Twinning versus Cloning

Clones twins           Elliott raises important moral questions about “Uniqueness, Individuality, and Human Cloning,” as the chapter is titled. He argues that it is not a matter of importance that a clone would be genetically identical to his host, because we do not question the morality of genetically identical twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc. However, I think it is important to distinguish the differences and similarities between identical twins and clones. Although we are unable to interview clones to ask of their opinion and personal experience, we can have a general idea of the general thoughts and emotions from genetically identical people. This serves to enrich the argument of the morality of cloning a human.


Differences and Similarities

Although monozygotic twins and clones might seem the same, there are a few important differences to note (from article 1 “Twins: A Cloning Experience” by Barbara Prainsack):

  1. Identical twins are a matter of chance, while cloning is the result of a conscious decision.
  2. The number of embryos that actually reach the end of the term limits the number of identical twins. Cloning theoretically produces an unlimited number of clones.
  3. Identical twins have two biological parents, while a clone has just one genetic host. Therefore clones may have one gestational mother and one or more social parents.

Main Idea: Nancy Segal, a twin researcher addresses that clones “fail to fulfill the three twinship criteria: simultaneous conception, shared prenatal environments, and common birth”. Cloning could one day be an accepted practice because twins provide evidence for the nature vs. nurture theory and individuality despite genetic sameness.

Perspectives from Identical Twins

The 17 interviewees understood the difference between being the same person being the same body, and that, for example, cloning a deceased loved one would not result in the same person. “None of the MZ twin respondents reported any problems with the development of individual identities” and uniqueness was not an issue between identical twins. They all felt like individuals, and one interviewee even said that she and her sister do not think they look alike at all! Twins share a very unusual, special bond that is powerful and positive- the twins feel unique in this way.

The twins complained about preconceived notions from outsiders. Sometimes people group them together as one individual, or treat them as though they are two parts of one whole, which annoys twins. Interestingly enough, identical twins would not like to be fraternal twins, and fraternal twins would not like to be identical twins. This probably explains the fear of the unknown rather than the fear of the unnatural, a common argument against cloning. The respondents were against the idea of deliberately creating twins because this entails “ulterior motives” and there would be a persistent “fear of not being ‘good enough’ for the people who had created them”.

What does this mean for further discussion?

In general, identically twins felt positively about their lives, but they reacted negatively to the idea of deliberately cloning. This could be due to a fear of the unknown, because twins felt that genetic sameness is not an actual issue since they develop so differently as individuals. The experiences related to us by the twins could actually help to shift the cloning debate away from violation of uniqueness or individuality and toward  more relevant issues like safety and other consequences of cloning, like physical defects or affected organ growth (4).






11 thoughts on “Twinning versus Cloning

  1. I’m really glad that you decided to try to focus on the argument that cloning and twinning are the same. I also disagree with the argument in that twins are not planned, and cloning is a conscious decision. I think you should read this article from Time magazine (,9171,98967,00.html) where a twin describes her life as a twin.
    I think it is interesting that many people would want to have a clone in order to replace and individual. The sad news is that that is nearly impossible. Identical twins will have a great deal in common in comparison to the few things a clone and the cloned person will have. However, there is a myriad of various differences that are between twins. Thus, cloning someone will most likely not create an identical version of the person to be replaced– they are less similar to each other than twins, and they can develop into individuals with different talents, likes and dislikes, etc. Clones, just as twins, will have their own decision and so just as a clone is born like twins, clones will also be able to determine how similar they are to their counterparts.

  2. By giving the definition of twin, you gives the audience a solid argument on why cloning and twins are different. Another point I thought about is that twins are born at the same time, while a clone of a person may occur around the same time or even years after. Even though twins and clones both have the same genes, the environmental factors can affect their behaviors and health. Environment plays a big part of their lives. However, since clones are created later on, the clone and the original might have huger differences than a twin. So does that mean, cloning creates more diversity than twins? This question then raises to another question. Since cloning can be so different, what’s the purpose of cloning the person you want? Cloning eventually doesn’t produce the exact person you want it to be.

  3. Kimberly is correct that sameness in every regard is nearly impossible. The big question one has to ask is “What actually makes a person who he is?” While genetics definitely plays a big role, but one cannot argue the fact that we are what we are because of our experiences. A clone might be born with all the genetic characteristics of Hitler but his subsequent upbringing, environment and overall nurturing might steer him in numerous different directions. Remember John Locke’s Tabula Rasa “The Blank Slate” theory in which he states that every individual starts as a “blank slate.” Ideas and knowledge are formed later through personal experiences. So, the thought of repeating someone’s success or even recreating the same experience with the same person is nearly impossible. Even duplicating Einstein’s mental abilities could be challenging as intelligence is only partly genetic.
    Another area that is problematic in cloning is epigenetic gene regulation. Epigenetic means “on top of genes” it is a system that switches the genetic information on or off. This means that two organisms can have the exact same DNA sequence, but not express the same genes. Genes may activate and de-activate according to the signals they receive from the environment. Even though epigenetic is still in its infant stage, it explains the proponents of cloning and its process as a physical replica but not the same conscience.

  4. Sarah’s comment definitely reflects what I was thinking as I read both the argument and Kimberly’s Time magazine link. It sounds as if twins are likely to be more similar than clones, due to experiencing a similar nurturing environments (provided they grew up together). A quote I found that supports my thinking is, “clones are genetically engineered organisms. If one really wanted to split hairs, identical twins more than likely share more similarities than clones, because clones depend on a “host” egg from Animal A, which contains its own properties, separate from that of the original animal (Animal B)–and these properties’ effects upon the implanted nucleus is unknown at this time” (Newman). Additionally as Sarah stated, clones can be produced at any given time, so the nurturing aspect is no longer applicable, leading to clone’s differences. At most, a clone can be a physical representation of someone else with possibly some similar personality traits if similar genes are expressed. Environment determines the expression of genes (epigenetics), and depending on the clone’s environmental experiences the original’s genes could be expressed or they could not be. I think both epigenetics and nurture work to individualize those with the same or very closely related DNA; hence, no two people (clones nor identical twins) are entirely the same.

  5. I, personally, think there’s a huge difference between genetic twins and clones. The 3 differences that you mentioned are all key differences that make twins so much more understandable than the idea of cloning. Twins come from the same parents, and they were a matter of chance, and there’s a limit on the amount of them. On the other hand, clones may come from different parents, are a conscious decision, and many of them can be produced.
    I think the most important thing for me is that cloning is a conscious decision, and if the clone doesn’t come out like the parents planned it to, then what? You can’t just throw a person away and start over again by giving it another shot. The issue with clones is that I feel like so much is expected out of them. If the clones don’t meet those high expectations, then there was basically no point of cloning them in the first place.

  6. I like the point you bring up about twins reporting that they feel like they have individual identities. Relating this to clones, however, many times in class we have brought up the argument against cloning which is that clones will not be autonomous. This is a prime example of us bringing in our outside bias. I completely agree, as a result, with the reports that found that twins “complained about preconceived notions from outsiders.” I fear that with clones people will have expectations that are unfair because having any expectation at all for one person to be as good as another, is more than any expectation one can put on someone as an original individual.

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