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The Cloning of Humans Will End Only in Exploitation
Cloning is a process that can be applied in a wide variety of different circumstances. Some of these circumstances are more appropriate than others. Unless the process is inherently evil - and one would seem to commit the naturalistic fallacy to claim that it is - a single policy for all applications of cloning technology would inappropriately legislate this complex mosaic of issues. Some applications are clearly indefensible: it's horrendous to suggest cloning people for the purpose of harvesting their organs. Other applications seem clearly beneficial: the cloning of stem cells allows medical researchers a powerful, cost-effective, suffering-free alternative to animal testing.
However, if most applications of the technology are undesirable and none are highly advantageous, society might do well to ban the technology entirely and keep a lid on Pandora's box. This may well be the case. While the cloning of stem cells is beneficial - because it does not entail the creation of new persons - it is not "reproductive cloning." We might therefore take the route adopted by several countries and ban reproductive cloning while allowing the cloning of stem cells for medical research.
But are there no major benefits to reproductive cloning? In my previous column, I discussed the case of an infertile couple that strongly wishes to have their own genetic children. But a cloned child would not be "their" genetic child, as it would only share genes with one parent. I am confident that more effective reproductive technologies will soon be available. These technologies - which might allow the insertion of an infertile man's genes into another man's functional sperm - will eliminate the need for reproductive cloning.
One of the most frequently discussed complaints against reproductive cloning is that it will render genetic enhancement easier but still expensive, thereby widening the gap between the rich and the poor. This objection relies upon an analogy with genetic enhancement in livestock, where the two separate technologies will be combined: once cells are enhanced genetically, they will be cloned. Notice that cloning is fully unnecessary for genetic enhancement: it only makes the mass enhancement of a group more cost effective. The genetic enhancement of humans is unlikely to follow the livestock route, as most people would prefer their own genetic children to mass-produced children, even if they were cheaper to enhance genetically.
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In my mind, the most damning objection to cloning is the attitude it betrays. The attitude of the man and woman who want only their own genetic children seems to reflect a desire that the child be "just like" them. With such an attitude, the parents' plans for their child would be instrumental to the child's creation, which would threaten to put the parents' plans for their child's life ahead of the child's own plans. This would place cumbersome - and likely damaging - expectations on the cloned child. Despite shared genes, the clone would differ in many respects and would frequently seek dissimilar goals from his or her parent. It is always a problem when parents choose their child's destiny for him or her; the very idea of a supposed 'need' for a cloned child embodies this wrongful attitude perfectly.
This attitude of 'plans for the clone' seems to underlie all applications of reproductive cloning. Why would we need a being to have a particular genetic identity unless we had predetermined a purpose for him or her? A friend speculated that the CIA has already cloned dozens of Einsteins with the intention of setting them to work on cold fusion, intergalactic travel and weapons for political domination of the planet. This image of good-hearted but downtrodden scientists - with shock hairdos - chained to Mac G5 supercomputers jumps to mind whenever I think of human cloning. It is also the very definition of exploitation and a monstrous abuse of the human spirit.
It is this exploitative attitude that colors cloning in such an insidious light. It's this attitude that demands most strongly that proponents of the technology propose an application truly beneficial before we embrace this technology as a society. It is difficult to imagine why we would require that people be 'just so' if we did not wish to use them, or how we could make moral progress by treating people as tools. In the absence of a proposal that successfully navigates these moral hazards, I cannot condone cloning. I can only condemn it.