I guess this is part two of re-visiting my ethics class writing. Both pieces I really like, mostly because my arguments are fundamentally moderate. But hey whatevs. Let me know what ya think.
Cloning ethically and practically is a difficult subject to begin with. Much like abortion the biggest controversy with cloning is ultimately the question, what do we consider life? As a nation, a society, and a united people life holds great value. If we could decide that multi-cellular blastocyst has the same rights as a frozen mini-pizza then we would not even consider that it could feel pain, suffer, or feel a loss of life. That would be absurd, and not only that it would be a ridiculous conclusion to come to. As a society we can’t really accurately decide if a blastocyst, non-human animal, or insect has the same feelings, awareness, etc as a human being. We cannot experience what a dog does, or what a grasshopper might. We can only assume that because these creatures don’t have the same facial expressions, same form of communication, and live different lives than us that they simply cannot feel the way we do. They cannot have a soul or a spirit.
This is the current language of the cloning and stem cell research debate. What is life, when does it start, and at what points does said life, or potential therefore, have rights? I believe that as a culture and as a society, we are in no way, shape, or form ready for what cloning entails. We simply are not that responsible, and we can’t handle that kind of power over humanity. Stem cell research is the field in which I have different opinions than that of cloning. The problem with cloning is that as humans we are imperfect, that being the case having that sort of power over human life, with the potential to customize said human life is absurd for our culture. Someone would obviously use that power for self gain and the worst reasons that could be imagined. It would be an inevitable event. There are approximately 6.7 billion human beings in the world right now. There is no argument you could make that someone of those almost seven billion wouldn’t decide to make a clone army, clone humans for organ harvesting, or some other horrible and inhuman way to use cloning for self gain. Cloning itself has a number of gains and possibilities for science but responsibility is a trait we lack, as its been shown in our forms of government, in the treatment of fellow human beings, and in the treatment of the planet upon which we live.
Animal cloning runs a parallel fate to that of human cloning. It can be potentially inhumane, dangerous, and has abominable possibilities. While there is an endless swath of negative consequences there are many gains to be had by animal cloning. Species like the Panda, for which reproduction is difficult, would have a guarantee to continue on and animal cloning would help animals that are near extinction. Scientifically it would advance animal studies, and would help humanity in various other fields. More milk cows more milk, cheaper. The problem exists with all of these is that ultimately; this cheapens life not only for humans but for animals as well. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that if we had the power to create life under our own circumstances, that it would be any more valuable. The reason, for the most part, why life is valuable is because of the circumstances for which it exists. It’s not necessarily a rare thing, but it takes a special combination of events that makes life a miracle. What makes life so valuable is not in the formula for cloning. You take away the potential for love, marriage, a joining of two people to create something completely new and different from everything else in the world, or the universe even.
Setting the moral arguments aside we are not even legally able to clone in most cases. Thirteen states have banned all forms and types of cloning, others have formed state and government research, the list goes on. There is no federal law banning cloning, but it remains tabled in the senate. Most foreign countries have devised their own cloning laws or regulations, and as of now there is no known (proven) human clone. Virtually all members of the U.N. agreed that human cloning should be banned in the General Assembly’s adaptation of a declaration that would ban all forms of human cloning. Sichan Siv, the U.S. delegate to the U.N. applauded the declaration for opposing scientific efforts that would: “take advantage of some, vulnerable lives for the benefit of others.” (washingtonpost.com, 2007) However Britain, Belgium, China and other countries that support “therapeutic cloning” or the cloning of human embryos in medical research aimed at finding cures for diseases—said they will not honor the declaration, which is actually not a legally binding one. So as a legal issue stem cell research and embryonic research is more widely tolerated than outright cloning, but even with that being said it still being disputed widely and different governments have different standards in relation to the rules surrounding cloning.
One could argue that as human beings we have a right to pursue this research and to clone other humans. This argument falls on the shoulders of the ‘what is life?’ debate. We as humans and Americans have the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. At what point does that right stop. Cloning not only endangers another human life, or potentially human life, but endangers several aspects of humanity as a whole. Setting aside the psychological aspects of human cloning, how is it fair to the clone itself. What can make any of us assume that you’d want to be a copy of somebody else? Who are we to create life without it being so special and sacred? There are so many factors surrounding cloning and we can’t begin upon answers or solutions to all of these questions. Until we are able to we can’t assume that we have all the answers, or even if there is only a 1% chance that the clone will be born with a paralyzing psychological deficiency is that 1% worth the cost?
Bringing up the psychological aspects of cloning, there are many unknowns in the ID of a person. There are still psychological disorders that aren’t discovered or even recognized. The human mind and psyche is so complex that we are just now starting to understand how part of it works. Bringing a clone into that equation adds so much to the already complex human mind. Being born individual is part of what creates our Id and Ego, take that away and what does that make us? If a clone is a copy of someone else, would that clone take on the same traits as the person from which it originated. Is the clone even an ‘it’, or if you cloned Jeff from the office do you now have two Jeff’s with the same identity? Or do you have a whole new person who just looks like Jeff. There are infinite situations in which you could ask a number of questions regarding what you would have as the result of cloning. Simply stated we just don’t know. We will never know until we clone someone, and even then, the result may be something nobody was even expecting.
A much larger fact of human cloning is that it will essentially water down the human gene pool. If cloning becomes a predominate form of reproduction, diversity would diminish and would effect genetic diversity. Even if not done carefully we could just be cloning genetic flaws for generation after generation. That sort of cloning would basically halt the evolutionary change and hinder our ability to constantly adapt to the world we live in. Cloning, while argued would advance the human race, would really just hinder it. It is possible that we could develop a way to create perfect human beings but that would remove all forms of individuality, or who is even to say what perfection would be. The much larger issue on the horizon of cloning is stem cell research where responsibility and potential study would help humanity endlessly.
Stem cell research is just as controversial as cloning in the debate of what we define as life. Stem cell research has the potential to save millions of lives. That is all that needs to be said. What is lost in stem cell research is already unused embryos for cultivation of stem cells. There is no suffering, no inhuman treatment of a clone, no pain. To be say there is no life lost would be presumptuous of me because life has yet to be defined. For all intensive purposes however the gains would be outstanding and the loss would be already tossed aside, 150 cell blastocysts. With the right research and cultivation of stem cells, we could cure: Parkinson’s disease, cancer, damage to brain and spinal cords, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke damage, heart disease, damage from burns, from diabetes, from rheumatoid arthritis, from Purkinje cell degeneration, from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and from vision and hearing loss. (Sam Harris, 2004)
As it can be plainly seen the gains are enormous, and what do we lose? Again I would say the equivalent of frozen blastocyst cells are mini-pizzas. While these multi-cellular formations do have the potential for life I do not believe them to be life. My view has always been that life begins at viability, and in fertility clinics all over the nation test tubes with already fertilized embryos are tossed out daily. Saving those embryos for research to move forward stem cell treatment would push our society so far forward medically that the way in which we live life and the quality of our lives would improve vastly.
While in my own opinion that as a society we are not ready for the fate that would come cloning, I don’t believe that argument against cloning and stem cell search is a valid one. The argument, which is a similar one used in abortion, about what we determine to be life is an irresponsible one. The argument about life is simply a failure of our country and others to separate church and state. Life is life not because of viability, or realizing one’s identity, it’s about having a ‘soul’ or a ‘spirit’. That is the only factor that determines how we treat other creatures, other humans, etc. If Spanish explorers had thought that the South American natives had souls would they have been treated as they were? If a non-human animal had the ability to communicate like a human do you think that we would give it the same rights as a human? That being said why don’t humans of greater thought and intelligence get better treatment than humans who aren’t as smart or who can’t communicate as effectively. This creates a sort of life chaste system, where creatures below us aren’t treated with the same respect as creatures higher up on the list. The argument against cloning, or even stem cell research shouldn’t be about having a soul or being moral according to god. The argument should be the ability for our society to recognize that cloning is inherently wrong, there is far too much potential to make monstrosities, and the means for which this power could be abused is too abundant. Instead of agreeing upon a set of common morals we bring religion, a much larger unknown, into the formula.
Stem cell research is not taking a life; it is using the potential for life to give life to somebody who desperately needs it. Cloning is wrong, maybe someday when our society earns the ability to be responsible in world affairs, treatment of other human beings and creatures, then we will perhaps to take advantage of all that cloning could offer us for scientific advancement. That day may never come, but as it stands the legal holds on cloning are right on and should be tightened further. However stem cell research avoids many of the pitfalls contained within the argument for cloning. There are very few arguments that would claim stem cell research to be harmful and responsible for the murdering of blastocysts. The benefits are numerous and the only real result of the research would be an advancement of knowledge not only of the human cellular structure and how our bodies work, but on how we can cure diseases and damage that was once permanent. Damage that ruined lives and families. This research could save millions of dollars in health care money, drug costs, financial aid, etc.
An adequate solution to the cloning debate is a far off one. Legislation against human cloning sits at the senate and probably won’t be addressed until the next presidency. The argument still is widely debated. Cloning, while offering some gains in science, is ultimately something we should avoid as a society if we wish to move forward in humanity. With cloning we would effectively halt evolution and lose all sense of individual identity. There are numerous outcomes that are undesirable the biggest of which is creating something so horrible and psychologically damaged that it makes humanity monsters for even considering cloning. The best we can hope for is the result of stem cell research to move modern medicine forward in efforts to combat the growing number of diseases and harm to humanity. Without a responsible and less dogmatic reaction to this debate we will never fully understand our bodies and the role humanity plays in this world. If life is special and it is intended to be that way, taking advantage of human beings for the gain of others is unacceptable, and shows the true nature of humanity. It is widely believed that humans are inherently good creatures but as such we sometimes act in undesirable ways for certain reasons or under certain circumstances. There is no circumstance in which we should create a life to take advantage of, whether it is to harvest organs, to create a clone army of disposable people, to replace a dead child. No situation allows us to put aside our morals for the personal gains that cloning offers. If we can’t hold onto our morals in the face of selfish personal gain, then we should be able to in the potential suffering and sacrifice of others that cloning takes advantage of.