Week 12: Cloning

Nick Weinrich


ANT 385

20 April 2023

Human Cloning: Miracle or Misfortune?

From my opinionated statements in class, it is evident that I often default to the “liberal” stances on many of the issues we have touched upon. However, even though I am not religious, I hold the belief common among the Abrahamic faiths that human beings deserve their own plane above the other creatures inhabiting the Earth. In doing so, I tend to favor any and all measures that prioritize human life, and sometimes even human comfort. These two stances, along with my past work in biomedical research for the past four years, combined to help me originally form the opinion that human cloning, like any other biotechnological process, should be allowed with only few restrictions. This week’s readings, though, reshaped my opinion on the matter in a significant way, and I would state that I am no longer pro-clone.

Cloning, the complete one-to-one recreation of an individual, although often viewed as a foreign or far-off concept, has been proven possible and has existed in animals for decades. By supplying an empty egg with a complete genome and implanting the fertilized ovum into a gestational mother, it is possible to create a perfect copy of a desired organism. The process, when publicized, drew both awe and ire from the general public, even when the animal used was as far-removed from humanity as a sheep. This quickly sparked discussion of whether or not the process was possible and/or ethical in humans. The possibilities that could come as a result of human cloning were numerous. A couple or family could choose to recreate a loved one, an institution could regenerate a great thinker, and real human embryos could be used in research to greatly expedite the process of treatment development for debilitating diseases. However, along with these positives come the consequences of high failure rate, large-scale destruction of human life when research on embryos is concluded, and blurring the lines of the human experience.

One of the ripples of this event was the creation of the President’s Council on Bioethics (PCB) under George W. Bush in 2001. The purpose of the council was to advise President Bush on the hotly debated topic from the perspectives of experts in the fields of research, medicine, ethics, and religion (PCB 167). The PCB published a detailed report on its decisions regarding the ethicality and suggested legality of human cloning, with extensive reasoning given for every point made. They came to the consensus that human cloning for the purpose of reproduction should be strictly prohibited, but they were split along the line of whether or not human cloning should be explored for biomedical research (PCB 176-178).

Some members argued that the benefits of human embryo research would far outweigh the use and destruction of human tissue, and their argument fundamentally relied on the assumption that such tissue did not constitute a full human (PCB 1716-177). Along these lines, the minority recommendation was to implement a moratorium on the issue for four years, suspending the ability to pursue human embryo research but emphasizing the importance of scientific advancement (PCB 181-182) However, others viewed the process as completely immoral, and the majority opinion was to ban cloning for research purposes on top of for reproductive goals (PCB 179-181). The majority opinion resonated with me, and I will detail my thoughts following Macklin’s discussion of conservative bioethical thought as a whole.

Michael Broyde, in “Cloning People: A Jewish Law Analysis of the Issues,” (the Breitowitz reading link directed me to this article instead), expressed far different opinions than the PCB. Using Jewish law as a basis for his arguments, he determines that cloning humans either results in a net positive or net neutral outcome (Broyde 505). His main argument stems from the order from God onto the Jewish people to “be fruitful and multiply,” and he advocates for cloning as a method to do so (Broyde 513). The only difference in the positive vs neutral outcomes results from men being the ones to receive this command, so when a woman is cloned, no mitzvah, good deed, is completed (Broyde 513). He then goes on to legitimize a cloned human and differentiate them from a golem by stating that a cloned human is born like any other, justifying this by acknowledging other rabbinical authorities that concur when babies are born through unconventional methods such as IVF or surrogacy (Broyde 522). Broyde speaks relatively highly of human cloning and thinks optimistically of those who would practice it, which is a far cry from the group discussed by Ruth Macklin.

Ruth Macklin, in her article, defines and criticizes a new “conservative” movement within the field of bioethics, highlighting the inconsistencies in the movement’s goals and definitions. She describes these neoconservative bioethicists as a group of commentators on the development of new technologies that have little background in science but instead come from organizations such as news outlets and think tanks (Macklin 36). Their staunch conservative dogma also creates a contradiction; they are along Republican party lines in that they also support big pharma, existing healthcare structures, and biotech development, yet these are the main drivers in pushing alternative reproduction methods (Macklin 36). In recounting their ideologies, Macklin notes that they tend to make grand, sweeping, and poetic claims about the nature of the human experience without using specific arguments or evidence to back up such statements (37). Finally, she points out that, although they tend to advocate for humanity in its purest form, they do not tend to advocate for those who are struggling and could be easily helped by the development of technologies that the movement is against (Macklin 38).

Although Macklin is correct in that their execution is not without flaw, I do believe that there is merit to the neoconservative argument. To be clear, I would only extend it as far as cloning, as I believe that the human experience is not significantly altered with reproductive technologies such as IVF or surrogacy. However, I hold that there is nothing inherently wrong with valuing the natural human experience as a whole or any particular aspect of it. Although it is not generally well-advised to base your opinions off of knee-jerk reactions, the initial shock of imagining two identical human beings coming to be because of laboratory interventions should not be entirely ignored. Although abortion (in the non-medicinal sense), surrogacy, alternative parenting, and other reproductive “technologies” are seen throughout nature in order to fine-tune reproduction and parenthood in both human and animal populations, there is no instance of an organism being completely replicated before humans took up the endeavor in the name of science. The PCB expands upon the unnatural-ness by highlighting potential problems with cloning for reproduction, such as the overshadowing of a genetic replica by the original person as well as dangerously altered family dynamics when loved ones are recreated (173-175).

Even disregarding the naturality of cloning humans, the PCB’s majority decision on cloning solely for research purposes highlights points that should not be overlooked. Although a noble cause, the effects of the process will likely be negative due to their inherent linkage to cloning for reproduction. By using cloning for research, the process would be improved upon, streamlined, and potentially normalized as an option for the non-scientific community. Additionally, even if strict guidelines were placed in certain areas, these could either be ignored or evaded by moving to another less-regulated country. And after working in academic biomedical research for the entirety of my college career, I know that there are researchers that should be trusted only as far as they can be thrown.

Works Cited

Broyde, Michael. “Cloning People: A Jewish Law Analysis of the Issues.” Connecticut Law 

Review, vol. 30, no. 2, Winter 1998, pp. 503-536. HeinOnline

Macklin, Ruth. “The New Conservatives in Bioethics: Who Are They and What Do They Seek?” 

The Hastings Center Report, vol. 36, no. 1, 2006, pp. 34–43. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3528596.

The President’s Council on Bioethics, Washington, D.C., July 2002, www.bioethics.gov, 

PrePublication Version.

13 thoughts on “Week 12: Cloning

  1. Hi Nick,
    Thanks so much for your analysis of this week’s readings! One of the things I think you keyed in on well here is that modern criticism of cloning is often most prominent within the conservative political movement. In all honesty, I think this is a sad reflection of the society that we exist in. Regardless of how we feel about it personally, cloning is an important and blossoming field of science. But, as is the case all too often nowadays, we have turned a scientific issue into an issue of politics and religion. I think that there is room for opinions in deciding whether we should continue to research cloning. However, such opinions should be based on ethical views than partisan politics or religion. The simple fact that we have such influence of conservative thinkers on our medical and reproductive technology and research is dangerous and sets a risky precedent for future medical technology that may be even more controversial politically. You drive this home when discussing Macklin’s reading, when she argues that conservatives involved in this research often are unqualified commentators, with more experience in the media and politics than in science. While I am not particularly hopeful that this problem will be solved, finding and understanding the problem is a good first step. Thanks again for your paper!

  2. Hi Nick, thank you so much for your thoughtful reflection this week! I appreciate how you described the ways in which these readings changed your mind about cloning in some ways. I think with cloning, the logical and emotional parts of my brain are really at odds with each other. Like you said, the research purposes of cloning should not be overlooked – the logical part of my brain agrees with that. However, similarly to what you described about the potential implications on a family dynamic with the presence of a clone is definitely one to consider, and something that the emotional part of my brain cannot really ignore. I think the emotional part of my brain is winning at the moment, but I am eager to discuss more in class because I think my opinion is still quite subject to change. Thanks again for your great blog post!

  3. Hi Nick – thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! It is interesting to read about how your perspective has changed as a result of these readings. I think that these readings relate to each other closely, but I see the importance of looking at each individually before coming to a conclusion. I did not realize that the debate over cloning could become so polarized, but I understand the validity of each side. I thought it was interesting how Macklin argued that the more conservative side of these issues is really more about economic implications, but is placed under the facade of ethical dilemmas. I’m not sure I totally understand this argument, but I do understand how both economic and moral components can contribute to a person or party’s stance on this debate. I think it’s also interesting that you bring up the variability within researchers: there are some researchers who operate under the most noble of intentions and who would always perform research in “ethical ways,” but there are also researchers who may act with other priorities, such as their own gain from public-minded research. This variability should not be disregarded, thus leading me to agree with the moratorium enactment, as technology often progresses more quickly than regulatory policy. Thanks again, Nick!

  4. Hi Nick, thank you for your blog post and analysis of the readings. I really appreciate how you’ve also offered your own opinions in the context of the readings for this week. I, like you, am also involved and am interested in biomedical research, though I think we started on different sides of the cloning argument. Initially (and still), I am very cautious of cloning. In a separate class, we discussed polygenic risk scores that can be done during a pregnancy or even before to give the parents a risk assessment of the potential child. In this other class, we took a long time discussing the potential for “designer babies” which is not something I support at all. Although I support the desire for knowledge and preparedness for a child that may have a certain genetic disease or disposition, I cannot get behind artificially narrowing the population by what is popular now (ex being tall or being good at math). I think the same can be applied to cloning: as mentioned in the readings, it can be a slippery slope when it comes to reproduction and even in biomedical research. I believe it can do a lot of good and can help with research to improve therapies or develop cures to common illnesses, but I believe it can be easily abused. We must always be careful when dealing with new technologies and thinking about the ways they can be used–both in regards to improvement and unintended consequences.

  5. Hi Nick. Thank you for a thoughtful summary and reflection. One thing I’ve taken away from this class is that most scientific issues, especially those involving reproduction, are inherently issues of politics and religion. We have this idea that science is somehow separate from these things, but science is shaped by and tied up with ethics. In the readings this week I think we see some criticism of conservative values being present in discussions about issues like cloning, but in the specific case of cloning I think it’s really important to consider what we think of as constituting normal human life. Opposition to cloning sounds a lot like ‘Donum Vitae,” especially insofar as it doesn’t want to disrupt family dynamics or societal structures. But I also think cloning has the potential to disrupt our fundamental conceptions of what it means to be human. As the readings note, emotional appeals are often made in opposition to cloning—but aren’t these important? You note that you believe that “human beings deserve their own plane above the other creatures inhabiting the earth.” What plane of life would a clone inhabit? Personally, even watching the video of the dogs being cloned, I was very uncomfortable—there is something very threatening to our idea of existence in the idea that we can use cloning to defy mortality. I can acknowledge that my views are still very influenced by media like speculative fiction that is probably quasi-conservative. But I do think they’re important to consider.

  6. I agree with your statement that there is nothing inherently wrong with valuing human life. I do truly believe that those who advocate for pro-choice do so because they value the life of the mother. Nobody, on either side of this debate, thinks life is not worth preserving despite how their opinions might be framed by the media. The issue arises when one must choose one life over the other. I don’t think that being inherently pro-choice means that you are anti-life, and I don’t think that being pro-life automatically makes you anti-choice. When it comes to the issue of cloning and bioethics, I don’t agree that God’s commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” would include cloning because cloning is a recreation of lives that already exist. I feel that God wants people to create new, authentic, and beautiful life instead of copies of existing life. This is a very personal reading of the quotation, however, and can be disagreed with. I think that allowing cloning to be used for bioethics and trusting that the process would be improved and streamlined is an optimistic view that cannot be afforded with such a dangerous thing. I personally do not trust people not to take advantage of such technology or create an ethical process.

  7. Nick, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It is impactful how we can believe in certain concepts, but come across compelling information that can abruptly change our views. I strongly agree with you on the comment that the President’s Council on Bioethics goal of fine-tuning the technology of cloning strictly for research purposes is a naive thought. Of course, if the technology is further advanced and refined, then it expand beyond research. I personally believe that, for cloning, the cons outweigh the pros. The ethical dilemmas it poses, the exploitation of animals as test subjects, and the social impacts it will have in regards to genetic diversity and genomic material, I believe that it is not worth the cause. There are other reproductive services that can help individuals create life (why do we need to replicate it?). In “The New Conservatives in Bioethics: Who Are They and What Do They Seek?”, Ruth Macklin, focuses on emphasizing the sanctity of life, and the moral significance of the family. Cloning is a clear threat to traditional family notions, and the idea of human nature which we have discussed in class. Again, I think that when it comes to cloning, we should address the topic with a conservative approach like Macklin, as the future consequences the technology can have can totally interfere with human and social life in a negative way.

  8. Nick,
    I was surprised to see that this week’s readings changed your prior opinion. I think you gave a good summary of the readings, and your introduction to the details of cloning was helpful and provided a good framework. While I understood Broyde’s argument, I just don’t think it is that simple. I wouldn’t know if this could be considered “multiplying”. In response to your analysis of Macklin’s piece, I don’t know if something being unnatural is a good enough reason to avoid it. However, I do think you did a good job of analyzing and responding to the readings and giving thoughtful explanations. I agree with your final statements, and I believe any technology, especially biological, can easily be abused.

  9. Hi Nick! Thank you so much for your contributions. Your summaries were exquisite and assisted me in synthesizing the information from this week.

    I found quite interesting your honesty in your shift away from being “pro-clone.” I agree that the writings were effective in shifting my perspective, although I do not think I ever identified as fully pro- or anti- clone.

    Have you ever seen the movie Gattaca? All of this talk about cloning and its potential leaning towards a new type of eugenics reminds me heavily of this movie. Gattaca is a science fiction film set in a dystopian future where genetics determine one’s social status and opportunities in life. Vincent, the protagonist, is born without the “desirable” genetic traits and is therefore labeled an “in-valid.” Despite this, he dreams of becoming an astronaut and assumes the identity of a genetically superior man named Jerome through a risky identity swap. Vincent successfully passes the stringent genetic testing process to enter Gattaca, a space exploration corporation. However, when a mission director is murdered, Vincent’s cover is threatened, and he must race against time to prove his innocence and achieve his dream.

    Clearly, this movie serves as a dystopian warning about genetic perfectionism and discrimination. It scares me a bit to read about all of the possibilities that PCB speaks about with cloning–their possibilities feel closer and closer to present day reality.

  10. Hi Nick.
    This was awesome. You very clearly read these passages well. I appreciate how you set aside the fact that you are not religious and that you are on the “liberal” side normally. But then you go on to explain how although this often affects how you think, you changed your thinking with these readings. I do agree with the fact that neoconservative bioethics can be a little bit limiting for medical progress. But like you said, this is not the case for cloning. At cloning, we are really delving into the human experience. And that is why the PCB would be so against the idea of cloning for reproduction. But maybe there is a chance that cloning of embryos would be helpful for humanity. And that there is something to be looked into further.
    Looking at the Jewish perspective on cloning is very important. it is only one faith. But it is a faith nonetheless, closely tied to Christianity and Islam, faiths that compose a large portion of the world. Thus, getting the perspective of a religious figure on cloning I feel essential, because if most of the world is religious, then these things ought to be understood from those views.

  11. Hello Nick, and thank you for your response to this week’s concepts! Something that I had not thought about before reading your essay were the risks associated with cloning – with the technology being so fascinating and surprisingly straightforward (as seen with the in-class video about dog cloning), I admit that I saw the practice through rose colored glasses. Your discussion about the high failure rate and possible large-scale destruction of human life (with regard to both developing the technology and practicing it) opened my eyes to the incredibly complex and somewhat suspect obstacles that scientists are attempting to navigate. While I believe that research on human embryos is important for the advancement of medical innovations that can assist greatly with existing conditions, I agree with the President’s Council on Bioethics understanding that cloning for the goal of reproduction is unethical. With regard to the Jewish perspective, I find it interesting that Broyde brought up the idea of a golem. After growing up in the religious school of my synagogue, I became very familiar with that Jewish folklore creation – a golem is a “creature formed out of a lifeless substance such as dust or earth that is brought to life by ritual” (I was taught that it was brought to life by writing the word ‘Emet’, or truth, on its forehead, and killed by erasing the letter alef to reveal the word ‘Met’, or death). I think that this figure is very symbolic in Jewish culture when it comes to the discussion of cloning, for its presence in the conversation suggests that a clone would be a dull, incomplete human-like creature that lacks the individuality and “soul” that each human has. While the question of whether or not a clone would have a “soul” is definitely up for debate with regard to many faiths, but I felt that the parallel was interesting.

  12. Hi Nick, great job with your blog post! I also did the post for this week, so I was excited to see how you interpreted the articles differently and your viewpoints. I really appreciated how you started with what in your own background informs your thinking. In the very first paragraph you mentioned how you identify as liberal, believe that humans deserve to be on a plane above other creatures, and that you have several years of experience in biomedical research. I wish Macklin had provided the same context in her article. Macklin did not identify her own liberal background until the very end, making the article seem quite biased. I think it always important to be upfront about the beliefs you hold and experiences you have, as the reader should understand where you are coming from and what perspectives influence your opinions. You also did a great job of summarizing the articles in a clear and concise manner that was easily digestible. Some people have trouble synthesizing several longer readings, but you did an expert job presenting the main arguments of each reading and weaving them together. I also found your discussion of Broyde’s article to be super interesting, specifically how “be fruitful and multiply” only applies to men. This is strange to me, because women are required to make “be fruitful and multiply” a reality!

  13. Hi Nick, thank you for your thorough overview of the readings. I think you do a great job of identifying the problematic connection between cloning for research and cloning for reproduction. That is also a reason why I am hesitant to support human cloning for research. I also think that human cloning for research may actually be counterintuitive in the public health sense. If we allow cloning for research purposes and people begin to clone for reproductive purposes, then we might mess with the evolutionary advantages of a naturally interbreeding human gene pool. I know very little about evolutionary science, but it seems that if we started reintroducing the same genetics into the human gene pool over and over again we would be missing out on genetic advantages, making the human species more vulnerable to disease and climate change.

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