Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

Ernesto Rodriguez

Philosophy 12: Ethics

Summer 2004

 

Final Question 9

 

Outline the articles on cloning, discussing what it is, how it works and most importantly the ethical issues involved. Most importantly, having been well informed about cloning now, what is your ethical position here?

 

Cloning, in this case, refers the exact genetic replication of a living organism. Scientific research in genetics has yielded that ability to effectively reproduce an animal’s genome. To date, such experiments in cloning have been limited mostly to agricultural animals, which in itself has not generated much controversy. But, considering the way in which technology advances is it only a matter of time until researchers will be able to clone a human being.

 

Molecular cloning is simply the use of a bacteria to host a strand of DNA that will produce a certain valuable substance such as insulin. Cellular cloning uses DNA information to replicate the cells which make up the organs of the body. This type of cloning is used in medical research to study the effects of chemicals on different organs of the body. Blastomere Cloning involves recreating the splitting of the DNA strand that naturally occurs during cell meiosis. This effectively allows scientists to reproduce the fertilization process in the laboratory, what is essentially asexual reproduction. This is the form of genetic cloning which to date has produced goats and sheep that are genetically identical. Nuclear Transportation cloning involves transporting a nucleus into an unfertilized somatic cell (egg). It is this type of cloning which has made it viable to clone a human being, resulting in the present controversy.

 

While the specific issue of genetic cloning is relatively new, the ideas surrounding it are classical. The new argument about genetic cloning is based on the old argument about the nature of humans and whether we are simply organisms or something more. Based on the assumption that humans are nothing more than intelligent organisms, cloning presents a huge step forward in the well being of human race both present and future. Cloning and genetic engineering has the potential to eradicate all of limitations of modern day medicine. Genetic diseases would immediately become an issue of the past, degenerative diseases would be cease to exist because any somatic which are afflicted can easily be replaced. Acquired diseases could be treated in the same way. The pragmatic benefits are endless, human suffering could be treated like never before. Cloning and genetic engineering are a Utilitarian’s dream come true. But on the other end of this argument, are those who believe that humans are more than enlightened animals. People who believe in a God believe that cloning and genetic engineering are unethical and audacious attempts to “play God”. Interestingly, the right answer to the question of cloning and genetic engineering is contingent upon the right answer to the question of theism versus atheism.

 

As far as I’m concerned, the ethical question of cloning and genetic engineering are secondary to the practical issue at stake. Whether or not cloning is immoral is irrelevant to the fact that it is a dangerous technology that will require stringent regulation. Even if it is a moral practice, all it will take is one malevolent intention to make it an immoral practice. I’m sure that cloning would (dare I say ‘will’?) begin as an earnest practice meant only for the greater benefit of the human race. But what would happen once it started to become a more widespread practice? One need only look to nuclear weapons to find an example of how dangerous technology can eventually fall into the wrong hands.

 

Roughly twenty years ago, nuclear technology was something held only by the two superpowers of the world: The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. who never abused it. Today, in 2004, we find nuclear technology in the hands of stable countries and rogue countries alike. There is an ongoing struggle to keep nuclear arms from falling into the hands of terrorist groups, who would easily unleash that power and destroy the world given the opportunity. Was not nuclear technology carefully guarded and strictly regulated? Now what if cloning and genetic engineering were to follow this same historical path? Imagine a world in which the technology for cloning is used to generate slaves, by the thousands, traded on the black market. Imagine rogue states or terrorist groups using the same technology to generate armies of genetically engineered soldiers. Imagine our society divided between those superior human beings who were genetically engineered, and those inferior human beings born naturally, as was portrayed in the movie Gattaca.