Human Cloning - The Clone Wars

February 08, 2009
Ashoka Chakra

Seeing double seems to have acquired a new meaning lately, thanks to the controversy over cloning. After all, cloning is an issue that tests our very sense of identity and therefore it is critical that this be looked at carefully. There seem to be two aspects to this controversy: animal cloning and human cloning.

There appears to be a consensus that animal cloning is acceptable so long as it satisfies the need for human medical and scientific advancement. The present purpose of cloning animals is for animals to serve as modern organ factories — a combination of Orwell's Animal Farm (in reverse) and Chaplin's Modern Times. The mental image is of a factory with grunting cloned pigs rolling on the conveyor belt to be slaughtered, and their organs harvested to be sent to hospitals for transplantation. To many, this is the price that animals pay for not being at the top of the evolutionary scale. The rationale is that if we can kill them to eat them, surely we can clone them and harvest them. Except for the animal right activists, unfortunately very few seem to be bothered by this.

The issue of human cloning seems to be a different matter altogether. It is an issue that pits scientists and medics against religious leaders and politicians (with plenty of crossover between the groups). The subliminal question appears to be — if God creates an individual human (however indirectly) can there be more than one of that individual at the same time? Would that second individual have a soul? If not, do we want soul-less beings amongst us? If the duplicate had a soul, where did that soul come from? Certainly it would not come from the traditional route assumed in most, if not all, religions of the world. If two identical beings did exist at the same time, it implies that the first one is not unique, with attendant implications on life and creation as a whole. No wonder the strongest opposition to human cloning comes from the creationists amongst us.

As can be expected, there are many counter arguments. Some say that human cloning is justified for scientific progress. Others would say that cloning is justified for the medical benefits it could provide — stem cells, haplo-identical organs, etc. Finally, there are some that seek immortality, through cloning. After all, if one can buy a stairway to heaven, cloning is certainly a step in the right direction.

Like many complex issues (such as abortion), there are many points to consider. These considerations need time. However, when science moves faster than our hearts and minds do, the luxury of time is absent where we can cogitate and ponder over these issues. It is unlikely that there ever will be a consensus on human cloning, but whatever the decision made, at least all sides would have had their say and the issue thoroughly explored.

Maybe we could learn from Dolly, the world's first mammal cloned by the Roslin Institute in Scotland on Feb. 23, 1997. She was euthanized on February 14th, 2003 (Valentines Day), well short of her normal lifespan after being diagnosed with progressive lung disease. The premature death of the famous clone raises the issue of over whether animal cloned from adults inevitably produces flawed copies. There are now hundreds of animal clones around the world, including cows, pigs, mice and goats, many of them appearing robust and healthy. But many attempts to clone animals have ended in failure. Deformed fetuses have died in the womb with oversized organs, while others were born dead. Still others died days after birth, some twice as large as they should have been.

Dolly's body has been promised to the National Museum of Scotland and will eventually be put on display in Edinburgh. Will a similar fate befall cloned humans?

So, to go back to the question - to clone or not to clone, I’d say wait. Till we figure out the science, the morality, and the ethics. It is too important an issue to rush into.

Favorite books: Germs of War (Ketan Desai), Moby Dick (Herman Melville), Sherlock Holmes Treasury (Conan Dolye)
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Human Cloning - The Clone Wars


Author: Ashoka Chakra


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February 8, 2009
10:37 AM

Yes, one is left with no answers to these questions. Cloning humans seems too tricky an issue to jump into. Its okay in science fiction, but the idea of having any munber of copies of me walking around gives me the creeps. It would be too confusing a world - which one is my husband's wife? Would they be my parents' daughter? How would I myself react to - me, and me, and me, and ....gives me a headache. Spare us. Animal cloning is okay, for experimental purposes - though actually the life span of a cloned animal is too short - it would have only limited use.

February 8, 2009
12:48 PM

A cloned human will never be the same as the original because of the differences in the time, place, environment of growing up.

Even identical twins, who grow up in the same family, same time, same schools etc. begin to differentiate after a while.

A clone would be way much different. Time, place, family, diet, all these things play a big part in shaping an individual. The fears the original being is no longer unique are unfounded.

The problem I see is the the initial half failed experiments and lives of people they would affect.
But if cloning technology results in bringing down the overall birth disorders, then we are good.

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