The creation of life by God is described in the Book of Genesis. The natural law ensures the continuity of life.
Cloning is the transfer of genetic material by unnatural and artificial means.
February 24, 1997 was the day of announcement of the scientific breakthrough of the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland, when scientists published an article in Nature1 entitled "Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells." By nuclear transfer from an adult sheep mammary cell to an enucleated egg and then implantation in a surrogate mother, they were able to clone Dolly, an identical lamb.
World-wide reaction was immediate and swift as fears of human cloning surfaced. The relationship of man to woman and marriage would be forever altered. If human cloning was perfected, the male would become reproductively obsolete.
The United States and twenty European nations banned or restricted research on human cloning. The U. S. National Bioethics Advisory Commission Report recommended a five year ban on human cloning reseach. Nobel peace-prize winner Joseph Rotblat compared the breakthrough with the creation of the atomic bomb. 87% of Americans think cloning should be banned in a poll on ABC Television Nightline. Talk-show hosts quipped, "Will there ever be another ewe?"
Religious groups declared the immorality of human cloning. The Vatican issued a statement that "the creation of life outside of marriage went against God's plan. A person has a right to be born in a human way and not in the laboratory." The Southern Baptist Convention stated that any scientific discovery that touches upon human creation is also a matter of morality and spirituality, and voted on March 6, 1997 to call upon Congress and all nations of the world to "make human cloning unlawful and...to prevent the cloning of any human being."
The beauty and special gift of a couple having a precious baby will no longer be a unique experience for humanity to treasure.
Hebrew Scripture, our Old Testament of the Bible, tells us human life and death are in the hands of God alone in his power, as noted in the 1995 encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II 2. We are planned by God, and the soul, the "breath of life," is given via the natural law. (See Ethics).
God speaks to Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy of the Bible, and Job recognizes God's authority:3
Learn then that I, I alone, am God, and there is no god besides me.
It is I who bring both death and life.
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
The scientific breakthrough ignited a fierce debate over ethical issues, including discussion of the soul in the lay media.
Will the clone of a human being have a soul?
Will its soul be independent of its origin? Or will it be a mass of biologic material with human intelligence?
What is the relation of the body and the soul?
Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel spoke of the resurrection of the body in Hebrew Scripture, the Old Testament of the Bible. Plato felt the soul was imprisoned in the body, until death, when it became free for all eternity. Aristotle believed there was a fundamental unity between the body and soul. The poet Andrew Marvell in his 1681 poem, A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body, presented a lovely twist on the relation of the body and the soul.
Humanity has always been fascinated by the concept of transferring life by means other than the natural law, typified by Mary Shelley's haunting 1818 novel, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.4 Should mankind proceed, will the first human clone protest as did Adam in Milton's Paradise Lost:5
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mold me Man,
did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?
Paradise Lost, X,743-745
Mary Shelley begins her book with the above quote. As with the tormented and tragic monster of Dr. Frankenstein, will the clone be more human than his vain and foolish creator?
How tragic for the clone!
He will never be unique, he will never have a sense of individuality, he will never be truly independent of his creator.
Undue power would be given to the person or agency requesting the clone.
Looking at this issue from a purely medical standpoint, the New England Journal of Medicine reported in their March 7, 2002 issue that infants conceived with use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection or in-vitro fertilization have twice as high a risk of a major birth defect as naturally conceived infants.6 Other complications from assisted reproductive technologies were described as well.7 These procedures, while fraught with complication, are considerably less involved than human cloning!
How can one possibly consider the mad dash to be the first to clone a human medically responsible, without proper research or regard for the welfare of the innocent infant!
What about an unsuccessful clone? Dolly was one out of 277 tries. What possible misadventure would be created? Who would be responsible? Suppose the misadventure procreates?!
A recent distinction has been made between reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning.8 Reproductive cloning, the actual cloning of a live human being, is almost universally abhorred. There are actually some who would consider therapeutic cloning, or nuclear transplantation to produce human embryos as sources of stem cells, acceptable.9 However, one must realize that even therapeutic cloning results in the inevitable death of the human embryo when the embryo's stem cells are harvested, and this is utilitarian at the expense of life, and can only be considered immoral and unacceptable. 10
Ethicists encourage scientists to proceed in their research to relieve human affliction but to do so in a moral fashion. From a humanitarian point of view, I suggest to the scientists that we must first take care of those humans that already occupy this planet. Perhaps they will be kind enough to donate monies allocated for cloning to feed the hundreds of millions that go to bed hungry each night and shelter the homeless before they resume their research on cloning.
(1) Wilmut I, Schnieke AE, McWhir J, Kind AJ, Campbell KHS. "Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells." Nature 385:810-813, 1997.
(2) Pope John Paul II. The Gospel of Life, the encyclical Evangelium Vitae. Times Books, Random House, New York, March 25, 1995.
(3) Navarre Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible. Four Courts Press, Dublin, Ireland, 1999-2005.
(4) Mary Shelley. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, London, 1818. Reprint, New American Library, New York, 1963.
(5) John Milton. Paradise Lost. London, 1667. Reprint, The Harvard Classics, PF Collier & Sons, New York, 1903.
(6) Hansen M, Kurinczuk JJ, Bower C, Webb S. "The Risk of Major Birth Defects after Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection and in Vitro Fertilization." New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) 346:725-730, March 7, 2002.
(7) Schieve LA and Others. "Low and Very Low Birth Weight in Infants Conceived with Use of assisted Reproductive Technology." New England Journal of Medicine 346:731-737, March 7, 2002.
(8) Pellegrino ED, Kilner JF, Fitzgerald KT, Bevington LK, Mitchell CB, Koop CE. "Therapeutic Cloning" (Letter), NEJM 347:1619, November 14, 2002.
(9) Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. "Human somatic cell nuclear transfer and cloning." Fertility and Sterility 98(4):804-807, October, 2012.
(10) Haddad LM, MD MA. Medical Ethics and The Art of Medicine. 16th Annual Intensive Review in Emergency Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, September, 2007.