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):
- Identical twins are a matter of chance, while cloning is the result of a conscious decision.
- 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.
- 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).