Good Morning. I am here today to testify before you all on the issue of funding for cloning. As a bioethicist with a Masters in Theology, I feel that I have a particular skillset that is useful for a testimony of this kind. The topic of cloning has been controversial from the moment it was proved possible, yet most cannot articulate what their reasoning is for advocating against cloning. What is it about the act of cloning that incites such a strong visceral reaction? NYU Bioethics Professor Arthur Caplan and others have called it the “yuck factor”; a natural human “gut feeling” that something is wrong with these reproductive technologies (Prainsack 175). But just as Leon Kass, the former chairman of the US President’s Council on Bioethics, admits that revulsion is not an argument, I urge you all to look past the emotional response you may have to cloning and examine my reasoning intellectually (Prainsack 175). In this testimony, I will offer two religious stances favor of continuing funding for the regulation of human cloning research.
In order to properly discuss the repercussions of human cloning, we must first understand the biological process by which cloning functions. In natural sexual reproduction, the resulting human is a product of genetic mixture of that person’s mother and father. The child receives half its genetic material from his father, and the other half from his mother. This genetic material is “united in the process that we call fertilization, which normally happens after intercourse, but can also happen in a petri dish after in vitro fertilization (called IVF)” (Broyde 509). Regardless of the method of conception, the resulting child cannot be genetically identical to its parents. In the case of cloning, scientists isolate nucleic genetic material from cells of one single donor. They then introduce this genetic material into an ovum that has been stripped of its genetic code. The egg, containing transplanted DNA, is then electrically stimulated to induce cell division, just as a regular fertilized egg would. This egg is implanted into a woman’s uterus where the cells will continue to divide and grow. Thus, normal gestation will follow and result in a fully formed, normal human (Broyde 509).
Due to the expertise I have acquired within the arena of reproductive technology, and in order to properly convince you why funding should be continued, I would first like to address the arguments that exist against reproductive cloning. Because human cloning technology is still in the hypothetical stages, all of the major religious institutions have not yet released official statements on the topic. Therefore, I will use a combination of published material and my own analysis to explore its relationship to Judaism and Catholicism. First and foremost, the very obvious argument exists in that cloning alters and plays with human life in a way that God has not intended it to be. This is a prominent argument within the Catholic community. Since I am but a bioethicist, I cannot convince you to take my side, but only give what I feel is the right background to approach an issue such as reproductive cloning. To do this, it is necessary to analyze reproductive cloning within the Catholic faith. Catholicism views reproductive cloning as an asexual act, one that strips the sacred procreative act from husband and wife. The egg is viewed as an experiment or as technologically manipulated, rather than natural and willed by God. According to the Church, using technology to produce children is not the natural way to reproduce and therefore is not the way God intended. However, using the Catholic text Donum Vitae, I will show that reproductive cloning does not necessarily violate Catholic ideals in the way that other reproductive technologies may. Donum Vitae explains on behalf of Catholicism that there are two main categories of reproductive technologies that go against God’s will: heterologous artificial fertilization and homologous artificial fertilization. Heterologous fertilization refers to “techniques used to obtain a human conception artificially by the use of gametes coming from at least one donor other than the spouses who are joined in marriage”, including IVF and ET (embryo transfer) using gametes taking from a donor other the two spouses attempting to have a child. Homologous fertilization refers to the same processes as heterologous fertilization, except that in this case the gametes of the two spouses are used. Cloning does not necessarily fall into either of these categories, as gametes (sex cells) are not used in the process of cloning. A gamete has only one half of the genetic material necessary to create a full human, therefore a somatic cell (body cell) must be used. So, from this standpoint, reproductive cloning does not violate these rules.
Since my previous point seems only to be a technicality, I can give another instance in Donum Vitae that shows that cloning does not challenge the ideals of Catholicism. In the medical procedure of IVF and other reproductive technologies, it is critical to the process that a doctor be involved. In this case, according to Donum Vitae, “such fertilization entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.” This goes against Catholic ideals, as the spouses in question should not only have say in the process, but be in charge of the outcomes and consequences of the procedure. The human cloning trials facilitated by the federal research program will seek consenting adults as both genetic donors and surrogates. They will have autonomy and control over their genetic material, not the doctors. Therefore, the medical persons involved in the trials will not have decision making power regarding the fate of an embryo.
While Catholics tend to take issue with the methods of conception, the issues that Jewish people have with cloning typically involve its repercussions on family relationships and society. There are many suggestions as to why two Abrahamic religions can see the same topic so differently. One key reason seems to be the reading of the first and second chapters of the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament or Torah. The Christian reading of the origin story of mankind suggests that reproduction is a gift given to man by God, and if one is not blessed with this ability, then they should respect God’s decision and continue living their lives without procreating. On the other hand, the Jewish reading of the line “Be fruitful and multiply” implies a command, thus one should try any method one can in order to fulfill God’s wish to bear children (Genesis 1:28, KJV). Their adherence to the idea that “human beings, since they were created in God’s image, are not only entitled to but mandated to create,” is clearly visible in the way that they approach reproductive technology (Prainsack 183). Because of this mentality, there is much less resistance in the Jewish community regarding reproductive cloning. “The concept of something being condemned because it is not natural is not an argument that the Jewish tradition necessarily accepts” (Breitowitz 330). Jewish law says that the “ex utero embryo is not regarded as comparable with an implanted embryo, and in no way is it considered equivalent to a fully fledged human being” (Prainsack 182). Thus, there is much more leeway in terms of how one has a child. But, with cloning specifically, there is a worry that the resulting child will either not be treated properly by the family or peers, and that reproductive cloning is a direct threat to human genetic diversity. The simple response to those fears is that cloning is not yet available for humans, and due to the sheer cost of reproducing a human through this technology, most people will not be able to afford it. This will greatly reduce the amount of people wishing to clone themselves in order to have a family, and will keep the gene pool varied.
Despite the quite negative scenarios for reproductive cloning that people discuss, there are quite a few advantages to having this technology. For example, “cloning might be legitimate in order to obtain products like marrow or blood that could be used for bone marrow procedures and the like” for those who need procedures done (Breitowitz 331). This clone would be raised by the family just as any other child, except this one is genetically identical to their other child. The removal of bone marrow will not pose any real risk to the health of the child, so by Jewish law, it is acceptable.
Religion aside, I believe that the funding of reproductive cloning research can be justified through careful thinking. Many of the aversions that we may have towards this new technology truly has no basis in our current world. The biggest one perhaps is that we will clone those people that we feel are “excellent” as per our standards, and create a superhuman race. However, this idea is just that, since the genetic clone of a brilliant scientist like Albert Einstein would not result in another Albert Einstein. The environment in which one is raised and the way they grew up is critical to their personality and even many physical traits. This is a key aspect of cloning that many people do not immediately realize. It is essentially impossible to clone someone hoping to recreate that person exactly, physically and psychologically. Since these ideas are far fetched at the least, it seems only fair to see cloning as giving those who cannot reproduce a chance to do so. Any other interpretation of reproductive cloning is either not feasible or not something that we should be concerned about in these very early stages of research. If research is not done, how can we reap the many benefits of this technology? Overall, I believe that any technology “requires that one respect the individuality and singularity of every individual. […] The pro cloning approach emphasizes the moral imperative of using human wisdom for the betterment of mankind, and yet at the same time we must use it in a way that does not undercut the singularity of every human being” (Breitowitz 340). It is critical that moving forward, we should think prospectively about the issues raised by cloning rather than give in to a potentially incorrect gut reaction.
One Reply to “Final Blog – Neha Vaddepally”
Well argued and well done.