’t justify a policy that bans children).”

On the other hand, there are views strongly against cloning. Firstly, cloning has not advanced enough to be safe for the developing child who may be born with defects, signs of pre-ageing or not born at all. It took Dr. Ian Wilmut 277 attempts to clone Dolly! Even after Dolly was born, she started showing sings of aging very quickly for although she herself was relatively young, the adult sheep from which she was cloned was 6 years old.6 Though a child produced via such asexual reproduction may be free of a certain disease, would he feel too ‘burdened by the excessively close resemblance to one parent’ or ‘overwhelmed by the burden of knowing too much about their bio-logical destiny’4? What if the clone ‘elicits improper responses from the society’4? Should a clone be condemned to such a life? Or what if one day, we become so advanced in cloning perfect individuals that sexually produced children seem incompetent in comparison? Many faiths too have their own religious reasons for condemning human cloning. All the questions above need considerable consideration before cloning is given the go ahead.


1. “CNN Cloning Timeline”, CNN Health

2. Austin Cline,, “Timeline of Cloning History”

3. Glenn McGee. "The Human Cloning Debate". Berkeley Hills Books. June 1998; page 84

4. Glenn McGee. "The Human Cloning Debate". Berkeley Hills Books. June 1998; page 91

5. Gregory E. Pence. "Who’s afraid of human cloning?" Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. January 1998; page 101

6. “Is Dolly Old Before Her Time?”. BBC News. May 27, 1999. September 24, 2006.


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