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The Line in the Sand

Human Cloning.

by Barnabas
January 1, 2003

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The Line in the Sand_Barnabas-Human Cloning.
Brigitte Boisselier, the scientific director of Clonaid, is scheduled to make the announcement Friday at 9 a.m. EST. Last week, Boisselier told some news organizations that the birth of a cloned baby girl was imminent.
–CNN, December 27

The announcement duly came. Then on December 30 Dr. Boisselier announced on Good Morning America that the donor and her clone had arrived in the United States. (She used the words mother and daughter, I believe, but that doesn’t mean I have to).

For purposes of this essay, I’m assuming the facts of the case: cloning did occur, and the baby is apparently okay. My comments apply whether it happened or it didn’t. The ethics of cloning is not affected by whether an attempt at it was successful. It is affected by the fact that an attempt was made, or or at the least that we are being led to believe that it was made. On these grounds, a thousand healthy human clones would not make the practice ethical if it is not; equally, a thousand failures would not prove that the practice is unethical, if it is; only that the human race is not yet ready to make the attempt.

Since I have always been on the side of progress—blood transfusions and even heart transplants (except for the huge expense) are fine with me—I was surprised at how the actual announcement, that the theory of human cloning had now become fact, caused within me a decisive rejection of it. The concerns I raise here have no basis in the literature concerning cloning, on either the bioethical or medical side. It is based rather on a truth we all know, and which is more profound than any scholarly justification of the practice.

Human cloning is a line in the sand that must not be crossed. Human generation is sexual, the union of a sperm and egg. This is not to be confused with the sentimental argument that “each individual is unique”; if you have an identical twin, genetically you are not unique. It is not important that you are genetically unique; it is important that you are new. Each of us is a new generation. Each instance of human generation, including those that result in identical multiple births, is programmed to be new. A specific sperm, out of billions, unites with a specific egg. It may not happen during sexual intercourse; it may happen by artificial insemination or in a test tube. The sperm and egg are indifferent to the venue. Under the right conditions, but apparently at random to human perception, they do their thing.

In contrast, a clone is not a new generation, but the perpetuating of the old. Ethically speaking, cloning is a form of incest even worse than intercourse between parent and offspring; when conception results from sexual union, at least the baby is a new generation. In cloning the new life form is at best the donor’s identical twin, not the donor’s offspring.

Generations are to be superseded by their offspring, not perpetuated by their clones. Perpetuation is the word to keep in mind. Cloning is the perpetuation of death in a generation doomed to pass away, not a new generation for the continuation of life.

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