Cloning Canards

All over the world governments are debating the issue of human cloning. And all over the world supporters are attempting to confuse the public so that cloning is not banned. Nevertheless, no amount of word playing by unscrupulous researchers will change the fact that cloning is immoral.

There are a few issues I would like to address in this essay. They are: WHAT IS HUMAN CLONING?

Human cloning is the asexual reproduction of a human organism which is genetically virtually identical to an existing or previously existing human being.1 Cloned humans are produced by either embryo splitting or nuclear transfer. Embryo splitting is the deliberate division of an early embryo into two or more genetically identical embryos.2 This also happens naturally, in the case of identical multiple births. Nuclear transfer is the process of removing the nucleus of a mature egg and replacing it with the nucleus of a donor cell from an existing or previously existing human being.3

What is the difference between "reproductive" cloning and "research" cloning?

There is absolutely no difference in the initial procedure.4 A human embryo is produced in both cases. The difference is whether the clone will be killed or brought to term. Both of the terms are linguistically incorrect. Since cloning produces an embryo, reproduction has occurred. Therefore, when we say "reproductive cloning" we might as well be saying "reproductive reproduction." "Research" cloning is often referred to as "therapeutic" cloning. This is a misnomer. Therapy involves treating and healing the problems of a subject. In the case of research cloning, however, the subject is killed. When was the last time death was considered therapy?

Does cloning really produce an embryo?

Some researchers have decided to promote junk science in order to facilitate the continuance of their research. They claim that their research does not produce embryos. However, this is patently false.

On April 25, 2002, Dr. John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University, one of the discoverers of human embryonic stem cells and a supporter of human cloning for research, told the President's Council on Bioethics he thinks the product of cloning is and should be called an "embryo." He said:
I know that you are grappling with this [question of whether a cloned embryo created in the lab is the same thing as an embryo produced by egg and sperm, and whether we should call it an "embryo" ], but anything that you construct at this point in time that has the properties of those structures to me is an embryo, and we should not be changing vocabulary at this point in time. It doesn' t change some of the ethical issues involved.5
WHAT IS CLONING NOT?

I have read and heard too many people saying that "reproductive" cloning will end the suffering of parents who have lost their children. This is simply not true. The genetics of a child's clone would be identical, but the clone will have different memories, different experiences, different relationships, and a different age. He will be a genetic twin of the deceased, but he will not be the deceased. If parents who have lost their children want another child but can't have one naturally, then they should adopt!

ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES TO SUCH RESEARCH?

The main reason for "therapeutic" cloning is to produce embryonic stem cells. It should first be noted that there are no animal models in which embryonic stem cells or cloned embryonic stem cells have cured diseases.6 Furthermore, new research has opened the door to possible treatments using adult stem cells, which seem to have similar properties to the stem cells of embryos.7 Use of adult stem cells would be more economical since they would not depend on the availability of human eggs which are in short supply.8

An editorial from the December 1, 2000 issue of New Scientist states,
...Ministers in Britain have too easily swallowed the line that cloning human embryos is essential to medical progress. It is not. ...Like stuck records, ministers and policy makers continue to enthuse about therapeutic cloning even though the majority of bench scientists no longer think it's possible or practicable to treat patients with cells derived from cloned embryos. They have already moved on to investigating the alternatives.
ARE THERE SCIENTIFIC PROBLEMS RELATED TO CLONING?

Yes. The U.S. House of Representatives Values Action Team produced the following list of problems: WHY IS IT WRONG?

"Research" cloning is wrong because it destroys human life. It makes human life a commodity rather than treating it with the respect it deserves. If only "research" cloning is allowed, it will be a crime NOT to destroy human life. And what happens when someone someday somewhere allows a clone to be born? Is the clone to be destroyed after birth, or will he or she be condemned to a life as a lab rat?

As noted above, "research" cloning will inevitably lead to "reproductive" cloning. "Reproductive" cloning will open the door to Pandora's Box. There are numerous ethical concerns regarding human cloning including the following: This list should certainly be enough to end talk of cloning, but some people have even noted the future consequences as well, such as governments using the technology to produce armies of clones, and other unforeseeable dangers.

CONCLUSION

Cloning is wrong, despite the canards put out by cloning supporters. "Research" and "reproductive" cloning are both morally repulsive proposals which must be stopped. Those who champion science above all else say that these matters should be left to scientists. But who would argue that one must fully understand how to assemble a nuclear bomb before condemning its deployment? Likewise, we do not need to be scientists to know that cloning will produce disastrous results. We must act now to outlaw it while the majority still opposes it. Repetitive exposure to the idea will eventually lead to indifference, and then it will be too late.



References

1. U.S. House, Values Action Team. Talking Points: Cloning
2. Prolife Alliance. CORE Briefing
3. ibid
4. ibid
5. National Right to Life Committee. Does "research cloning" create a human embryo?
6. U.S. House, Values Action Team. Talking Points: Cloning
7. Prolife Alliance. CORE Briefing
8. ibid
9. U.S. House, Values Action Team. Talking Points: Cloning