The Cloning of Human Beings

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The Cloning of Human Beings

I examine five concerns held by the general population regarding human cloning and argue that they show either a misunderstanding about the process and/or result of cloning, or else ignorance about what we already do. Put differently, I argue that human cloning is not in principle more questionable than other current practices. However, I do have serious concerns about the uses to which the new technology will be put. I argue that the reasons currently proposed for human cloning are not persuasive. My position is that human cloning is not objectionable in principle, but practical application of the technology raises serious concerns. In my opinion, present circumstances do not seem to warrant it.

As soon as Scottish scientists announced that they had successfully cloned a sheep from cells of another sheep, people began to be alarmed at the prospect of cloning human beings. Editorial after editorial warned that we'd be "playing God", that we'd be creating Frankenstein-like soul-less creatures, and that we'd be encouraging people's tendency towards egoism to reach its ultimate expression by enabling human beings to clone themselves. President Clinton banned all federal funding for research leading to the cloning of human beings and called for a voluntary moratorium on private research. Pope John Paul II denounced "dangerous experiments" that harm human dignity.

I, too, have some concerns about cloning human beings; but I think that most of the fears people have are misplaced. As a philosopher who has worked on issues concerning personal identity and, more recently, medical ethics, I have a different perspective on the issue of human cloning from most commentators. Perhaps I can make a useful contribution to the discussion of this topic.

I would, first, like to examine five concerns the general population seems to have about cloning human beings and argue that they show either a misunderstanding about the process and/or result of cloning, or else an ignorance of what it is that we already do. I shall argue that there is nothing in principle more questionable about the cloning of human beings than practices we currently engage in. However, I do have two serious concerns about how the new technology is likely to be used; and, since I am not convinced that that there are any really good reasons at the present time for cloning human beings, I too would vote against permitting it.


1. It has been claimed that if we cloned human beings that we'd be "playing God.
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