Cloning is a Silly Issue

March 19, 2009 | By | 7 Replies More

As with Prohibition and Abortion, the Stem Cells and Cloning issues are handy distractions from real issues of national import, like infrastructure, economy,  and war. The War on Drugs is every bit as successful now as was Prohibition in the 1920’s. Abortion is a medical procedure that blatantly favors the rights of the host over the cluster of human cells growing within. Although abortion is periodically effectively outlawed, its incidence is never significantly reduced.

clone wars

Oddly, to mention stem cells brings a knee-jerk retort of “Cloning!” from some quarters. Cloning is only a dangerous issue to those who don’t actually know what it is. Let’s suppose that the technology were developed to create a healthy baby genetically identical to an existing adult. It would be an expensive procedure, and necessarily take as long as a normal gestation. But mutations occur with every cell division, so the original cloned blastocyst would be subtly different than the donor’s original blastocyst, however perfect the methodology.

The clone would also be raised in a different family, so we are now slightly farther apart than identical twins raised apart. Much more significantly, the gestation would be in a different environment (womb, timing, nutrition) creating many significant physical developmental differences between donor and clone.

I laugh when movie clones have all the same freckles, scars and other developmental marks as the donor. A perfect clone would resemble the donor much like a normal sibling raised separately.

Why would anyone bother?

Even with livestock. The genetic and health dangers of monoculture tree and vegetable farming are bad enough as a cautionary tale. Most people well enough educated to develop cloning know enough about the principles of evolution to know that duplication of a genome (however ideal it may be) in bulk is a Very Bad Idea.

But cloning research is a different issue. The research has very high potential for serendipitous results. As with the accidental discoveries of antibiotics and Teflon, one can only find things by looking for something in the same area, but rarely for the thing itself. Some of the possibilities include:

  • Growing cloned organs in vitro or in a host. Crichton wrote Congo based on the idea of cloned organs raised in host animals.
  • Learning enough about gestation to create artificial wombs would be of enormous benefit to premies and other medical problems.
  • Knowing how to start and stop cell and organ development could well lead to regrowing limbs and teeth and other organs directly in the host.

Some legislators are moving to block such research, in case it may lead to the possibility of someday making a clone. But why?

Soul? Find me two theologians who completely agree on when and where a soul is created and when it enters a body. Now find me as many who agree as scientists who agree that the soul is a product of biological structure and heuristic experience, a quickly growing number.

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Current Events, Education, Evolution, Human animals, ignorance, Law, Meaning of Life, nature, Politics, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Science, scientific method, Sex

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (7)

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Something akin to cloning happens in nature. We call the phenomenon "Identical twins".

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Amen to that, Niklaus. I can't believe the hysteria over cloning when a set of identical twins is what you would, indeed, get. Does anyone ever get upset that two twins might be two bizarro copies of the same person? Never. We give identical twins different names because we recognize distinct persons.

      I'm not advocating cloning of human beings. If it were allowed, it would probably be an expression of egoism that we simply don't need–it would invite lots of arms races as rich people who think that they are God's gift to the world because they are rich would run off to make copies of themselves. On the other hand, those copies wouldn't be copies any more than two identical twins are actually two occurrences of the same person.

  2. Rebecca Zaranko says:

    This was excellent. You have a great gift of simplifying things so that they're so clearly understood.

  3. Alison says:

    This made me think of the Hensel twins, who are conjoined at the torso, yet quite obviously two different girls. I found a blog discussing them, and hesitated to link here until I realized that the author's pose as a scientific authority was a good illustration of how this type of thing can be misconstrued – and how easily people can be duped into thinking a person who speaks with confidence actually knows what he's talking about. I'll leave it at that for now and see what other folks have to say.

    • Dan Klarmann says:

      Alison, I believe that an applicable term for authority based on nothing but confidence is "Priesthood". I fully expect people to verify any assertions that I post, and hope they will correct me when they find a discrepancy.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    I had lunch with an elder conservative fellow who was aghast at this contention. He said, "Cloning would be an absolute disaster for society."

    "Why?", I asked in my best wide-eyed Socratic innocence.

    He tried listing reasons. I kept countering with, "How is that different from normal adoption?" and "How is that different from host mothering?" or "In vitro fertilization?".

    Each time, stumped, he changed direction.

    Finally, he chided in exasperation, "If you don't get it, then you obviously won't get it."

    Yep. I don't get it. He never did arrive at any of my own stated reasons against it. But those are genetic rather than social issues.

    • Erika Price says:

      I find that this line of discussion often occurs when discussing moral judgements. A person can rationalize their moral decrees all they like, but when logical responses wall them up, they admit the real reason: "It's JUST WRONG!" Perhaps disgust leads this conservative fellow to abhor cloning, or perhaps it just strikes an emotional nerve. Regardless, his articulated system of morality is simply the fabric draped over a skeleton of more basic, impulsive notions.

      All of this of course traces back to Haidt's conception of morality, which has been referenced on this blog before (see here.)

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