Human Cloning - Individualistic vs. Communitarian
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Human Cloning - Individualistic vs. Communitarian
In many controversial topics around the world, we can
find differing positions, and opinions. Many of these arguments, can be narrowed
down to two different views, or constructs: individualistic and communitarian
(an image of collectivism). An individualistic viewpoint "stresses the rights of
the individual as a unique being" (class review). A communitarian viewpoint is
more concerned with the good for the greatest number, "even if an individual
must suffer or sacrifice" (class review). These different elements do not
necessarily label the people as opposed to, or in favor of the topic here. They
just show where your motivations lie, is your involvement for self fulfillment
or for the good of society? Within the contents of this paper, I will analyze
the elements of individualism and collectivism that exist in the controversial
topic of cloning.
When Dr. Ian Wilmut, a 52-year-old embryologist at the Roslin
Institute in Edinburgh announced on that he had replaced the genetic material of
sheep's egg with the DNA from an adult sheep, and created a lamb (Dolly), the
topic of cloning "created" many new questions of its own. None were as
controversial as: Will they apply this to humans as well? According to Dr.
Wilmut, the answer was "there is no reason in principle why you couldn't do
it"(clone humans), but he added, "All of us would find that offensive."(Wilmut
as quoted by NYTimes, Daniel Callahan, 02/26/97).
From an individualistic viewpoint, those in favor of cloning human
beings, do not see it as morally, or ethically wrong. Many see it as an
opportunity to have children, or possibly to "re-create" a child who is dying
from a terminal illness. Using a deterministic argument, many infertile couples
are worried that any "government restrictions on human cloning might hurt their
chances some day for bearing children through new medical technology" ( Newsday,
Thomas Maier, 03/14/1997). In a form of expressive individualism, Tom Buckowski,
from Studio City, California said, "It's my body, my choice, right? But what if
I want my body cloned and warehoused for spare parts? Upon what basis can
government decide what I can or cannot do with my body?"(Los Angeles Times,
3/07/1997). In both examples, the predominant voice is that of the first
language of individualism. The first language refers to the "individualistic
mode that is the dominant American form of discourse about moral, social, and
political matters" (Bellah et al, Habits of the Heart, pg.334).
Anita Manning, a writer for USA TODAY revealed another
individualistic argument in favor of cloning. In her article "Pressing a
"right" to clone humans," Manning interviews a group of gay activists, who see
"breakthroughs in animal cloning technology as a path toward same-sex
reproduction." With their argument of genetic determinism, many individuals
state that now that the technology is available, its use is inevitable. Randolfe
Wicker, a New York businessperson, founded the Clone Rights United Front after
reports of the successful cloning. He said "we're fighting for research . . .
and we're defending people's reproductive rights." These examples show a very
individualistic language use in favor of cloning, ironically many people who
fight for the rights of individuals, form collectives to do so.
In his Tuesday, February 25, 1997 article Should We Fear Dolly? James
K. Glassman, a writer for the Washington post has more of a "republican" voice
when discussing his favorable views on cloning. A republican voice, or second
language is one that sees the benefits for society as a whole, over the
consideration of the individual, though not exclusively. He points out
"treatments to cure human diseases," and the ability to produce organs for
transplanting as benefits for all of society. Also, with a deterministic voice,
he points out that while cloning people is against the law in other countries,
it is not in the United States. He said "I don't think it should be --certainly
not at this stage . . . Trying to stop intellectual progress, in any form, is a
terrible mistake." Furthermore, "the technology is not, in principle, policeable.
In other words, you couldn't really stop research on human cloning if you wanted
to." Glassman's language is distinctively more communitarian than my previous
examples, though they all favor the technique of cloning.
Most of the "scientific community" (a collective) favors the cloning
of animals. Many, including Dr. Wilmut, argue that the potential for medical
and scientific advances to be enormous. He said any rush to judgement could
"lead to overly restrictive limits on related but less controversial areas of
research" (The Washington Post, Technique's Use With Humans Is Feared, By Rick
Weiss, Monday, February 24, 1997). With an appeal to higher authority Dr. Wilmut,
and other supporting scientists argue that society as a whole can benefit from
the techniques involving animal cloning. These include improved livestock herds,
opportunities for research on disease, and production of protein enriched
pharmaceuticals." When discussing the cloning of animals, the language of the
"scientific community" is ultimately communitarian. Yet when the discussion
shifts to the possibility of cloning humans, the water becomes a little
"muddier." Through my readings I got the impression that the topic of cloning is
a little too hot for scientists in favor of human cloning to say so (for now
By contrast to favoring cloning (human or animal), those who oppose
it, mainly have communitarian concerns. The most prominent collective
opposition to cloning was from the religious community. Evoking biblical and
republican themes (second language, Bellah et al), many said, "who has the right
to play God by creating life, and what are the moral obligations of the
creator?" (Albany Times Union, CLONING BOTH LAMB AND TYGER, by William Safire
02/27/97). Religious authorities, including Pope John Paul II have completely
denounced human experiments. The Pope said "the temple merchants of our age who
make the marketplace their religion, until they trample the dignity of the human
person with abuses of every kind. We are thinking . . . about the lack of
respect for life, which has become at times the object of dangerous
experiments." (Pope John Paul II as quoted by Associated Press Monday,
03/03/1997). Moral theologian Gino Concetti, who is close to Pope John Paul II,
said "the creation of human life outside marriage goes against God's plan . . .
a person has the right to be born in a human way and not in the laboratory."
(Associated Press Monday, 03/03/1997). "One may not, even for a single instant,
even for a good purpose, use a technique that is morally flawed," declared the
Rev. Albert Moraczewski, a theologian with the National Council of Catholic
Bishops. "Cloning exceeds the limits of the delegated dominions given to the
human race." By appealing to a higher authority and voicing the biblical
language, the concerns of the religious community are clearly societal, and not
individualistic in nature. They use paternalistic, degenerative and guilt by
association arguments to condemn the possibility of human cloning.
Although many religious collectives condemn human cloning, some favor
it. An article on the TIME magazine web site stated, "the Jews and Muslims
maintain that cloning of people was not only permissible, but might even be a
moral obligation to help infertile couples have children." Another interesting
quotation was from Rabbi Moses Tendler, a Talmudic scholar and biologist at New
York's Yeshiva University. He argued with a quotation from Genesis. "Be
fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth." Then he continues, "and master it."
These arguments, come from religious groups, with emphasis on individual and
communitarian gains. Both use a biblical voice, and an appeal to a higher
authority, but the first example is more individualistic in nature and the
ensuing more communitarian.
In America, President Clinton imposed a ban on federal funding
for human cloning experiments. Using a biblical voice he argued that he was
trying to stop "people from playing God." He said "there is much about cloning
that we still do not know. But this much we do know: any discovery that touches
upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry, it is a matter
of morality and spirituality as well." Everyone in government did not share
President Clinton's communitarian concern over the cloning of humans. Sen.Tom
Harkin expressed his deterministic views when he said that he opposed any limits
on cloning. "What utter, utter nonsense to think that we can stop cloning . . .
human cloning will take place in my lifetime and I welcome it" (USA TODAY ).
Although president Clinton and Senator Harkin hold political positions (for the
people), both use dissimilar language when discussing cloning. The president's
concerns are communitarian. He uses biblical and republican languages (ssecond
language), when arguing his position. Senator Harkin is clearly more
individualistic, and uses the first language of Americans.
In a country where there is so much diversity, we learn quickly that
personal, familial and social views will always differ. One benefit of living in
a democracy is that we allow our different voices to be heard. The controversy
over cloning humans or animals is no exception. Your voice may be
individualistic, arguing for your right at the chance of having a child, or
communitarian, claiming it is the hand of God that should create humans. The
important thing to keep in mind is that we need to be willing to take
responsibility for our decisions, no matter what they may be. Ultimately, what
we need, is to figure out a way to balance our individualistic tendencies with
our collective ones. If we can do that, we are being fair to ourselves, and
society as well.