Final Paper- Kyra Perkins

Written from the point of view of a religious man against cloning:
As a member of the Catholic community, I come to you all today to adamantly oppose the funding of cloning by the United States government. You may ask why a religious person why they care about science. You might even say that the United States believes that religion and government should be separate. I don’t disagree with you. Religion and government should be separate. However, when you see a country you love, regardless of your religion, turning down a dark path you are obligated to take a stand. While I am a member of the Catholic community my arguments are not a religious one, rather they are based on the morals that have been deeply ingrained in us as a country. Essentially, there are two main reasons for cloning. The first, medical research. This is where embryos are grown for the purposes of testing and for stem cell research. It is also possible to take cells from these beings for multiple other purposes. The second reason is for people to clone children, pets, or even themselves to avoid death and mourning. People clone dogs after death to avoid saying goodbye to furry friends. They try to clone children for women who can’t reproduce or have lost children. Some people even try to clone themselves to ensure that they continue to live on. A small baby made with their exact copied genetic makeup to raise as themselves in hopes that when that one clone grows old it will again repeat the cloning process to ensure that they line on forever.
As far as science goes, cloning has some major benefits that we cannot ignore. I will admit that. “On the one hand, there is the promise that such research could lead to important knowledge of human embryological development and gene action, especially in cases in which there are genetic abnormalities that lead to disease. There is also the promise that such research could contribute to producing transplantable tissues and organs that could be effective in curing or reversing many dreaded illnesses and injuries – including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injury… fidelity both to the highest moral and human aspirations of science and medicine and to the moral standards of the wider community requires that we consider not only why and how to proceed with new lines of research, but also whether there might be compelling reasons not to do so or certain limits that should be observed.” (The President’s Council on Bioethics). My heart goes out to the people who struggle with these diseases and these, what I know have to be, painful and difficult injuries. However, it is important to think about whether or not solving one person’s pain is justification for cloning. Regardless of being made in a womb or in a lab, these beings are living breathing humans. Until a study can thoroughly, without a doubt, prove otherwise, they feel pain in the same way we do. Is it worth bringing pain to one individual to save another? More importantly, should the government not only support, but use American tax dollars to fund these experiments? I speak for myself, and hopefully, most other conscious Americans when I state, find a better way. Find a better way to test, find a better way to get cells for testing, just find a better way. This is not a Catholic argument. It is argument for the moral fiber of the United States. Since I am a religious man, I do think it is important though, to consider the religious community’s views because so many Americans do consider themselves religious.
When considering the Catholic community’s stand point, it is important to look to what religious leaders say on matters such as these. According to the Donum Vitae and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, “Techniques of fertilization in vitro can open the way to other forms of biological and genetic manipulation of human embryos, such as attempts or plans for fertilization between human and animal gametes and the gestation of human embryos in the uterus of animals, or the hypothesis or project of constructing artificial uteruses for the human embryo. These procedures are contrary to the human dignity proper to the embryo, and at the same time they are contrary to the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within marriage and from marriage. Also, attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through “twin fission”, cloning or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union.” Furthermore, “the gift of life which God the Creator and Father has entrusted to man calls him to appreciate the inestimable value of what he has been given and to take responsibility for it: this fundamental principle must be placed at the center of one’s reflection in order to clarify and solve the moral problems raised by artificial interventions on life as it originates and on the processes of procreation. Thanks to the progress of the biological and medical sciences, man has at his disposal ever more effective therapeutic resources; but he can also acquire new powers, with unforeseeable consequences, over human life at its very beginning and in its first stages. Various procedures now make it possible to intervene not only in order to assist but also to dominate the processes of procreation.” It is not our job as humans to create life for the betterment of other life. In Judaism they also have fundamental concerns about cloning. Based on their laws and beliefs, they find it difficult, if not impossible, to support the usage of their tax dollars for cloning and the subsequent experimentation testing of these clones once they are created. “Initially, an analysis of the implications of cloning found in Jewish law really contains within it three distinctly different problems in need of resolution. The first problem is whether the cloning process is permissible, prohibited, or a good deed…, there is no mitzvah (as none of the participants are obligated). The activity itself is neither good nor bad, although the need to engage in other prohibited activity would be enough to prohibit this cloning according to Jewish law, as there is no counterbalancing mitzvah to offset even a small impropriety.” (Broyde).
Another important point to consider is that of parenthood. In the case that the government or scientists and researchers have cloned a human using cells from a dead person or even a donor, who is the parent? While this seems like a small point to make, the person who is the guardian of this living being is also the one who is obligated to take care of it. If the cloned being is the responsibility of the American government then not only will you need tax money for the research, but also extra money for any care and necessities these beings have. That is more money coming out of the pockets of hardworking citizens of the United States or more money diverted away from our already underfunded education system or failing medical system. Ask yourselves, how do you plan to explain to the American public that you have taken money from their child’s education for the immoral cloning and creating of living beings in a lab? I can assure you now, it won’t go over well.
To my second point, people clone to avoid dealing with the harsh realities of death and mourning or to fix the inability to conceive a child by any other means. Cloning has the ability to create a living being made of your exact same genetic makeup. “We must weigh whether to take up this matter in the context of deciding what to do about cloning-to-produce-children or in the somewhat different context of the ethics of embryo and stem cell research more generally. The issue has in fact emerged in the public moral debate over anti-cloning legislation, as a complication in the effort to stop cloning-to-produce-children. Generally speaking, the most effective way to prevent cloning-to-produce-children would arguably be to stop the process at the initial act of cloning, the production (by an act of somatic cell nuclear transfer [SCNT]) of the embryonic human clone.” (The President’s Council on Bioethics). To many people, they believe that an exact genetic equal means that this person will walk, talk, and act like them. Unfortunately, this idea comes from watching a few too many science fiction films. We, as human beings, are who we are partially because of our genetic makeup. However, the majority of our personality traits and opinions come from our life experiences. For example, if you were attacked by a dog at 5 years old, you were probably afraid of dogs for a significant period of your life. Likewise, if you went through a negative emotional experience, such as loss of a parent at a young age, it might have shaped some personality trait within you that you cherish today. Your clone, having none of those experiences, would have none of those personality traits. In short, experiences make you who you are and therefore, your clone will be an entirely different person. The idea of a clone ensuring that you live forever shows an ignorance of the human experience. Furthermore, a cloned being is not any more of a life insurance than a normal child would be.
Cloning is the human creation of human beings. Not only is it wrong religiously but it is wrong morally as well. Today, I urge the Congress of this great United States of America to truly consider the implications of the decisions you make today. When you vote for or against this funding remember that your actions have serious implications. It should not be the goal of this Congress to support the creation of human beings for the sole purpose of research, experimentation, and tissue harvesting. More importantly, the money of the American taxpayers should not go to this immoral act. Furthermore, we as American taxpayers should not have to use our hard-earned money to clone rich men who have a fear of death. Thank you for your time.

Kyra Perkins Blog 2

Is it possible to separate the study of medicine and the study of religion? Or, are the two so closely related that they become inseparable? Today, the common idea is to separate religion from medicine. The idea that you should focus on science and not religion is the standard that those who practice medicine tend to live by. However, in most cultures, medicine and religion are so intrinsically linked that you must be a master in both to understand either. In some cultures, a religious shaman performs healing rituals meant to remove bodily illness with a spiritual remedy. In America, although we profess to separate religion from other decisions, it is linked to both our culture and our decision making. Many of our laws and moral debates start with religious ideas. For example, many people who are against gay marriage argue that it goes again the Bible. Is this the same in medicine?

In Bhattacharya’s novel, “Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology”, she starts off by discussing the influence of Christianity and Judaism in the American medical field. Specifically, when discussing bioethics, religious figures and institutions played a major role in the formation of the field “by helping to create various bioethics institutes such as the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University and The Institute for the Study of Society, Ethics, and Life Sciences, now known as the Hastings Center in New York. Many Christian theologians and philosophers were also the primary contributors to the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Bioethics.”                 However, she then discusses the marginalization of religion in bioethics as the field progressed. The interesting thing to note is that while those who practice medicine try to separate religion they somehow manage to take a patient’s religious views very seriously.

Bhattacharya later states “Eliminating religion often leads to an unwarranted dependence on law as a source of morality. Legality is not equivalent to morality; an action may be legal but not necessarily moral or correct. Additionally, an emphasis on secularism can also be oppressive in that it can require individuals to pretend that their private lives and beliefs do not spill over into the public realm”. It is very clear that religion had an influence on her study and that may not necessarily be a negative. When discussing assisted reproductive technologies, she compares the Hindu views with those of Judaism and Catholicism. Based on this study and the approach Bhattacharya took, she would support the use of assisted reproductive technologies for women who can’t have children. She discussed that women must be mothers to be considered a complete woman and in order to be considered a secure with her husband. Culturally and religiously it is in a woman’s best interest to do all she can to become pregnant.

In a similar since, Boyde states that American law is free from ethics. He does not state whether this is a positive or negative. Instead, he juxtaposes how Jewish law and American law would look at the same issue. He spends a good amount of time discussing cloning and assisted reproductive technologies from both the American legal and Jewish legal views. American legal and Jewish legal views don’t necessarily contradict. Boyde proves that they just look at different problems in the same issue. While American law looks at who donated sperm as the true father, Jewish law considers the male figure who actually takes care of and raises the child. For example, if a family were to adopt a child, the man whose sperm created the child would be considered the legal father of the child until he gives up his parental rights. However, in Jewish law, the man who adopted the child would be considered the “legal” father in the eyes of the religion regardless of whose DNA was used to actually create the child. This slight difference in the reading of fatherhood and many others allow for vastly different interpretations of reproductive problems and how to solve them.

Jewish law, which Boyde used for his study, is a monotheistic religion with a holy book with the laws and structures set in place to guide those who practice that religion. Hinduism, on the other hand, is a polytheistic religion. It has no specific or strict set of laws. Bhattacharya uses history and stories common to the religion to determine common themes and ideas about birth and womanhood in Hinduism. Bhattacharya references the stories of 3 different women. One of which was dealing with a curse. She hoped to get the curse removed in order to be able to bear children with her husband. Boyde looked more at how specific Jewish laws would evaluate issues related to child birth such as cloning, adoption, and sperm donation.

Although the methodologies are very different, I do believe that both authors would come to the same conclusion. They would both, based on methodology and the studies presented in both novels, support women using assisted reproductive technologies to get pregnant. The difference would come in the reasons for the using of these technologies and what it means for the fetus. Boyde’s studies looked at the kinship relationship between parents who raise the children and parents who donated the actual DNA that led to the creation of the child. Therefore, Boyde focuses more on the child. In contrast, Bhattacharya focuses more on the mother’s emotional and mental wellbeing from a religious view.

Blog 1 Kyra Perkins

Genesis is an important chapter within the Bible. Scholars throughout history have used this chapter as a moral argument for marriage, gender, and even reproduction. With everyone reading one single document, a person could naturally assume that every rational person would come to the same conclusion. However, this notion is false. Many different religions have different outlooks on reproduction and marriage that are based from the very same text. These differences seem to grow much deeper when asking individual members of different religious communities instead of just analyzing what religious leaders suggest that their religious communities should believe. Two of the religions who seem to completely agree on the understanding but somehow manage to disagree on the usage of the Book of Genesis are the Jewish and Christian religions. According to the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, man was created alone and then God decided he needed a partner. In order to fill this void God created woman from the rib of man. It then states that a man will leave his parents and find a wife. When he finds this wife, they will become one flesh. This is usually interpreted to mean that man and woman, when married, become one flesh. From that flesh, new life can be made. In other words, only from marriage can a baby be made. The conflict comes when discussing in what ways a married couple can make a baby. Specifically, when looking at technology in procreation religions have to consider how far is too far when involving technology in procreation. Jewish communities tend to be more supporting of ideas such as surrogacy because it was so prevalent in the bible. According to Don Seeman’s text, Ethnography, Exegesis, and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel, “One of the inescapably dominant themes in Genesis is in fact the desperate attempt by both men and women to bring forth children from childlessness by almost any means (Seeman 1998). In Genesis 16, for example, the matriarch Sarah gives her Egyptian servant Hagar to her husband Abraham in what we today would probably call a “traditional surrogacy” arrangement to produce the child that had eluded her.” In fact, Seeman notes that the entire Book of Genesis is saturated with women who were dealing with barrenness and struggles with pregnancy in some way or another. It was very common for wealthier more well-off women to then pay or force their servants to become impregnated by their husbands. The housemaids would then give birth to the child and the women would consider it their own child. This was effectively the earliest version of surrogacy. This was the norm in biblical times and therefore, many Jewish identifying men and women consider surrogacy and assisted birthing methods to be normal. Christianity, and more specifically, Catholicism, have a completely contradictory viewpoint. They believe, as stated by the Donum Vitae in section I Line 22, “The Congregation recalls the teachings found in the Declaration on Procured Abortion: “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a new life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. “. The question for them becomes whether or not technology assisted birth is not normal, but rather whether or not it is morally acceptable or in some way harming or disrespecting this new life. In the eyes of the Catholic church, the only acceptable method is homologous invitro fertilization where the egg is donated from the wife and the sperm is donated from her husband. All other forms of technology assisted birth are immoral. Either the child will be created outside of wedlock which, as stated at the beginning of this post, goes against God’s intentions for the creation of life, or unused embryo which are not used will be frozen or thrown away which is equivalent to abortion. The Catholic church believes in respect for every and all human life at the moment of conception, therefore, any thing that they believe will somehow degrade or negatively affect a human life, even as an embryo they consider to be immoral and wrong. The important thing to consider here is much deeper than whether Jewish or Catholic religions actually support these methods of technology assisted births. The important thing to consider is that these vastly different approaches to the same issue are based around the same text. How then, is it possible to even begin to study or come to some consensus on this problem? Questions like this bring out the importance of ethnographic studies. What religious leaders may say does not always translate to what religious people actually practice. This point was made clear in the ethnographic study of Muslims in Lebanon. While religious leaders in the Islamic community believe that adoption, IVF, and sperm donation are against the teachings of Islam, some of the Muslim men who were interviewed still proceeded with these processes despite that knowledge. This brings up a very important difference between analyzation and practice. While religious leaders are trusted to analyze important religious documents and the points they make, the people who follow that religion are the ones who have to ultimately decide what and how they will practice the decisions of religious leaders. By using ethnography, religious and cultural scholars are able to get a more realistic view of the diversity within a religion as well as how certain religious ideals are actually practiced.