Between test tubes and crosses: the debate over cloning

By Françoise Guigné
Prince of Wales Collegiate
St. John's, Newfoundland

To clone? Or not to clone? That is the question which is at a stalemate in a debate between test tubes and crosses. Cloning can be divided into two views; the technological point of view and the ethical point of view, one just as important the other.

But first, what is this scary concept of cloning? According to scientists, it is the production of a new individual from an existing one through an asexual process. Genetic material from the first individual is used to create a new individual that has the same genetic make up. On the other hand, ethically, cloning could eventually be the mechanical production of the human being, a person, which takes away from natural birth and miracle of life which is sexual reproduction.

Check out a video clip
of Françoise Guigné

I was first introduced to cloning the year Dolly the sheep was born, the first successful clone using adult DNA. Society was introduced to Dolly seven months after her birth, February 23rd 1997. The discovery of Dolly aroused ethical groups from all over the world, as well as scientists searching for the same results. Presented with the facts, the realization that Dolly was just the beginning shocked society like all other global issues. The scientific approach to Dolly's existence was similar to the following logic of thinking; " Dolly is a mammal. We have cloned a mammal. Humans are mammals. So why can't we clone humans?" "Because of morals that is why!" protest the ethic groups.

Since Dolly has been cloned, 22 mice, seven calves, three goats as well as seven other sheep have been cloned. On top of that 15$ million dollars have been set aside in Hawaii for the research on human cloning. These facts are evidence of the unstoppable even undesirable research which is ahead and occurring right now.

Only six months ago in 1998, researchers at the infertility clinic in Kyeongheo Korea, announced that they had successfully cloned a human. The goal however was not to clone a human per se, but to clone specific genetically identical organs for human organ transplants, providing us with a "reservoir of spare parts". As well scientists anticipate creating trans-genetic pigs which would have human genes, heart, liver and kidneys. This could save the thousands of people who die every year waiting for organ transplants. This is a very attractive idea but as human nature takes its place it develops ideas and reaches for the stars. Therefore organ cloning will only be the start in humans. Eventually the clone which will come out looking like an actual baby will be realized. That is when our problems will really start.

The idea of a mechanically made baby is not so-pretty-a-picture. Psychologically the clone could be extremely effected and the social consequences devastating. The clone is made in a petri dish from a dividing embryo. As the clone gets older, it is faced with the question of "Who are my parents?". In actual fact the truth is the clone won't have any parents, it will have an owner. The comparison between that child and a naturally-produced child is so different that those psychological effects will have a great impact on the health of the clone. Socially and economically the legal arrangements are at risk. Who belongs to whom, family inheritance and even relatives are all factors to be considered.

  Moreover, when you look at how and what is being done trough cloning it is the once built-in natural life cycle which would be effected. Human beings and animals are different they are not equal humans were provided with dominance over animals. Therefore there is also a difference between animal cloning and human cloning. When experimenting on a human being, you are experimenting on an actual person who knows how to express themselves with speech and feelings.

During the second World War experiments on humans were performed. In some cases humans were stripped and skinned alive, their skin used on lamp shades. This was not moral. It was wrong. To many people human cloning is not natural, it is mechanical and therefore immoral and wrong. It took 277 tries to get Dolly alive. The question being asked is; "Can we really risk this on human persons?"

In cloning, there seems to be a split right down the middle between the benefits to society, medical research and other uses for cloning, compared to the moral side as well as the religious values and views. In terms of the wonderful benefits for society from human cloning, Thomas Hobbs said it best; Man is NOT for society, society is for Man.

As well, science, technology and technological advancements have not always been beneficial. Cloning as a technology can be represented as a ladder. Rung after rung we keep on reaching higher, but when we reach the top and finally realize that it was never secure and balanced at the base, chances are that we're going to fall right off that ladder.

But like it or not we're on that ladder, we have the technology to clone a human being. However the question that still remains, morally and ethically, is: "Will this human clone have a soul?"


This article originally appeared in English Expresso, an online student publication at
Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John's, Newfoundland.