Makes ya shiver, doesn't it? This issue is possibly the most universally detested scientific advance i've seen come into the public eye since nuclear power and the side effects thereof - you know, bombs :)
The articles' gist is something like this: There's these weirdos, see. They think there are UFOs and stuff. Isn't that funny? Their leader wears sweatpants and a topknot that acts as an antenna to communicate with aliens. Hysterical, huh? Oh. And they may have cloned a human. Those crazy cultists. (collective rueful shaking of heads).
Leaving aside for a paragraph or two the ethical ramifications of cloning, all i have seen regarding this event - because, even if it proves false, it is an event - is ad hominem attacks and unflattering photos of the scientist that did the work. The response now, from the scientific community, is that Clonaid is going to have to provide the most amazing proof possible - or impossible, as the case may be - of their accomplishment in order to be taken seriously. I'll admit that i'm taking this with a grain of salt myself, but really.. It's not like we're any harder to clone than a sheep, just bigger. And Dolly received no such treatment. I think that people - as a group - need to stop focusing on the wacky antics of the cult that inspired this, and realize that crazy people can do science too. And have, in the past. Remember, Galileo was 'crazy' in his time, too. As was Copernicus. Anyone that steps out of the social mold - be it backwards, forwards, or kinda diagonally - is usually viewed as nuts. That doesn't mean that they're stupid.
On to the ethical issues here. First things first - cloning for religious reasons. I'll just say that, all scientific critiques aside, i think these people are insane. That being said, i don't view this reason as any worse than any other vanity cloning. Vanity cloning, in my opinion. is kinda lame to begin with - who really believes that the world needs two of them? But, that's just my opinion - this is one of those areas where it's pretty subjective. Then, there's infertility cloning. This is one area where i'm pretty much in full agreement with the fringe opinion. If you can't bear a child with someone, why not clone yourself, so that you can have a kid? I'm not talking about those who are infertile due to genetic defects, but more about a situation where you're with someone who is. Perhaps they're not well-suited to breed, but that doesn't mean that their partner isn't. It's a grey area, but less of one.
Then, there's the ugly issue. Medical cloning. Organ farms. Bodies grown in vats just to be harvested for hearts, livers, lungs...
Makes ya shiver again, doesn't it?
But is it wrong? I don't think so, myself. I realize that it's not pretty. Growing a whole human simply for the purposes of tearing out body parts is a grotesque image, reminiscent of the image of a mad scientist. What if the clone itself is ensouled? What then?
Since i don't believe in the existence of a soul, my issue is a bit simpler, since i think that the human brain is the seat of the self - and, if the brain is never allowed to develop - this is possible, bear in mind - then there's no person to violate. Remove the brain but for the cerebral cortex, and all you have is meat. True, it'll look human, and thus make all kinds of people swoon at the 'horror' of what's being done to it, but it won't really be a person, it'll be an object, with all the attendant 'rights' that i feel should be attributed to such a thing.
See? Messy. No matter how far this new ability is taken, there's going to be decades where the research is ugly, and scary. It takes time to progress from the stage we're at to a place where we can grow just a heart or just a hand, or just a spinal cord, for the people who need it. Me? I'm willing to wait through that if it means great good will come to all people in the end...
Just ask Marie Curie sometime about the necessity for painful science before it can be made safe. More to the point, ask every scientist that safely studies the radiations that killed her. It's a rare truly beneficial science that doesn't have nasty side effects that have to be learned the hard way.Tweet