Sacrificial Lambs

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Dolly the Sheep

Dolly the Sheep

Blue Square Thing

Blue Square Thing

Dolly the Sheep

Shelby Kwok, Writer

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The laboratory is dark. Clean tables are lined with metal equipment, sharp points silhouetted against epoxy floors. A sickly light glows faintly from a doorframe, pulsating like a living heartbeat. The door opens smoothly, silent, unlike the humming coming from the rest of the room. Large tubes of glass line the walls, the fluid illuminated in that disturbing, sickly light. However, the creatures within the tubes are what draw the eyes. They are hundreds of tubes and inside are small, fleshy, and unnervingly malformed creatures, hundreds of human embryos. They float soundlessly, suspended within the metallic machines that serve as their surrogate mothers, a wordless allegory to their dark and cold future. It is a picture painted by hundreds of artists and writers, preying on the fears that all humans share. Human cloning: a topic almost as controversial as abortion. Believed by many to be science fiction, cloning is not only scientifically viable, it is a necessary part of reproduction for some organisms. Binary fission and budding are just a few examples of this process. However, what has recently provoked interest in human cloning is the fact that science techniques have advanced far enough to allow the artificial cloning of mammals (i.e. Dolly the first mammal cloned from a body cell).  Human cloning is no longer a question of if, it’s a question of when. So what does cloning have in store for humanity? There are both supporters and protestors of the practise. Both carry valid arguments, and usually it all comes down to ethics. Sci-fi books and movies about cloning always love toying with ethics. People are attracted to movies that show their fears realised; that’s why there are so many books and movies with corrupt governments. Human cloning is described as a real concern of humanity and I personally agree. There are many ethnical concerns when it comes to cloning humans. Some problems are about the unreliability of the process, others about the purpose the clones are created for, and some still are about what cloning will mean for the future.

Even with our current advanced technology, cloning is nowhere near perfect. Cloning has a high failure rate, with more than 97 percent of attempts ending in rejection or miscarriage. For example, to create Dolly it took over two hundred attempts. The other lambs had genetic defects or were deformed. Dolly herself died young and it is theorised this may have been due to being cloned. If you put humans into their place instead, imagine all the health issues the clones may be forced to grow up with if they don’t die before birth. Of course the problem is, we won’t know what these possible problems are until we test them, and that brings up moral questions. Is it fair to produce a child, knowing that they will likely suffer from health issues? You could say that this could be used as an argument against birth in general, but with cloning humans a yet uncharted territory, things will more likely go wrong before they go right. If cloning technology is perfected, this argument will lose its backing. However, to perfect technology there will have to be more than a few sacrificial lambs. Sure, it’s possible to fine tune the process using animals as guinea pigs, but when it comes down to it, there will have to be a human test subject. I don’t agree with this idea of sacrificing children, even if the parents agree to it. It seems cruel to knowingly create a child that will most likely have to deal with severe health issues.  Will it really be worth it in the end? To even approach that question we need to consider why humans would be cloned in the first place.

Now, the main issues and fears about human cloning come from the purpose of cloning humans. Due to their sheer number I won’t be able to cover them all, but I will bring up a few key ideas. One of the reasons to clone humans, the one most commonly touched on in entertainment, is to grow organs for the original human. An example of this is in the 2005 film The Island, directed by Michael Bay. While the film’s focus is on the action, it does bring up the fact that clones could be exploited for their organs. An even better example of this is in the national award-winning 2002 book “The House of the Scorpion”, written by Nancy Farmer. In this book, most clones have their brains crippled shortly after birth and are not perceived as real people under law. Their purpose is to be harvested for their organs so the original humans can live an extended life. This purpose brings up extreme moral issues. It means humans are being born strictly for the purpose of slaughtering them for their parts.  Even if you cripple their brains after birth, they are still human. When you do that, you just irreversibly damaged them. It is definitely immoral. However, there is grey line when it comes to growing humans that never had sentience at all. Maybe it’s not even a whole human. Science might allow use to grow individual organs, since it is already possible to grow individual cells. The question here is what constitutes as human; does it need to be fully functioning and sentient? These are question that definitely need to be answered before the first human is cloned. Another reason for cloning humans is to allow infertile couples to have their own children. This includes homosexual couples who are unable to produce their own children together with current scientific methods. This is a purpose I agree with.  It seems fair that couples should be allowed to have their own children if they wish it, no matter the reason for their difficulty in doing so naturally. This is one matter I will concede on, but that does not mean I support cloning, because it is not fair to allow exceptions for a few cases. Some people support cloning because they believe they can use it to clone their deceased children or make a copy of themselves to live the life they wished to live. This is another grey area. Would cloning your child mean you are simply replacing the one you lost? Would that mean forgetting they were unique individuals? If you created a clone of yourself, would it be fair to the clone to have to live in your stead? Even with good intentions this may put the clone under a lot of pressure to live up to your reputation, something that can be observed in normal a parent-child relationship. Only it’s even more extreme with a clone, who is a genetic copy of the original. A more theoretical idea is that cloning may lead humans towards the path of immortality. After we learn how to manipulate genetics to their fullest, it is possible we may find out how to prevent our bodies from breaking down over time. Humans and immortally bring another slew of moral questions into the debate. I’ll stay off those as the idea is more speculative than others.

When going over the pros and cons of human cloning it is important to discuss what cloning may bring to humanity in years to come. After all, people who supporting human cloning are not malicious in nature; they simply wish to use cloning to benefit humanity in ways they perceive as right. While the uses of human cloning do come with their share of moral problems, if specific laws were put in place surely that might be able to prevent cloning from being used for extortion and selfishness. The problem is that this may not always be the case. There will always be someone out there that is willing to use technology to their benefit, no matter the moral issues that come tied with it.  Planes were made to allow humans to fulfil our dream of flying, but they are now used not just to carry passengers, but to drop bombs and kill people. Harvesting the power of nuclear fission lead to the creation of the atomic bomb. If human cloning is allowed to become commonplace in society there will definitely be someone out there willing to abuse it. Some countries may refuse to recognise clones as people and create them so they can exploit them. Far into the future, there may become instances where people are cloned and replaced, and while this seemed far-fetched, you never know how far the technology may advance. Cloning may also invite genetic tampering in humans, something that can lead to even more ethnical issues. If cloning is advanced to the point where a clone can be forced to mature faster than normal (something that may be necessary if organs are being grown), will it be possible to create soldiers or super humans that may be used in future wars? So the question is; is cloning humans worth the troubles it may cause in the future? While there do seem to be many pros for cloning, most are weighted down by possibilities for abuse. Some people are calling on a ban on cloning before it becomes an issue in the future. I feel inclined to agree.

So with all these moral issues brought up in the efficiency, purpose, and future of cloning, what is my final opinion? Well, there are absolutely ethnical problems when it comes to cloning human beings. Any subject that has to do with what is and what is not human is going to be littered with them. However, is human cloning worth it despite these potential issues? I am going to have to say no, it is not worth it. The positive change it will make cannot compensate for the many areas of abuse it will open up. Maybe one day humans will be ready for this kind of duplication technology, but as we currently are, there’s too a big a risk of it being used for the wrong reasons. Cloned embryos being grown in “glass tubes” are still far off in our future; there is still time to put the precautionary measures in place or ban the process entirely. It’s a choice we have to make now, before the power slips from our grasp into the bowels of the machine. In the face of morality and ethnics, which path will we choose, and will the final outcome be worth it?

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