Jewish World Review June 3, 2002 / 22 Sivan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Some problems are so hard to solve that you want to close your eyes and go to sleep, hoping someone else will solve them while you're dreaming.
Cloning is one of the issues facing mankind that is both scientifically and philosophically beyond my ability to understand. I don't have any opinions about cloning that couldn't be changed in an argument with someone who knew what they were talking about. ("Facing mankind" may sound extreme but it isn't; the problem is that big.) My one unshakable belief is that replicas of living human beings are going to be produced in laboratories whether we like it or not. If we can't stop terrorists from attacking us, or Pakistan, Iran and Iraq from making nuclear weapons, how can we stop scientists anywhere in the world from cloning humans?
If scientists start making people, they could change the character of the whole human race. It might be made smarter, stronger and better looking. By selective cloning of the best and brightest among us, the whole human race could be improved.
It might be possible, for example, to breed out mankind's worst characteristics. Why couldn't the human race be made better over a period of a hundred years of cloning? Maybe we could produce humans who were all honest, kind, thoughtful, generous, strong and loving.
The idea of humans making humans is terrifying, though. It's unfortunate that we ever learned how to clone but it's done and, like the invention of gunpowder or the nuclear bomb, we can't go back.
No one, not even the scientists involved, seem to believe there should be free and open cloning of humans. They don't know exactly why but they're against it. There's serious objection to cloning by religious organizations. They feel that by cloning, scientists are moving into creation, an area that has previously been exclusively G-d's. There's even some objection to cloning from people who are not religious at all.
Part of the sense of dread that lurks behind the word may have been created by a woman named Mary W. Shelley. She published the novel "Frankenstein" in 1818. It was a work of genius. Shelley not only anticipated the idea of scientists making a person by about 150 years but she understood the human fear of it. Her monster, Frankenstein, while not cloned, ended up destroying the scientist who created him-or "it," if you prefer. We see that specter now.
It seems likely that the fear of being dominated by something we create is in part, at least, responsible for objections to cloning.
Some people simply consider an embryo to be the beginning of a living person that it's immoral to destroy. Some scientists want to clone human embryos simply for the purpose of extracting stem cells which might then be used to help alleviate problems associated with diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. This process, called "therapeutic" cloning, would kill the embryo.
Two older dictionaries here in my office do not include the word "clone." Like so many words, it has already acquired several nuances of meaning. It can be a noun or a verb. The 1985 "Dictionary of Contemporary Usage" says: "Cloning is asexual reproduction"; in other words, reproduction that does not involve the traditional union of male and female. The dictionary goes on to say: "Whether cloning of the human animal is within even the remotest range of possibility is something only science can answer." Well, since 1985, science has answered and the answer is "yes."
It must be discouraging to the scientists who found out how to do it that the word "clone" now has a slightly disparaging meaning, as in, "The networks are busy producing clones of last year's successful shows" or "She's a clone of Sharon Stone."
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05/29/02: I'm breaking a rule in this column that I won't likely ever do again