Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On Human Cloning.

Is Eve real? Does she live among us?

by Louis Shalako

Dolly the sheep was real, and proof that a clone could be created from a single cell, a specialized one at that.

“The cell used as the donor for the cloning of Dolly was taken from a mammary gland and the production of a healthy clone therefore proved that a cell taken from a specific part of the body could recreate a whole individual. On Dolly's name, Wilmut stated ‘Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's.’” (Wiki.)

The technological capability is real enough. If you can clone a sheep, you can clone a human being.

Was Eve, Clonaid's alleged first-born human clone real? (They claim a number of clone births.) If so, she and her siblings would be ten or twelve years old by now. While there are sound reasons to keep her identity and location secret, Clonaid's close relationship with the Raelian cult is as troubling as their unwillingness to provide simple proofs. Gut reaction is that it was a stunt--to draw new members, to draw donations, to draw attention. Members of the cult, of course, would accept it as Gospel truth. All they really need is words from on high.

Are clones living quietly among us?

It’s certainly possible.

If her neighbour was a fundamentalist, of almost any sort, she would be a target. I get that much. Simple privacy is an understandable consideration with media scrutiny so invasive and insistent. Even so, would revealing the DNA samples of mother and daughter have been enough to prove it? Scientists would have wanted to take their own samples. They would have wanted to peer review it. In order to do that, habeas corpus, in other words produce the body. And some court, in whatever country she was in, would have been the forum where somebody would have taken the kid into custody, perhaps for years or decades, while the matter was hashed out by interested parties. Who those interested parties might be I leave the reader to speculate, as 'Right to Lifers' or 'Pro-Choicers' don't really fit the bill. Yet with money, lawyers can operate in any country. If I had a clone-kid, naturally, I don't want that to happen. Incidentally, while in state custody, she would have to be provided with health care. Considering the potential of real money at stake, her samples would command a high price--and if she's real, Clonaid has a proprietary process at stake.

Question: has Clonaid attempted to patent their alleged process?

So I don't really know, but I have my gut instinct.

This is from Wikipedia:

“Canadian law prohibits the following: cloning humans, cloning stem cells, growing human embryos for research purposes, sex selection, and buying or selling of embryos, sperm, eggs or other human reproductive material. It also bans making changes to human DNA that would pass from one generation to the next, including use of animal DNA in humans. Surrogate mothers are legally allowed, as is donation of sperm or eggs for reproductive purposes. Human embryos and stem cells are also permitted to be donated for research.”

“There have been consistent calls in Canada to ban human reproductive cloning since the 1993 Report of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose human reproductive cloning, though the regulation of human cloning continues to be a significant national and international policy issue. The notion of ‘human dignity’ is commonly used to justify cloning laws. The basis for this justification is that reproductive human cloning necessarily infringes notions of human dignity.”

“In Romania, ‘Human cloning is explicitly prohibited in the Charter of Romania's Constitutional rights. It is viewed as a basic violation of a human's right to safety of identity, and personality.’”
So in other words, my personality is copyright. Clone me and you are stealing something from me, the right to be a unique individual.

“How would you like a clone of yourself stowed away somewhere in case you need a new heart or liver, like a spare tire in the trunk of a car? That, in a nutshell, was the plot of the 2005 high-dollar low-attendance sci-fi movie, ‘The Island.’ Hollywood heartthrobs Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor play dual roles portraying the rich and famous--and their genetically identical clones. In an appropriate Orwellian twist, doctors must murder the ‘spare’ clones in order to harvest needed body parts.” – Cristen Conger, How 

She goes on to state, “What if you could eliminate the wait time and risky odds with traditional organ transplants by creating custom, cloned organs from your own cells that your body would recognize? Cloning advocates have touted this type of science as therapeutic cloning. This is different from reproductive cloning since therapeutic cloning deals with embryos only, not human babies carried to term.”

First of all, when has ethics or morality ever stopped someone from doing something to extend or enhance their life? When has it ever stopped a government from perpetuating itself? When has it ever stopped a corporate entity when big dollars are at stake?

That one is right out of H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau.

Bad news, kid: I need a new kidney. (Pospiech, Wiki.)
In therapeutic cloning, scientists force cells to grow into a liver, a kidney or even skin, which would mean the natural rejection of the body of foreign matter would be subverted.

In ‘Under Your Skin’ I took this one step further to include the possibility of growing the outer skin, a replica of a famous athlete, and lining it with more skin, in order to create a viable commercial product, ‘Sports-Skins.’ Want to be Jeremy Lin? Dennis Rodman? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Pay the money, slip one on, and let’s play basketball! The big stars will not turn down such a lucrative deal, will they? 

More seriously, burn victims would benefit greatly from fresh skin grown from their own healthy skin cells, a process which would alleviate the need to find suitable donors, and the use of anti-rejection drugs.

“Since stem cells have the ability to differentiate into almost any type of nucleus, they offer something in the development of medical treatments for a wide range of conditions. Treatments that have been proposed include treatment for physical trauma, degenerative conditions, and genetic diseases (in combination with gene therapy). Yet further treatments using stem cells could potentially be developed thanks to their ability to repair extensive tissue damage.”

“Great levels of success and potential have been shown from research using adult stem cells. In early 2009, the FDA approved the first human clinical trials using embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, and thus can become any other cell type excluding the placenta. Adult stem cells, however, are generally limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin. However, some evidence suggests that adult stem cell plasticity may exist, increasing the number of cell types a given adult stem cell can become. In addition, embryonic stem cells are considered more useful for nervous system therapies, because researchers have struggled to identify and isolate neural progenitors from adult tissues. Embryonic stem cells, however, might be rejected by the immune system - a problem which wouldn't occur if the patient received his or her own stem cells.”

“Some stem cell researchers are working to develop techniques of isolating stem cells that are as potent as embryonic stem cells, but do not require a human embryo.”

“The status of the human embryo and human embryonic stem cell research is a controversial issue as, with the present state of technology, the creation of a human embryonic stem cell line requires the destruction of a human embryo. Stem cell debates have motivated and reinvigorated the pro-life movement, whose members are concerned with the rights and status of the embryo as an early-aged human life. They believe that embryonic stem cell research instrumentalizes and violates the sanctity of life, and some also view it as tantamount to murder. The fundamental assertion of those who oppose embryonic stem cell research is the belief that human life is inviolable, combined with the belief that human life begins when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell to form a single cell.”

Is life ‘sacred’ or is that pure species-egoism? The soul may be one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated by man and religion.

“A portion of stem cell researchers use embryos that were created but not used in in-vitro fertility treatments to derive new stem cell lines. Most of these embryos are to be destroyed, or stored for long periods of time, long past their viable storage life. In the United States alone, there have been estimates of at least 400,000 such embryos. See also Embryo donation.”

What are the moral issues involved in human cloning?

There are plenty of opinions, some more coherent that others.

If you can clone a sheep... (Toni Barros, Wiki.)
“Many are against the idea of cloning, both human and animal. In the case of humans it undermines the child's individuality, stealing away what makes everyone an individual. Cloned children may feel depressed, knowing that someone else has already played their life out for them.” 

“The idea of cloning humans almost makes humans seem like objects. No longer are humans individual and created from love, but rather from scientists knowing exactly what they will look like and perhaps even act. The rich can get highly intelligent, model babies, pure objects of wealth.”

“Human cloning could also cause separation in families. A child he or she is not from the same genetics as its family members could cause social problems, similar to what some adopted children feel.”

“Human cloning also treads on many religious beliefs. For example, many Christians feel that scientists cloning human is a bit too much like playing God. Humans were meant to be imperfect, but could cloning bring about a perfect human?”

“Many feel animal cloning to be a violation of animal rights. Animal cloning undermines natures intent and could cause an upset in the diversity of each species. Animals will become customized tools, rather than individual, living creatures.” 

Moral considerations, questions to be asked:

The Roman Catholic Church is opposed to human cloning. (Wiki.)

The Roman Catholic Church, under the papacy of Benedict XVI, condemned the practice of human cloning, in the magisterial instruction Dignitas Personae, stating that it represents a ‘grave offense to the dignity of that person as well as to the fundamental equality of all people.’" 

“Many conservative Christian groups have opposed human cloning and the cloning of human embryos.”

“They believe that life begins at the moment of conception. Other Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ do not believe a fertilized egg constitutes a living being, but still they oppose the cloning of embryonic cells. The World Council of Churches, representing nearly 400 Christian denominations worldwide, opposed cloning of both human embryos and whole humans in February 2006. The United Methodist Church opposed research and reproductive cloning in May 2000 and again in May 2004.”

With all the recent talk about cloning, I've got to know: Would a human clone have a soul?
(As an atheist, I don’t even think I have a soul.)

“Yes, since every living thing has a soul. Plants have vegetative souls (capable of life and growth), animals have sensitive souls (capable of life, growth, and feeling), and humans have rational souls (capable of life, growth, feeling, and rational thought). Only the last kind survives death since only it is made of spirit; souls of plants and animals are made of matter and die when they die. Since a human clone would be alive, it would have a soul, and since a human clone would be rational and possess a human body, it would have the same sort of soul as every other human. The soul is created directly by God. The human soul is the substantial form and animating life principle of the human body. How you get that body, whether by natural generation, in vitro fertilization, or cloning is irrelevant. God still creates its soul.” – Catholic Answers

When people talk about the ‘right to life,’ the core belief is that life begins at conception. It is also an assumption that the state has the right to determine what a woman may do with her uterus.

Another fundamental belief is that all humans have a soul. To an atheist, this is not particularly rational, and when they talk about ‘plant souls,’ this writer just shakes his head.

The funny thing is, they care deeply about the unborn. As someone once said, “They don’t give a shit about you after you are born”

Adoptive parents often struggle with the question of whether or not to tell their child that they are adopted. 

It’s a question of trying to explain that the original parents ‘didn’t want you.’ Or maybe they just couldn't keep you.

That’s a shitty thing to tell a kid.

Now imagine if the child is a clone. What if they ask, “Do I have a soul?” To a religious person, the answer may be yes and the answer may be no.

To an atheist parent, the answer is obviously no.

What rights would the larger community have? Would the neighbours have the right to know the kid next door is a clone? Obviously the knowledge might endanger the child and the family.

It is a complex question.

Do your neighbours have the right to know anything about you, anything at all? Most would say no, and yet that’s not exactly human nature, is it? Some neighbours think they have the right to know quite a bit about you, and some of them think they have the right to judge you, and if they don’t like you, they often feel some kind of justification for further acts of harassment, violence, and judgment.

In a world where race, creed, gender, age, economic status, and orientation, are considered important criteria when deciding how to treat someone or how to behave towards them, I think it is safe to say that some of us really aren’t mature enough to deal with it in an ethical way.

Back to Clonaid. If a process is illegal, then it is by nature un-patentable. This holds true for human cloning, just as it would for someone who invented a better way to make methamphetamines, which is clearly illegal and arguably indefensible. Cloning might not be so indefensible, though.

Also, a patent application would require a person or organization of record. Clonaid may prefer not to do this, assuming they have actually succeeded.

Would the parents of such a child eventually tell them? Maybe not—but sooner or later someone would tell a literary agent, a Hollywood agent, or somebody.

A secret shared is a secret no longer, and one would think the mother and at least one doctor must know.

If human beings really have the ability to clone human beings, and have simply chosen not to do that on moral or ethical grounds, that really would be a historical first, wouldn’t it?

Sooner or later, that Pandora’s box will open, as history shows it inevitably must.

Here are some moral questions. If your family was killed by a drunk driver, and you had the money to produce clones of them, and assuming their consciousness had been recorded or uploaded as in a Robert J. Sawyer science-fiction book, would you do it?

Would they still be the same people?

What about the guy down the street, who doesn’t have the money?

Assuming normal gestation of nine months, no accelerated growth and maturation process, and assuming you were thirty-five years old, would you be allowed to take custody of your wife before she was eighteen years of age? That’s the age of consent. Would you be willing to wait much longer, bearing in mind our limited lifespan?

Why would she go back to a guy in his late sixties or early seventies, because for the last thirty-odd years she has been sequestered? Or, if she was eighteen, you would be fifty-three. You and she have been waiting, her mind full of all those memories, for eighteen years. What is she doing in the meantime, or do you expect her to be returned in ‘good as new condition?’ In other words, just the same as the day she died.

If cloned soldiers are a possibility, and the age of minority is eighteen, what freedom of choice would they have regarding their enlistment?

The state or corporation would be their mother, wouldn’t it?

Mother knows best. She usually does!

Somewhere in the world, right now, someone is doing research into human cloning.

I’m convinced this will happen, even ‘if only’ to extend the lifespan of human beings in order to colonize the universe!

That’s one hell of a big idea, and on that note I must close what is after all an incomplete and slightly schizoid piece of writing.

Here’s Blade Runner. The seminal film on clones, or ‘replicants.’


Notes. ‘Test-tube’ babies are not raised in test tubes, but in human wombs. The human womb could conceivably be replicated just as other organs can. A factory of wombs, producing a secret army for some rogue state, corporation or wealthy individual is a hellacious concept.


  1. I wrote a poem about clones that hits upon some of your ideas in this essay. You can read it here: vmemos.blogspot.com/2008/12/poem-about-cloning-and-global-warming.html

  2. Thank yoo, Valerie, I'll check that out when I get a minute.


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