Kass’s Argument Against Cloning

Leon Kass argues in the article “Why we should ban the cloning of humans: the wisdom of repugnance” that we need to enact a universal ban on cloning, as cloning is an insult to both morality and human dignity.  What I found so interesting about Kass’ argument was that he describes not only to the logical but also the emotional consequences of cloning.  Kass uses the feeling of repugnance to do just this.

The Process of Cloning:

Cloning is the process of creating a cell, cell product, or organism that is genetically identical to the unit from which it was derived. The nucleus of a mature and unfertilized egg is removed and replaced with a nucleus obtained from a specialized cell of an adult organism, which contains almost all the hereditary material.  While experts make it clear that cloning is not like Xeroxing, due to differences in environment and circumstances, the clone with share the same genome as the donor.

Argument of Revulsion

Kass argues that there is a reason most people feel deep revulsion to the idea of cloning human beings, a feeling similar to the one we get when considering cannibalism or incest.  He describes potential situations that could arise in the future if cloning is allowed in order to bring about disgust and emotional fears in readers such as: the mass production of identical human beings, women giving birth to and rearing a genetic copy of herself or someone in the family, replacing someone who has died with an exact copy, the narcissism of those who clone themselves, and the hubris required to control life and control destiny allowing man to play God in a way that is not natural.  Kass understands that revulsion is not entirely a valid argument, since there are plenty of examples of things that our ancestors would have been repulsed now that we see perfectly normal. However, he describes repugnance as the emotional expression of deep wisdom; wisdom beyond reason’s power to fully articulate.

Cloning Goes Against the Natural:

While I thought the emotional argument Kass posed was strong, he does not leave it to stand-alone.  He supports his argument by providing evidence as to why cloning would be damaging to the children, the family dynamic, and the process of human procreation. Kass argues that sexual reproduction is established by nature and is a process that should not be influenced by human design. He worries that cloning threatens confusion of identity and individuality and that the cloning of human beings represents a giant step toward transforming procreation into manufacture, straying from the natural and pushing children to become products of human will and design rather than a result of a loving family.

Reflecting on Kass’s Argument:

I can see where this argument for the need to maintain a traditional family and reproduction system may not appeal to some people, however I agree with his desire to maintain the natural cycle of birth, procreation, and death. I think Kass does a good job of appealing to both the emotions and logic of readers and was effective in convincing me that cloning humans is something that needs to be banned worldwide.


Sources: Kass, Leon R. “Why We Should Ban the Cloning of Humans: The Wisdom of Repugnance.” Arguing about Bioethics. London: Routledge, 2012. N. pag. Print.

9 thoughts on “Kass’s Argument Against Cloning

  1. In continuation of what you have already stated, have you thought about how genetically cloning a person can lead to new hereditary disease through changes in nucleotide sequences which often occur when attempting to duplicate DNA? A single change in a nucleotide in various genes can cause cancer or prevent a person from mentally or physically developing properly. Perhaps we are getting to the point where minimal risk to DNA mutations during this process, but is it really worth the risk? And what happens when clones begin to clone themselves? This can significantly increase the risk for producing mutations.

  2. Your blog concludes that you agree with Kass’s argument about the banning of human cloning, but I wondered what was your take on his banning of the cloning of human embryos for strictly scientific purposes. Kass brings this up towards the end of his article and concludes that in order to successfully ban human cloning, we must also ban the cloning of human embryos. I think this is a crucial part of his argumentation because for me, personally, it changed my opinion on whether or not I agreed with his initial point that human cloning should be banned. If we take into consideration Kass’s argument that successful banning of human cloning must include a ban on cloning embryos for strictly scientific purposes, new moral implications come into play. Without this research, we could lose important information that can save future lives. Additionally, some of his earlier arguments, such as the disruption of family dynamics is irrelevant to this type of cloning. It would have been interesting to see what your take on this point was.

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