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Human Cloning

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The cloning of humans is now very close to reality, thanks to the historic scientific breakthrough of Dr. Ian Wilmut and his colleagues in the UK. This possibility is one of incredible potential benefit for all of us. Unfortunately the initial debate on this issue has been dominated by misleading, sensationalized accounts in the news media and negative emotional reactions derived from inaccurate science fiction. Much of the negativity about human cloning is based simply on the breathtaking novelty of the concept rather than on any real undesirable consequences. On balance, human cloning would have overwhelming advantages if regulated in a reasonable way. A comprehensive ban on human cloning by a misinformed public would be a sorry episode in human history. This essay will discuss both the advantages and the alleged negative consequences of human cloning.

What is a Human Clone?

A human clone is really just a time-delayed identical twin of another person. Science fiction novels and movies have given people the impression that human clones would be mindless zombies, Frankenstein monsters, or "doubles." This is all complete nonsense. Human clones would be human beings just like you and me, not zombies. They would be carried and delivered after nine months by a human mother and raised in a family just like everyone else. They would require 18 years to reach adulthood just like everyone else. Consequently, a clone-twin will be decades younger than the original person. There is no danger of people confusing a clone-twin with the original person. As with identical twins, the clone and DNA donor would have different fingerprints. A clone will not inherit any of the memories of the original person. Because of these differences, a clone is not a xerox copy or "double" of a person, just a much younger identical twin. Human clones would have the same legal rights and responsibilities as any other human being. Human clones will be human beings in every sense. You could not keep a clone as a slave. Human slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865.

It should be emphasized that all human cloning must be done on an individual voluntary basis. The living person who is to be cloned would have to give their consent, and the woman who gives birth to the clone-twin and raises the child must also be acting voluntarily. No other scenario is conceivable in a free democratic country. Because cloning requires a woman to gestate the baby, there is no danger of evil scientists creating thousands of clones in secret laboratories. Cloning will be done only at the request and with the participation of ordinary people, as an additional reproduction option.

Many people have asked, "Why would anyone want to clone a human being?" There are at least two good reasons: to allow families to conceive twins of exceptional individuals, and to allow childless couples to reproduce. In a free society we must also ask, "Are the negative consequences sufficiently compelling that we must prohibit consenting adults from doing this?" We will see that in general they are not. Where specific abuses are anticipated, these can be avoided by targeted laws and regulations, which I will suggest below.

The cultural and economic value of cloning Clint Eastwood would be enormous.

Cloning Exceptional People

Exceptional people are valuable in many ways, both culturally and financially. For example, US movie stars and sports stars are often worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Let's consider the specific example of Clint Eastwood. His films have grossed several billion dollars over thirty years. Today he is 67 years old and nearing the end of his acting and directing career. He is one of the most popular living movie stars. As Richard Schickel says in an essay on Eastwood, "For actors, more than for most people, genetics is destiny." The cultural and economic value of cloning Clint Eastwood would be enormous. Tens of millions of fans would be delighted. Furthermore, this could be done very conveniently. He certainly has the financial resources to pay for the procedure. His new wife is of child-bearing age, and could easily carry and deliver the child, which would be brought up in the family. If the Eastwood family decided they wanted to do this, why should government prohibit it? Why should this be a crime?

Clint Eastwood

The same argument applies to sports stars. For example, people have suggested cloning Michael Jordan, the super basketball player. Obviously this should only be done with the approval of Mr. Jordan and a woman, preferably married, who wants to raise the child. Millions of basketball fans would applaud the announcement of the successful cloning of Michael Jordan. There would be widespread interest and incentives in the cloning of other major sports figures, for example Wilt Chamberlain, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, the last major league baseball player to bat over .400. Of course, we will have to wait about 20 years for the twins of these great sports figures to reach adulthood, and there is always the possibility that the twin might not be interested in sports. But with the prospect before them of earning millions of dollars, this does not seem very likely.

Why should we not also allow the cloning of distinguished intellectuals and scientists, such as science fiction visionary Arthur C. Clarke, Dr. Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, and even Dr. Ian Wilmut himself? Wilmut is certain to win the Nobel prize in medicine/physiology. In fact any Nobel prize winner would be worth cloning for the potential future contribution which their twin might make. Again we are talking about the decision being made by the individuals directly involved: the DNA donor, the woman who will bear the child, and her husband who would help in raising the child.

Arthur C. Clarke

Cloning is also reasonable in the case of even ordinary individuals. The concept of "exceptional people" is not limited to movie stars and Nobel prize winners. All of us know people we admire and respect. We sometimes think to ourselves, "Wouldn't it be nice if there were more people in the world like that?" Human cloning allows us to go beyond wistful thoughts of this kind. Suppose old Uncle Max is a great guy, regarded with affection and respect in the community and by his family. His niece and her husband decide they would like to have a child just like Uncle Max. He is flattered and agrees to allow himself to be cloned. Why



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