Imagine it is the year 2008. As you pick up your daily issue of the New York Times, you begin to read some of the interesting articles on the front page. The top story of the paper reads, “Germany Wins All Gold Medals at the Olympic Games: Is Cloning in Competitive Events Fair?” Other interesting articles reported on the front page include: “Rock Star Stacy Levesque and Lover’s Nuclear Transplanted Child is Born” and “Former President George Bush’s Cloned Heart Transplant A Success.” These articles are examples of how much of an influence cloning can have in the future. Although these articles would have seemed like science fiction several years ago, the idea of cloning became a reality in 1997.
On February 27, 1997, it was reported that scientists produced the first clone of an adult sheep, attracting international attention and raising questions of whether cloning should take place. Within days, the public called for ethics inquiries and new laws to ban cloning. The potential effects of cloning are unimaginable. What would life be like with women who are able to give birth to themselves, cloned humans who are used for “spare parts”, and genetically superior cloned humans? Based on the positive advances of cloning versus the negative effects, one must ask oneself whether cloning humans should be banned entirely. According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, cloning is “to reproduce or propagate asexually.” This definition means that cloning enables the creation of offspring without any sexual action or sexual contact.
There are several methods for cloning: separating the embryo and making twins with the same genetic make-up, taking a cell from a fertilized ovum when the cell begins to split and replacing it in another female’s ovum, or nuclear transplantation. In the 10 March 1998 issue of Time, J. Madeleine Nash explains one example of how a clone of an adult ewe is “born” from nuclear transplantation. First, a cell is taken from the udder of an adult ewe and placed in a culture with very low concentrations of nutrients. As the cells starve, they stop dividing and switch off their active genes, and go into hibernation. An unfertilized egg is then taken from another adult ewe and the egg’s nucleus, along with its DNA, is sucked out, leaving an empty egg cell that still has the cellular machinery to produce an embryo.
The empty egg and the culture of starved cells are then placed next to each other. An electronic pulse then causes the egg and the cells to fuse together, and a second burst is given to jump-start the cell division. Six days later, the embryo is implanted in the uterus of another ewe. The result of this process will be the birth of a baby sheep, having identical genes as the first sheep from which the cells were extracted from the udder. Although scientists understand how cloning is possible and what the cloning methods are, exactly how the adult DNA changes once inside the egg still remains a question.
Whichever method is used to create a clone, the outcome remains the same – cloning is duplicating an exact copy of another life form. The term “cloning” was first introduced in 1903 by Herbert John Webber as a new horticultural term and was first applied to man-made populations of cultivated plants. In the early 1980s, scientists developed a procedure called nuclear transfer that enabled them to replace the DNA-containing nucleus of an egg cell with a nucleus from another cell. At Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, scientists raised a crop of tadpoles from the red blood cells of adult frogs. However, this experiment failed when the tadpoles died halfway through metamorphosis.
Last year, in the 27 February issue of Nature, Mr. Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, successfully created a clone of an adult ewe and named her Dolly. Dolly was “born” by taking genetic material from cells in the mammary glands of a 6-year-old ewe and putting the acquired cells into an unfertilized ovum. Out of 277 tries, researchers eventually produced only 29 embryos that survived longer than 6 days. Of these 29, all died before birth except Dolly.
Since Dolly was born, scientists have made additional advances in cloning and now harbor the concept of cloning humans. Those who support cloning argue that cloning can benefit the human race and society by contributing to medical and psychological studies, allowing infertile mothers to have biological children, and cloning animals or humans to attain needed organs. Many medical researchers can utilize cloned genes to diagnose many genetic diseases. By cloning genes, scientists can create hundreds of identical genes and diagnose mutations that result in the disease. By being able to work with identical genes, it would allow scientists to experiment with trial and error and compare the results of their experiments.
By using cloned genes for medical research purposes, it is possible to find cures for AIDS, cancer, and other biological diseases much more quickly. Other researchers who could benefit from cloning are psychologists. Last year, in my high school Psychology class, we debated whether a person’s personality was predetermined by their genetic makeup or if their environment shaped their personality. This debate could easily be solved with the help of clones.
For example, psychologists could take several genetically identical clones and raise them in various families with varied social statuses and lifestyles. As these clones grow in their respective environments, psychologists would be able to monitor their respective personalities and draw conclusions to answer the debate. Another group of people who would benefit from cloning is infertile women. Many women throughout the world cannot become pregnant because they are infertile. Although these women have the option to adopt, the fact remains that their adopted child is not biologically their own.
However, by cloning the infertile woman’s DNA and transplanting the DNA into another woman’s ovum, the baby will be born as the biological child of the infertile mother. Another fact that I found in my research was that there are approximately 50,000 people on the National Waiting List for an organ transplant, and out of these 50,000 people, only 20,000 will actually receive a transplant. If scientists could clone human organs, thousands of people who are awaiting an organ transplant could be saved. By cloning humans, surgeons could reap the organs of cloned individuals without actually killing a human being.
This process of growing human life as material is called “organ farming.” Through my research, I have found that the majority of people who support the applications of cloning have been from the medical or science communities. However, there are also many individuals outside of science and medicine who also support cloning. For example, Nicholas Coote, assistant general secretary of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference in England, defends cloning humans by stating, “If I have a clone of me, I am still unique as my clone has a consciousness that is not mine.” On the other side of the debate, those who advocate the ban on cloning argue that cloning is immoral and against God’s will.
Many people feel that scientists should not have the power to “play God” under any circumstances. In many religious articles, the authors were appalled by the notion that scientists were creating life. For thousands of years, religion has taught that the only human creations were Adam and Eve, and that only God and heterosexual reproduction could create life. Advocates of the ban on cloning believe that cloning is immoral and sinful. Another viewpoint against cloning, as E. V. Kontorovich said in his National Review article, “Cloning would take the humanity out of human reproduction.” Gary Bauer, President of the Family Research Council, also stated, “Human cloning should be banned because it transforms procreation into production where human children are the customized products.” Kontorovich and Bauer both imply that cloning humans would destroy the concept of humanity. Many people who support the ban on cloning feel that cloning is manufacturing human lives as if they were objects and not living beings. Another consequence of cloning humans is the fact that if offspring are identical to their parents, they cannot evolve to adapt to their environment.
E. V. Kontorovich pointed this out in his National Review article by stating, “It is necessary for species to respond to environmental changes so that the human species can evolve.” Although scientists would be able to create genetically superior humans at the moment, in the long run, humans may become less diverse and unable to adapt to changing climates or other changes in their environment.
Also, many supporters of the ban on cloning are worried that cloning could replace the “average human” with genetically superior clones, thus making the human race obsolete. If Adolf Hitler had today’s cloning technology, he might have been able to clone an army of genetically superior clones and taken over the world. Today, if a scientist capable of cloning humans joins terrorist organizations and clones a massive army of military generals, these organizations could succeed where Hitler failed.
To begin my research to answer my thesis, I visited the United States Military Academy Library and looked through reference books to get facts about human cloning and its possible effects on society. My next step was to look through scientific magazines to find published articles concerning cloning. These articles provided much information about cloning and the process of cloning. To find as much information as I could, I searched through articles on the library’s catalog online, scientific magazines, and even magazines on microfilm. When I felt that I understood the facts concerning cloning, I began to look through general magazines, articles on the Internet, and Internet web pages.
These articles provided mostly opinions of the controversial issue of cloning, and I was able to understand how different people viewed the issue of cloning and why they felt the way they did. After I gathered all of my information from photocopying articles and taking notes, I organized my information to match my outline and began writing my research paper. Cloning has become a very important issue that is affecting our world. What would the world be like with a superior race, such as the hypothetical German Olympic teams of 2008 or with armies of cloned humans conquering every continent on Earth?
Even if cloning is limited to medical research, there will always be scientists who will find ways to use cloning to their own personal benefit. Consequently, even if cloning is limited to medical research, there is still the risk of cloning humans. We simply cannot play God and create life because it is morally wrong, sinful, and most importantly, dangerous. The only answer to the cloning issue is to sacrifice the medical and biological gains of cloning and put an absolute ban on all cloning.
- Hansen, Kristin.
- Bauer Says Human Cloning Should Be Banned.” Family Research Council, 29 January 1998, accessed 4 November 1998. Available from http://www.frc.org/press/012998c.html.
- Karnad, Anand, Sergio Salazar, and Nikhil Patel. “Cloning to Produce Recombinant DNA.” In Magill’s Survey of Science, 2nd ed., edited by Magill, 505-511. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1991.
- Kontorovich, E. V. “Clone Wars: Asexual Revolution.” National Review, 9 March 1998, accessed 4 November 1998. Available from http://www.nationalreview.com/09mar98/kontorovich030998.html.
- Masood, Ehsan. “Cloning Technique Reveals Legal Loophole.” Nature, 27 February 1998, 757.
- Nash, J. Madeline. “The Age of Cloning.” Time, 10 March 1998, 62-65.
- Pennisi, Elizabeth and Nigel Williams. “Will Dolly Send in the Clones?” Science, 7 March 1997, 1415-1416.
- Stearn, William T. “Clone.” In The Encyclopedia of Biological Sciences, 2nd ed., edited by Taylor, Todd.
- “Xenotransplantation.” Cloning, November 1997, accessed 6 November 1998. Available from http://sites.unc.edu/daniel/11fall97/finals11/brianne/cloning.html.
- Travis, J. “Ewe Again? Cloning From Adult DNA.” Science News, 1 March 1997, 132.
- Wilmut, I., A. E. Schnieke, J. McWhir, A. J. Kind, and K. H. S. Campbell. “Viable Offspring Derived from Fetal and Adult Mammalian Cells.” Nature, 27 February 1998, 810-813.