13 thoughts on “Week 12: Cloning & Politics

  1. Great job Carly. I myself also feel a little bit funny when I think about cloning, and I do think that I would be opposed to it. But like you said, if it can benefit someone, maybe I will give it a chance-I don’t know. I like how you also highlight how Macklin is quite biased in her piece. I thought the same thing throughout and then in the end, it was clear why she wrote how she did. Even though I would like to be techno-optimistic myself, I feel Macklin was a little harsh toward conservatives who can often bring up important questions as societies progress. Then putting Braun’s piece next to it was important to juxtapose German politics and American.
    Breitowitz and his application of old Jewish tradition to something so futuristic as cloning is powerful. Cloning raises many ethical challenges. It also brings back this idea of personhood. And then we put the personhood of embryos front and center. But again, how would clones be regarded in society? What rights do they have? But ultimately, if cloning can alleviate human suffering, then I am listening.

  2. Thank you for your response, Carly. I am very skeptical towards the topic because I feel it is a technology that, if taken too far, can be have very negative impacts in many senses. However, I am inclined towards cloning as a medical treatment, on a case by case basis. Therefore, I believe there should be strict lines that mark when, and when not, to use cloning. However, as you mentioned, it is very hard to make the distinction of what is or isn’t ethical, especially when the variables involved by cloning (like fetuses and the potential for human life) have different definitions for different members of society.
    As you mentioned, Breitowitz explains the Jewish perspective, and the potential connections with the Jewish commandment of creating life, and the means by which they are created (focusing on cloning and these implications). I especially liked when you mentioned the idea that if the commandment “be fruitful and multiply” were written in an academic journal today, it would include a footnote stating the other ways besides the “traditional” way that one can have offspring. However, I don’t think that it would only say “by any means”; I think it would be vary variable depending on the religion and view of the person. Also, I think the footnote would be a page long, stating why a technology could be harmful, how it is bennefitial, or how it may cause ethical concerns. No consensus would be reached, as the topics are subjective and ambiguous. I agree with you on the idea that cloning is not in accordance with the Jewish law of procreation (it may fit with the “multiply” aspect, but it would not be fitting to the “fruitful” aspect, as it is essentially replication and not the genomic recombination). I think it would be interesting to see the potential uses of cloning in organisms that are not human, and observe what ethical concerns can arise in those organisms to further enforce regulations in human cloning use.

  3. Hi Carly,
    Thanks so much for your analysis! Your interpretation of the report from the PCB as connecting medical issues to policy was interesting to me. I interpreted the report as serving to create a connection between the issue of cloning and politics, rather than policy. As I pointed out in my response to Nick, much of the discussion by the PCB seemed to me to be focused on political issues rather than ethical issues in their efforts to analyze cloning. Separately, I really appreciated your frankness in discussing your own opinions relating to cloning and embryonic research. I definitely get your interpretation and fear of not knowing where the line is, and I certainly agree with you that it’s unlikely that we’re going to find a consensus anytime soon, much less within four years. Thanks again for your paper!

  4. Hi Carly! Great job on your post. I appreciate your thoughtful reflections on the readings for this week. Something that I have been pondering myself that you discussed in your reflection is the mental health ramifications of cloning. How does it affect a person to learn that they are just a replication of another person who already existed? If that does not inspire an identity crisis than I do not know what would. I am with you in that I find myself to be mostly against human cloning – or any kind of cloning to be frank. However, I do not know if I have really any great arguments for feeling negatively towards cloning except for the fact that this level of technology is honestly a little bit frightening and unfamiliar to me. I do think there are ethical concerns that definitely contribute to my negative attitude toward cloning, like the fact that a person is not able to consent to being born the clone of someone else, and there is really no way around it. But then again, they may look the same as the person that was cloned, but, at the end of the day they are still a person who will develop a personality mostly relating to their environment. This is a tough subject to decipher feelings on, but I think you did a great job and I really enjoyed reading your summaries and thoughts. Thanks!

  5. Hi Carly! Thank you so much for your response – you analyzed complex evaluations in an organized, concise way, and I feel that my own understandings of these issues has expanded. I, too, did not know much about cloning before the video about the dogs, and therefore have just begun to explore the ins and outs of the still-evolving process. I thought that the unanimity against cloning-to-produce children in the president’s council was interesting, especially under an administration that typically aligns with pro-life policies, but I confidently agree with their justification for this stance on every category presented. However, I was surprised to see such a split on the cloning-for-biomedical research debate; I also distinguish between an embryo and a viable fetus, but I feel the need to explore my stance on this aspect of the technology further, and I am in support of policy that prevents the development of these exploratory technologies until we are more able to assess potential risks associated with them. Continuing, I found Breitowitz’s discussion confirming in my understanding of Jewish law concerning motherhood; however, I would be interested to read more Jewish perspectives on this issue, as I would expect some variance between beliefs. I found myself frustrated with some aspects of Macklin’s argument, as I feel that I find myself somewhere in between the conservative and liberal bioethicists groups, but I understand her evaluation of each and feel that her arguments are unique ways of organizing the different sides of these debates. As you brought up in your reflection, this made Braun’s article particularly refreshing, as they present a more flexible dichotomy of belief. Thank you so much for your thoughts, Carly! I am sure that these evaluations will aid you in your work in public policy!

  6. Hi Carly! Thank you for your wonderful and expansive summaries on the variety of works, as well as your personal takes on each. I found your voice to be very strong in your work–I greatly appreciate your honesty and reflections in particular, on certain levels of bias and polarization within the literature we read.

    I found to be most powerful your discussion on the nature of the “true bioethicist” as referred to in Macklin’s piece. Throughout this class, I have reflected heavily upon the nature of our own discussions ourselves. In some ways, we hold a lot of privilege to sit in an air-conditioned room and debate and discuss about bioethics and not live the day to day reality of it. Of course, many of us had and still have very personal relationships with bioethics and in particular, religious bioethics. However, I sometimes find myself frustrated at myself that I cannot be the hands and feet of this advocacy we talk about. We, as you mentioned, are all bioethicists at the end of the day. No matter one’s level of education, we all deserve access to these conversations. Thank you for opening up the floor to this point–is it critically important in order to have a diverse and inclusive approach!

  7. Hi Carly, thank you for your blog and summaries of the readings. I really appreciate the way you’ve structured your post to talk through each piece individually and see how they can all connect. I, too, struggle with cloning, as it seems many people in the class are as well. As someone who is super interested in biomedical research and the ways we can develop technologies for a better future, I often think about the balance between using materials (such as model organisms or human cells) and the ethical implications of letting these organisms or cells die. Technically, they are alive, and we keep them alive. With the invention of cloning, I think it has the potential to do a lot of good for research, however, it can easily be abused and used to mess with natural human evolution. This also ties back a bit to when we discussed genetic testing: some people may believe that by testing a fetus and then having an abortion because of a malformation or genetic issue (deafness, spina bifida, downs syndrome, etc), we are artificially selecting babies and skewing evolution. These are complex issues that require input from many different sources, not just from people with the same belief or opinion.

  8. Hi Carly. Thank you for such an interesting summary and reflection. First of all, I agree with your statement that “part of what makes life so special (and scary) is the impermanence of it.” While I’m not necessarily religious, one of the things I believe very strongly is that grief is simply part of life. I also wonder the actual extent to which cloning could alleviate human suffering. There’s a tendency to discount things like speculative fiction, but discussions of human cloning always remind me of things like Black Mirror. Isn’t there a possibility that cloning will simply create new, strange kinds of grief? In this class we’ve seen that for every problem a reproductive technology is able to solve, it creates a whole bunch of new ones that are equally difficult and human. Breitowitz writes about our knowledge and skills as gifts from God; however, the more we use these capabilities, the more we must grapple with their results. I also appreciate that you bring up the potential impacts on cloned individuals. In some ways, I think this draws very much on a kind of conservative bioethics that places emphasis on the life (and the quality of life) of the child. All of the questions you raise about the well-being and status of a clone in our society are interesting. I think these questions also expose the ways in which cloning runs the risk of resulting in the “commercial production” of humans—which we see (usually nightmarishly) in lots of media.

  9. I think the idea of cloning children is absolutely insane. I think it would turn society upside down in terms of ideas of mortality, individuality, and consumerism. If someone could create other versions of people, could they sell them? Who they belong to? One of the few things that societies across the globe can all agree on is that humans do not live forever. To create other versions of people would be to upset this general understanding, and for what reason? How would we make space for new lives in the world and not just repetitions of old ones? When it comes to bioethics, I am much less resolute in my decisions. I do not believe that creating embryos just to experiment and destroy them is logical. However, I am absolutely firm in my personal belief that embryos do not constitute children. Because that is such a controversial opinion, however, I think that there are foreseeable issues with bioethical cloning that lead to disputes over who actually owns the embryos and whatever they may create. There would need to be unbelievably strict rules and regulations for this, however, I think that we would run into the same debates as we do over abortion. And if the idea of cloning children is so upsetting and unethical, what is the point of learning more about cloning?

  10. Carly,
    You provided an in-depth summary of this week’s readings. As a chemistry major, and someone who has always had an interest in biology in bioethics, I have had a lot of prior exposure to cloning. I think cloning can often get misunderstood by the general public, especially when they are not informed of how it is actually used or could be used in the medical world. I personally think cloning could be a good thing; not necessarily cloning human life, but cloning of stem cells for cancer research, cloning of organs for an organ transplant, etc. While I am not strictly against human cloning, I do fail to see a reason to do so. The Council on Bioethics brought up good reasons why human cloning would be unethical, and it is a compelling argument. As for their opinion on cloning for biomedical research, I personally do not see an issue with using embryos for research. I don’t see it as “destroying” the embryo, but more as finding a use for it. I could see how cloning would fit into Breiowitz’ argument. If God gave them these skills and wants them to multiply, why shouldn’t they use this method? Overall, I think you did a good job of summarizing and responding to multiple readings.

  11. Hello Carly, and thank you for your thoughtful response to the readings! I agree with your opinion that it is important to include people of different backgrounds and disciplines when coming to terms with an issue as controversial as cloning. Though the science itself appears to be more straightforward than initially thought (as explained through the in-class dog video), the moral and ethical dilemmas that arise from the scientific perspective take much more contemplation. I also appreciated the perspective that you gave surrounding one of the largest principles of human life – that each is unique. I do remember in the video in class that while the genetics are identical between the clone and the original organism, the “personality” are, in part, determined by epigenetics and the environment (bringing to mind the concept of nature versus nurture). Just as we discussed in class, however, there are certain dog breeds with predictable tendencies based on their bred genetics – this would likely remain true for organisms that are cloned, bringing in an additional ethical concern. It is interesting to consider different religious perspectives, like the Jewish perspective, for when religious law was written and originally interpreted, cloning was not even a thought. Now that technology has been quickly adapting and making new concepts a reality, it is interesting to see how religious authorities are responding to something that clearly has no precedent.

  12. Hi Carly, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the readings. I appreciate the connection that you make between bioethical decisions and public policy. I think that all reproductive bioethical decisions on the federal level are necessarily public policies because they not only affect the public but also create the public by determining whose allowed to live. That’s another reason why it’s so tricky to draw an ethical line, as you point out, with reproductive technologies, especially cloning. When a new reproductive technology is developed, you have to consider all of its possible uses at once because even when you think its use may be permissible under one set of circumstances, you also have to imagine all the ways the technology may be abused. If you allow human cloning for the purposes of research, you have already created an infrastructure for cloning for non-research purposes. The tradeoffs could be grave. It is also possible that as humans we will be able to make the same type of advancements in medical research without human cloning that we would’ve with human cloning. With such a variety of outcomes and usages of this technology, I agree with you and the ten members of the presidents’ council that a four-year moratorium was ideal. In order to make a better-informed decision on this topic, I would need to know how human cloning for research is different from using tissue from a cadaver or other types of tissue donations, and what types of maladies we could cure with cloning research specifically.

  13. Hi Carly, sorry for the late response, but as someone else who was also assigned the cloning readings, I think you did a great job with the texts this week! I agree that the PCB’s controversial decision will likely not be resolved within the moratorium of four years set by the committee. However, I think I am in the camp that biological research on human cloned tissues should not be approved, simply because it will streamline the process and allow for other researchers to potentially break away from the agreed-upon standard. In terms of the positive Jewish perspective on cloning, I think this is also largely due to the pro-natal stance seen from both Rabbinic scholars and politicians in the state of Israel that focuses on the multiplication of the Jewish population, outlined by the phrase “be fruitful and multiply.” As long as the baby can be considered Jewish through the same standard that is upheld through normal births, cloning can be viewed as any other assisted reproductive technology. As for Macklin’s article, I appreciate your willingness to admit that she is very biased in her approach, although I do think she makes good points. While the field of bioethics is indeed being explored by those who do not have a formal training in either science, medicine, or ethics, other people are often involved in the issues considered under the domain of bioethics, so I also agree that the layperson should have at least some say on the matter.

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