An Ethical Look At Cloning

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On February 24, 1997, news breaks that the Roslin Institute in the United Kingdom had successfully cloned a lamb. The institute was able to take cells from the breasts of an adult lamb, and culture the tissue in vitro. Take an “enucleated” egg (A reproductive egg that has had all of its genetic code removed) and put the nucleus of the cultured cell in the egg. Place the new egg in a surrogate mother.
The resulting birth is a kidd that is genetically identical to the lamb where the breast tissue was abstracted.

Scientifically, this work clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of nuclear transfer. Fertilization, between a mom and a dad is not necessary. Fertilization, takes the two sets of chromosomes, merges them, and causes cell multiplication. Now, we can take one set of chromosomes and cause cell multiplication. We call it cloning.

This has opened up a whole new set of possibilities. Animal breeding companies are already interested because they can clone their best animals. Farmers could have better quality meat faster. Milk production could be greatly increased. Already there are a number of drugs that are made from human proteins. It is a slow and painstaking process to get these proteins for the drugs. This would open new doors of obtaining the proteins. With this process, sheep and cattle can be genetically altered to produce human proteins in their milk, so that the proteins can be obtain for the manufacture of medications.

However, the best possibility of all, is now we know that the DNA of all living animals can be altered. This means the elimination of birth defects. This means that certain genetic disease may be prevented or even cured: Cancer, cystic fibrosis, Huntington, and diabetes. Already for a number of years a form of cloning has taken place for burn victims. Skin tissue has been taken and cultured artificially. So that new skin can replace the old burnt tissue. This means that it is very possible to develop this technique to the point where science can clone an organ. Need a new liver, we can make it. Need a new heart, we can make it for you. No longer having to wait for someone else to die, for you to live.

As one might imagine, there is also the potential for the down side of cloning. The news of the cloning hit in February, and in March the President appointed a panel to research the issue. The panel was called the “National Bioethics Advisory Commission.” Even before the panel gave its finding two senators and one representative had already introduced bills to ban human cloning. Somehow, cloning seems to have gotten linked to abortion.

Why? Because at the very heart of the issue is the question, “what exactly is a human being?” The way most scientists define humans is after birth. Whereas right-to-life people define a human from fertilization. Now, a third possibility has been added, for life can now bypass the fertilization process.

Most Christian groups generally agree that the cloning of plants and animals is acceptable but not human beings. The conclusion of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and which is now shaping legislation, concluded, “to clone a human, after one successful animal cloning, to be unethical, irresponsible and unprofessional.” What makes us as human beings so different from plants and animals? Because God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The thing that makes us in the image of God is that we have a soul. Not the biological process, God wasn’t born. God certainly isn’t in human form. But unlike all other things in God’s creation we have a soul and that soul allows us to think and to reason and to have and make moral choices. We don’t just live to eat, sleep and procreate. We live by standards and values.

In other words, it is not the physical that makes us human, it is the spiritual. When God created Adam and Eve, He breathed life into them. We call it the “breath of God.” If a human being is cloned would he/she have a soul? Sure, simply because God allows them to live, “the breath of God,” they would have a soul. The biological gives life, but the breath of God is what makes us human being and different.

We forget that God practiced cloning long before we understood it. (Genesis 2:20-22) But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Sounds like cloning to me!

Morally and ethically we want research to continue. There is nothing unacceptable about improving human life. If cloning research can eliminate disease, that is wonderful. If cloning research can grow organs for transplant, great. If changing the DNA can stop birth defects, fantastic.

But we also know that there is the potential for abuse. I want a child with blond hair, why? I want a boy baby, why? A few years ago when a teenager was diagnosed with Leukemia. Her only hope was a bone marrow transplant. To have a perfect match, the mother and father, who had not planned to have another child, had a baby, just for the transplant. The transplant was successful. But there is something morally reprehensible about it.

We remember the years around World War II, when German science was so interested in the study of twins. Not so much because twins are fascinating but for cloning. And the rumors that went around about semen and tissue being saved from Hitler, just so one day he could be cloned. All a part of having the perfect race.

Chicago physicist Richard G. Seed has been working to clone human infants for infertile couples. Even the motive has to be questioned. Is it really the desire to help these couples or the potential for great wealth, what you think?

To use cloning for the purpose of improving the quality of life for human beings is acceptable. To eliminate diseases. To provide transplants. But to use cloning to control races, gender, to control bodily features is very arrogant and wrong.

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