Send in the Clones

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Cloning does not, as some may think, present the possibility of producing offspring in a test tube. It requires that a cloned cell be implanted in the womb of a female of the species.

What about the ethics of human cloning? Some believe it is a needed and beneficial step. Others are appalled that anyone would even consider cloning another person, producing a human being by replication rather than reproduction. A cloned child would have only one parent, who in a sense would be genetically like an identical twin, though much younger. This lively debate is sure to intensify as experiments in cloning continue.

British biologist J.B.S. Haldane was among the first to use the term cloning, in 1963, when he foresaw cloning of human beings as an imminent probability.

In spite of Haldane's optimism, little scientific evidence surfaced during those years that human cloning would ever succeed. Plants were easily cloned, but cloning mammals was elusive, particularly the idea of developing a complete organism from an adult body cell. Though the entire DNA is present in an adult cell, the great challenge is to coax the material into reverting to the embryonic state so that all of the differentiated body tissues—muscle, bone, nerve cells and so on—can be produced.

In 1996 scientists were stunned by the news that Scotsman Ian Helmut fused the cell nucleus from the udder of an adult sheep with an egg structure taken from another sheep and implanted the altered egg into the uterus of a third sheep. The result was Dolly, an apparently normal sheep, cloned from an adult cell. Dolly was born July 5, 1996.

The implications of this development are profound in that it indicates that what J.B.S. Haldane anticipated is now possible. Lee Silver, a molecular biologist at Princeton University, observed that "genetic engineering of human beings is now really on the horizon" (Gina Kolata, Clone, The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead, 1998, p. 233).

Though nations have enacted legislation outlawing human cloning, the issue will not go away. There will be pressures to develop and perfect the process. Among these is what is called the "technological imperative," the idea that it is wrong to artificially impede scientific progress.

Economic pressures may arise also. Because many couples experience difficulty in conceiving children, fertility clinics have become a fixture in our world. We can expect the fertility industry to push for legalization of human cloning procedures. Even if it is not legalized, the possibility exists of the development of an underground cloning industry.

Many geneticists, doctors and political leaders agree that human cloning should not be attempted at this time. It is a science in the developmental stage. Production of genetically damaged offspring is a distinct possibility.

Others, however, believe it is only a matter of time before the technique is improved and accepted. "Most ... fertility experts, asked if humans will one day be cloned, replied, 'Of course.' " And as for the propriety or impropriety of reproduction without sex, one doctor said, "In my opinion, it is all nonsense whether it is sexual or asexual ... The whole argument is sort of silly—so what? People will agree with me in fifty years" (Kolata, p. 247).

God created sex in human beings for several reasons. One is reproduction (Genesis 1:28). The whole created order shows that God is a believer in variety, else why are there so many varieties in so many species? Why the different races? Our Creator doesn't want His children to be yellow pencils. The apostle Paul told us the Church, although it is one body, is composed of many members. He likened them to the members of the physical human body, each serving a different function (1 Corinthians 12). GN