Essay, Research Paper
Can we and should we clone humans?
Cloning humans has recently become a possibility that seems much more feasible in today’s society than it was twenty years ago. It is a method that involves the production of a group of identical cells or organisms that all derive from a single individual (Grolier 220). It is not known when or how cloning humans really became a possibility, but it is known that there are two possible ways that we can clone humans. The first way involves splitting an embryo into several halves and creating many new individuals from that embryo. The second method of cloning a human involves taking cells from an already existing human being and cloning them, in turn creating other individuals that are identical to that particular person. With these two methods almost at our fingertips, we must ask ourselves two very important questions: Can we do this, and should we? There is no doubt that many problems involving the technological and ethical sides of this issue will arise and will be virtually impossible to avoid, but the overall idea of cloning humans is one that we should accept as a possible reality for the future.
Cloning humans is an idea that has always been thought of as something that could be found in science fiction novels, but never as a concept that society could actually experience. “It is much in the news. The public has been bombarded with newspaper articles, magazine stories, books, television shows, and movies as well as cartoons”,writes Robert McKinnell, the author of Cloning: A Biologist Reports (24). Much of this information in these sources leads the public in the wrong direction and makes them wonder how easy it would be for everyone around them to be cloned. Bizarre ideas about cloning lie in many science fiction books and scare the public with their unbelievable possibilities. David Rorvik wrote a highly controversial book entitled In His Image. In it he describes the story of a wealthy man who decides to clone himself. He is successful in doing this and causes quite an uprise in his community. This book was written in the late seventies and even then, societies reaction to the issues of human cloning was generally a negative one. We face a problem today even greater than the one in this book and it involves the duplication of human beings in a society that has always been known for its diversity.
The main issue as to whether or not human cloning is possible through the splitting of embryos began in 1993 when experimentation was done at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington D.C. There Dr. Jerry Hall experimented with the possibility of human cloning and began this moral and ethical debate. There it was concluded that cloning is not something that can be done as of now, but it is quite a possibility for the future. These scientists experimented eagerly in aims of learning how to clone human. Shannon Brownlee of U.S. News & World Report writes, “Hall and other scientists split single humans embryos into identical copies, a technology that opens a Pandora’s box of ethical questions and has sparked a storm of controversy around the world” (24). They attempted to create seventeen human embryos in a laboratory dish and when it had grown enough, separated them into forty-eight individual cells. Two of the separated cells survived for a few days in the lab developed into new human embryos smaller than the head of a pin and consisting of thirty-two cells each (Brownlee 24).
Although we cannot clone a human yet, this experiment occurred almost two years ago and triggered almost an ethical emergency. Evidence from these experiments got strange reactions from the public. Shannon Brownlee claims, “The Vatican condemned the technology of this experiment as being perverse; one German magazine called the research `unscrupulous’” (24). This experiment opened the possibilities of cloning to society and, even though it was unsuccessful, led people to ask themselves what they would do if cloning were to happen. Common answers to the puzzling questions about humans and cloning are still trying to be answered today, and scientists and the public are eager to learn all they can about cloning. Many sources state that cloning is just simply an extension of in vitro fertilization, but the root of cloning goes further than that.
Cloning embryos is different from the genetic process of in vitro fertilization, but still holds many similarities with it. For example, the process of in vitro fertilization is pretty straightforward. It involves taking an egg from the woman and taking sperm from the man. The embryo is thus formed and implanted into the woman’s uterus. The embryo develops normally and is born with unpredictable characteristics of both the man and the woman. The offspring ends up as unique individual and excluding the special case of twins, has no other human being exactly like it. It uses one embryo that is from the beginning a distinct individual and creates only one human that is basically completely original. Cloning also goes through this same process, but it is unlike in vitro fertilization in that it takes the same type embryo and destroys its originality through duplication. Research on in vitro fertilization helps to improve its technique and also aids in scientists their search for better ways clone humans.
Since scientists have already done a great deal with in vitro fertilization, questions involving the “should we” aspect of this issue often arise. What extra little measure has to be taken to make a clone for a couple undergoing in vitro fertilization, and what would happen to our value of humans with this new reality? Barbara Ehrenreich makes a statement that seems to be quite sarcastic in its context, but it accurately describes the way that society’s attitude if cloning were to happen, she states,”Why not make a few backup copies of the embryo and keep a few in the freezer in case Junior needs a new kidney or cornea” (86). Another large aspect to consider is how much money the area of genetics uses every year. When cloning comes about, society profits will increase, and people will be willing to pay anything for a clone of themselves. It is such a costly form of technology. Society will do all kinds of things for money. A type of black market for embryos could easily someday develop. Parents already spend a great deal of money on in vitro fertilization, and who knows how much they would be willing to pay for cloning their children? The question as to what cloning would do to society from both the moral and economic standpoints comes to the conclusion that for the most part cloning is too expensive and too dangerous.
On the positive side of this issue, however, embryonic cloning could be a valuable tool for the studying of human development, genetically modifying embryos, and investigating new transplant technologies (Hamilton 42). Using cloning to produce offspring for the sake of their organs is an issue that we must also face and question whether or not it is morally right. No one will say that it is okay to kill a human being for the sake of their organs, but many have no objection to cloning thousands of individuals that look alike. Technology seems to take away many of the morals that we have worked so hard to install in society. Most people only seem to want to cater to their own needs and do not bother to consider the consequences that society and the clone may have to face. The issue of in vitro fertilization among embryos only leads the public to fear what may happen once cloning takes over, if it does.
With the issue of parents’ involvement in cloning, Barbara Ehrenreich of Time, writes, “Any normal species would be delighted at the prospect of cloning. No more nasty surprises like sickle cell or Down syndrome-just batch after batch of high-grade and, genetically speaking, immortal offspring!” She also believes that “any culture that encourages in vitro fertilization has no right to complain about the market of embryos”. A society that accepts a woman having an embryo implanted in her womb should be able to deal with it if those embryos are genetically identical. Many people believe that genetic material is more valuable than life itself.
The issue of what parents and the clones should do and feel comes up frequently when we ask our questions about the ethics of cloning. With the possibility of cloning their children, parents for example, can build a family of clones by storing siblings identical to their child in a freezer and thaw them out later when they decide to have another child. Although these children would be of different ages, they would look identical to one another. Shannon Brownlee claims, “A bizarre possibility to consider is that a woman conceived from a split embryo could give birth to her own twin” (24). This possibility only begins the crazy affects that cloning can have on society. What would one think if they were walking down the street and they saw a mother and her children walking side by side and they were identical looking just of different ages. Many ethicists maintain that parents have the right to do what they want to with their embryos, but others think that they should not take away any child’s chance at individuality. Just think, how would you explain the concept of cloning to your children, and what would their views about society be?
One of the many questions brought up was regarding whether or not cloning should be an option for parents that are considering having children. Many problems often occur with couples involving the issue of infertility. “Some people believe that cloning should aim its main focus to helping infertile couples-and they will likely conclude that there is nothing wrong with it. The scarcely hidden assumption that anything that helps overcome infertility is morally appropriate.” (McCormick 148). With in vitro fertilization so popular in today’s society among infertile couples, who is to say that in the future, cloning won’t take over? Cloning is noted to be better for treating infertility in the sense that it can eliminate health problems with the child from the beginning. This proves to be beneficial in the way that a couple is more than likely guaranteed a healthy child. Cloning does not, however, always prove to be beneficial. For example, in the case where a certain disease is on the rise and one of say three clones get it. The immune system of the other two clones is identical which proves that they have no guard against diseases.
Cloning from an already existing adult is a second method that we must consider when discussing the cloning of humans. This type of cloning would no doubt be a very controversial issue any way that it is looked at, but it is necessary to understand the two ways that it could be done if we were to clone humans. Unlike the process of cloning embryos, cloning from already existing humans allows one to know exactly what their clone will look like ahead of time. Before the clone is actually produced, the parents or the individual’s clone will know exactly what to expect in their offspring as far as looks go. Personality and other factors cannot be certain, but it is stated that if the clone is observed carefully and compared with its other clones, many similarities will automatically arise. Cloning among adults is less obtainable than embryonic cloning, but it seems to cause just as much controversy.
Since embryonic cloning has not been successful yet, no real experiments like the one performed at George Washington University have been done yet. We do know, however, know that cloning from an already existing human may effectively work in the near future. In a movie called, Boys from Brazil, two clones of Hitler are supposedly produced from a cell obtained containing Hitler’s genes. This cell was in turn joined with an egg, and an embryo was formed containing solely the genes of Hitler with only the necessary ones from the woman. This science fiction-like experiment was done for many reasons, but it was mostly intended to test the clones’ behavior away from one another and to see if any certain kind of attitude can be passed on from one clone to another. The boys in this movie seem to demonstrate this concept through their slight displays of Hitlers personality traits even after being raised apart with totally different lifestyles.
Although, this idea of cloning seems feasible, it is not very logical in today’s level of technology. A cell from a nonreproductive part of one’s body cannot be taken and used in place of a reproductive cell like sperm. This movie is not very accurate in its portrayal of the cloning process, but it does however, fully express the emotions felt by the clones and the others around them. The horizon for making a clone in the embryonic form is a very relative possibility within the next five to ten years. Who knows though, pretty soon we may be able to go out a choose the person that we want our child to look identical to and create a clone for them. Although in this movie there were only two clones created, the boys were supposed to have Hitlers genes and seemed to carry his violent instincts. This statement proves to be true in the movie but also lacks reality of everyday society in the way that not even a clone can be identical to its other clones because environment plays a very large role.
Studies of how the cloned individuals would relate to one another are found with the experiment of twins separated at birth and raised in two very different environments. Because nature makes its own clones through the process of twins, it is easy to research about how a clone might feel and how they would react to having another clone around them. Environment plays a big part in determining how a clone may turn out. In The Boys from Brazil, both boys develop their own personalities but still seem to have many similarities with one another. A bioethics researcher comments in Shannon Brownlee’s article about cloning and the influence that the environment has on it states, “you could clone one – hundred Hitler embryos and not get a single Hitler because he was shaped by his environment. But you can clone one-hundred Aryans because these things are not contingent on a particular environment” (Brownlee 25). This shows that even though these two boys were raised in very different ways, they still shared many similar traits. A similar kind of case study was done involving twins. “For centuries, scientists have been trying to figure out which factors play the most important role in the development of the human personality. Is it nature, nurture, heredity, or environment” (German 65). “How will it feel to be one clone among hundreds? The anticloners ask. Probably no worse than it feels to be the millionth 13-year-old dressed in identical baggy trousers, untied sneakers and baseball cap — a feeling usually described as `cool’.”, states Barbara Ehrenreich for Time magazine (20). Imagine walking down the streets and seeing hundreds of people that are identical to you but, just go by different names and dress differently. Cloning can be used to help a certain individuals live, but what will be the cloned individuals view on life? Once cloning is done, the clone and its original should have the same rights as any other potential people (Economist 20).
Many parents have great concern in regards to having a child that has been cloned. However, there are many excited parents looking forward to this breakthrough in technology. By looking at the many different reasons for cloning a child, one can better understand why it may seem appealing to parents. Cloning from an already existing human will provide the opportunity for parents to pick their “ideal” child. They will be able to pick out every aspect of their child and make sure that it is perfect before they decide to have it. For example, they can choose their hair and eye color and build almost exactly by looking at the individual they were cloned from (Voelker 331).
Whether or not cloning happens with embryos or adults, various groups in society may react very differently to it. For example, there are many religious groups that feel cloning should not be considered for any reasons whatsoever. Richard McCormick for Christian Century , believes that “human cloning is an extremely social matter, not a question of mere personal privacy. I see three dimensions to the moral question: the wholeness of life, the individuality of life, and the respect for life” (148). In his article based on religion and cloning, he explains that all creatures come from God with their own certain uniqueness about them. He points out the fact that the pre-embryo is human and is living even in it’s first stages of development. This somehow parallels to the issue of abortion and whether or not it is morally right. Religion is the root of many peoples’ values and their beliefs about things like cloning and abortion lie behind these. Richard McCormick basically summarizes the statement that society is already pretty messed up and with the idea of cloning in perspective, we need to beware as the future approaches.
No matter what we say or do, research for cloning will steadily continue and even more moral and ethical issues will arise. Who knows which of the two kinds of cloning will become the most popular in the future, but right now the main stand we need to take is whether or not it can be done and should be done. Who knows if human cloning done in research labs presently will go beyond the laboratory and affect individuals lives. What we do know however, is that cloning seems to very appealing in some aspects and very frightening in others. Barbara Ehrenreich makes a quite humorous pun commenting on coming possibility of cloning humans. She states,”When the technology arrives for cloning adult individuals , genetic immortality should be within reach of the average multimillionaire. Ross Perot will be followed by a flock of little re-Rosses” (86).
The BioFact Report
? Human Tissue: Pure human cells of one tissue type, from the individual who will be cloned.
? Human Tissue Culture Media: Media in which these human cells will grow and divide.
? Minimal Human Tissue Culture Media: Media in which cells will stop dividing, and enter a state of “quiescence” without dying.
? Laboratory supplies: Incubator, Sterile Hood, petri dishes, microscopes, and tools capable of removing and implanting cellular organelles, such as the nucleus, from one cell to another.
? Unfertilized human egg cells.
? Human Egg Cell growth media: Media where fertilized eggs will grow and divide.
1. Grow the human cells to be cloned until you have a good supply.
2. Transfer the cells to minimal media. [For now, The Sheep Cloning Paper is a good reference for exactly how long.] This should allow the cells to live, but they should stop dividing and enter quiescence. This is likely the step in which the cells lose their differentiation, and revert to a more totipotent state.
3. When the cultured cells are in the quiescent state, get an unfertilized human egg cell. Remove the nucleus from this egg cell. Try to minimize damage done to this cell and discard the nucleus.
4. Take one of the quiescent cells in it’s entirely, and implant it inside the coat around the egg (known as the zona pellucida) next to the egg itself.
5. Electroshock the egg. [For now, The Sheep Cloning Paper is probably a good reference for how much and how long to electroshock.] The electroshock induces the fusion of the two cells, so you should be able to tell when you’ve electroshocked enough just by looking at the cells. The rebooting of the human genetic program is believed to be initiated by the replacement of donor cell protien signals by egg cell protien signals, but the electroshock might assist in moving those protien signals across the nuclear membrane as well. Electroporation is a common technique for moving DNA molecules through a cellular membrane.
6. Repeat the last three steps as necessary until you have enough clones. Expect a lot of them not to survive because of cellular damage and other mishaps. Allow the embryos to grow and divide a few times in Human Egg Cell growth media.
7. Implant the embryos in human mothers where they will can be carried to term, and born normally.