Human Cloning Essay, Research Paper
Technology has been a fundamental aid to humanity almost since the beginning of our species. At the earliest period of human life not one but three separate species shared this planet and the taxonomic classification of the Homo genus. (Hominid ) For thousands of years Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthalensis, and the more intellectually advanced of the three, Homo Sapiens, coexisted in a constantly conflicting but stable relationship. Until, quite suddenly 100,000 years ago Homo Erectus disappeared from the face of the earth, with Homo Neanderthalensis quickly following. (Hominid ) Modern anthropologist and archeologist piece together clues from fossil records, cave paintings, and even studies with living aboriginal groups to draw conclusion as to what was the cause of this abrupt shift in the evolution of humanity. The most accepted theory to date depicts technology as the key factor. Homo Sapiens with its larger brain developed complex tools like spear throwers, fish nets, and the first cattle pens while its vestigial neighbors lagged always a step behind only capable of copying existing technologies. As the three species clashed for the best lands it was a superior intellect and a unique command of technology that afforded Homo Sapiens victory over its more physically impressive rivals.
Back home at the dawn of the information age cloning is among the newest and most controversial products of technology. The surprise announcement of the birth of a cloned ewe, Dolly, in 1997 by Scottish scientist Dr. Ian Wilmut shocked the world. Current cloning research is based primarily on Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, the technique developed by that Scottish lab. It involves extracting the DNA containing nucleus of an unfertilized egg and replacing it with the nucleus of a human cell. The egg
is then implanted into a surrogate womb and the resultant embryo is a clone of the person who donated the original human cell. (Bailey, 45) Even when this system of cloning was still in early stages of research scientists around the globe immediately realized it could be translated for use on humans, and the prospect of human cloning was not has complicated or challenging as previously thought. In the blink of an eye, the formerly fantastical notion of human cloning became a distinct possibility. This powerful new knowledge not only sparked the imaginations of people everywhere but also brought new questions to contemplate and responsibilities to shoulder. Prior to Dolly the issue of the morality and ethics of cloning had been relegated to discussions of a purely theoretical nature. Up until that point, to most people the possibility of human cloning in their lifetime was about as probable as getting beamed to the grocery store.
More recently, in a startling turn of events an American biotechnology firm in Massachusetts, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), announced they that had actually produced a living human embryo via Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer. Most staggering of all, they claimed to have done it three years ago. (Arnst, 67) One of their researchers, Dr. Jose Cibelli inserted his own genetic material into a blank nucleus of a cell taken from a cow. A hybrid ball of human cells occupied the bovine egg and grew for two weeks before the researchers terminated it. (Arnst, 67) Had it been transplanted into a surrogate mother and permitted to grow to maturity the ensuing offspring would have been Dr. Cibelli s exact duplicate. The company had kept their breakthrough secret for so long for fear of public backlash, and only released this astonishing news in November of 2000 when a new CEO was installed. Clonaid, a company backed by an unconventional
religious group called the Raelians and based in the Bahamas where there is no legislation banning human cloning research, plans to finish the job ACT started. Clonaid s team of international scientists led by French biochemist Brigitte Boisellier hopes to produce a replacement copy of a deceased 10 month old girl before then end of 2001, and by all rational estimations they have the expertise and the funding to succeed. (Gibbs, 51)
The vast majority of experts in the genetic and reproductive sciences agree that human cloning is not a particularly difficult procedure. In fact, sequencing and recording the 30,000 genes of the human genome was a far more arduous, time consuming, and expensive undertaking. Groups such as ACT and Clonaid have already begun the initial undertakings and many more companies are sure to follow into the potentially very profitable new industry of human cloning. Now that we know human cloning can and will be done the natural question is should it be allowed?
After the initial report of the successful cloning of an adult mammal in Scotland then President Clinton ordered the formation of a National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC). In their initial report, Cloning Human Beings, they include an article with the resolute title, The Risks of Human Cloning Outweigh the Benefits, in which they provide numerous arguments for the banning of human cloning. Among the most prominent state that cloning should be barred because it fosters the treatment of people as objects, provides no clear benefits in exchange for risks, fosters aberrations of social structures, and compromises the dignity and uniqueness of individuals. (United States) Anti-cloning groups have since expanded upon these initial opinions.
The assumption of those in favor of banning human cloning seems to be that the entire process of cloning is, at its root, a process that reduces human beings to the status of instruments, denying them their natural right to a position of dignity as ends in and of themselves. At this most fundamental level, clones would be human beings created, at least in part, to fulfill the will of another human being. Additionally, due to the untried and experimental nature of cloning procedures it is impossible to suitably protect a human subject from serious harm. Consequently, the basic ethical rules of human experimentation, which prohibit potentially dangerous medical procedures except in cases of disabling sickness, preclude its use on humans. (United States) As for the potential for malformation of social structures, some arguments against human cloning state in a rather Huxleyian view that the ultimate result of tampering with our own genome will result in a two class society where the wealthy with access to genetic alterations will rule over a lower class of naturals who still reproduce the old fashioned way. The final claim of the NBAC asserts that cloning would deprive people of their right to uniqueness and that compromising that distinctiveness may lead to regrettable and permanent consequences. They contend that a cloned individual will be saddled with a genotype that has already lived. Unlike natural born humans, he or she will not be fully ignorant of their destiny; people are likely to always compare their performances in life with that of their alter ego. (United States) What effect this will have on individuals or society as a whole is unknowable and hence undesirable.
The singular flaw in each and all of these arguments is that they deal in potentialities. True, it is possible that widespread cloning could have any of the
deleterious side effects described by its detractors, but that rationale applies to all new technologies. Comparatively, its arguable that the advent of television has done as much harm as good, and like any technology cloning has the capacity for both good and evil. Cloning technology could produce perfect replacement organs using a patients own genetic blueprints, solve the world s infertility problems, and alleviate all manner of human suffering.
Cloning cannot bring back a lost child because intangibles like memories, experiences, and consciousness are not recorded in our DNA. (Krueger, 2) But what it can do is give parents a second opportunity to raise a lost child. What’s more, cloning could drive infertility, a curse to millions, into extinction. And, thousands die every year awaiting fluid, tissue and organ transplants that aren t available to them, they cant afford, or simply aren t in abundant supply. Cloning technology has the potential to play a tremendous role in solving this problem because it would supply an economical means of mass-producing custom made, perfect organic materials. (Bailey, 46) Genetic science is clearly the next evolutionary step in modern medicine, and cloning is clearly an important piece of that step.
The potential medical benefits are too great to let nebulous fears prevent further exploration. Once the technology is safe and reliable, it should be applied with all due caution to humans, taking great care to avoid abuse. Existing mechanisms to regulate medical technology are adequate. Case-by-case hearings in the United States work well for weighing the risks and rewards of somatic engineering protocols, and could be extended to genetic procedures and other sensitive interventions such as cloning. New
technologies make us uneasy, but that’s no reason to recoil from them. To ensure that they’re applied safely and sensibly, it is necessary to get into the trenches and struggle to balance the dangers and benefits of real procedures on real people in real situations.
Technology aided our vestigial ancestors in overcoming their competitors and securing Earth for their inhabitation, but technology has its inglorious moments in history as well. The original Homo Sapiens not only wiped out the rivals in its own family line with their technologies, but hunted hundreds of species of animals into extinction. Moreover, once the use of the spear had become widespread Homo Sapiens choose to use their control of technology for a new and improved weapon, the bow and arrow. The early weapons begat the firsts firearms which begat the first bombs and in our own time, living weapons in the form of engineered biological agents. While, weaponry was one product of technology it certainly wasn t the only. Technology allowed for the first farms, the first cities, the first doctors, and countless other institutions we would now find exceedingly difficult to live without. It s clear that humanity has the potential to use its tools to harm, but technology serving noble purposes has facilitated the maturation of our civilization. If history has taught us anything about humanity s relationship with its technology, whether spears, farms, or clones, it is that a tool is only as moral or malign as the hand that wields it..