Final Blog – Neha Vaddepally

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.

Blog 2 – Neha Vaddepally

In order to characterize the differences between Bhattacharya and Broyde’s approaches to reproductive technology, we must first understand the authors’ purpose in writing about the topic. Michael Broyde in his book Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law aims to create an analysis of the technology of cloning from a Jewish law perspective, since “every legal, religious, or ethical system has to insist that advances in technologies be evaluated against the touchstones of its moral systems” (Broyde 295). He explains in the first chapter of this book that he does not claim to have authority of any religious institution, but rather he means to discuss the topic of cloning through his experience of Jewish law and ethics. Since cloning is a new technology that could not have existed when the Judaism came to be, Broyde is forced to reference both the Torah and other secondary interpretations of the text. After a thorough reading of religious texts, he was able to pinpoint rules that either allowed for cloning and clones to be accepted into society and the Jewish faith, or did not. Through this research, Broyde was able to provide, with a sufficient degree of certainty, that cloning is conditionally an acceptable method of reproduction.

Swasti Bhattacharya writes Magical Progeny, Modern Technology for much different reasons than Broyde. Her piece is not focused on one aspect of bioethics, but rather attempts to tackle bioethics from a Hindu perspective as a whole. Through her book, Bhattacharya strives for a much larger goal than simply understanding how modern reproductive technology would be interpreted by the Hindu eye. She means to establish the field of Hindu bioethics, as it does not exist to the extent that Christian and Jewish perspectives do. After discussing the critical role that religion plays in the field of bioethics, Bhattacharya calls attention to the lack of religious diversity in medicine and the importance of cultural competency in the practice of medicine rather than the theory. Culture, religion, and tradition allow for individuality within society, resulting in a varied experience of reality for each person. It is of utmost importance that medical practitioners are aware of these differences between people and their experiences of life in order to help them when necessary. A detailed analysis of the Hindu myth called the Mahabarata is the core of Bhattacharya’s attempt to construct a bioethical framework of assisted reproductive technology that did not previously exist. Despite taking up this enormous job on her own, Bhattacharya does not take an authoritative stance on the material she discusses. Early on in the text, she clarifies that the contents of the book are only based on her interpretations of Hinduism, and do not represent the views of others.

When comparing these two texts, it is clear that a key difference lies in the religions that they explore. Of course, I cannot say for certain that this is the only difference. An argument could be made that each author’s methodology could play a role in their differences. In this case it would be that Bhattacharya reads Hindu text and derives bioethical ideals from her understanding of it, while Broyde starts with an ethical problem and searches Jewish texts to find a solution for it. Inevitably there will be differences due to these methods of research, but when one inquires as to why the research was done this way, the answer ultimately falls back to religion. By this, I mean the structure of Hinduism and Judaism, not the religious ideals or practices. As far as I understand, the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) tend to follow a well established set of rules dictated by the bible. While there may be variation in the way in which these religions are practiced, there do exist fairly specific guidelines on how one should live their life. This allows for more pointed discussion on matters in question, in this case, cloning.

While Judaism is quite structured, Hinduism is the opposite. The term “Hinduism” itself is misleading, as it is an umbrella term for a multitude of different religious ideals and practices that are close enough in relation to be mistaken as one religion. There is no “formal discipline that presents and internally consistent rational system in which patterns of human conduct are justified with reference to ultimate norms and values” (Bhattacharya 27). Thus, there is no one voice that can speak for Hinduism. This makes it quite difficult to pinpoint one perspective of a bioethical issue.

Jewish and Christian bioethics rely on the regimented nature of their religions to engage in discussion about various topics. To establish a comparable field of bioethics using a pluralistic religion such as Hinduism is not practical. The nature of Hinduism itself, disregarding culture and tradition, prevents us from being able to create a “field” of bioethics as we understood it through the Abrahamic religions. Christianity and Judaism have shaped Western thought such that we feel it is necessary to have a specific set of rules that we live by. Since this does not exist in Hinduism, it is not possible to have a “Hindu bioethics”. Regardless of this, Bhattacharya made a commendable effort to bring Hindu ideas and traditions into medicine, introducing diversity into a previously homogeneous field.

Neha Vaddepally 1

Much of the culture we enjoy today in a great number of countries around the world is based on Christianity and Judaism. Though both religions derive their history and ideologies from the same text, we can see some stark differences between their interpretations of it. This simply shows how critical ethnography is in the development of cultures. The first two chapters of the book of Genesis offer a historical account of the creation of mankind as well as a moral one. Within the text, these two qualities are intertwined rather than dichotomous, as we typically see them as today. Biblically, the creation of man is perceived as a morally righteous act. Thus, any creation of man, reproduction included, is considered a moral good. This is one reason why so much value is placed on reproductive ability within our society.

In Genesis 1 verse 26, it is written: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” ( Both Christianity and Judaism interpret this verse as having some responsibility for furthering mankind and caring for other creatures we find on earth. The verse 28 reads: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…’” ( Here, it is clear that God specifically asks of man to continue the species through reproduction. This process then becomes not only a biological need but a commandment from God. The Lord gave man the ability to make the moral choice of whether or not to have children in hopes that he will do the right thing. It is also stated in Genesis 1:27 that God created man in his own image. The word image could refer to God’s physical form or the his ideological and moral image. Either way, both religions in question acknowledge that reproduction is a critical part of our duties as humans.

Christianity and Judaism as religions have developed different understandings of human reproduction. Each line of scripture has been heavily debated for centuries, causing slight changes in interpretations. Genesis 1:28 may be the most important verse in determining where the differences in Christian and Jewish views lie. The Christian reading of the verse emphasizes the word blessing, and sees it as a suggestion or a piece of advice. In this case, God tells man that it is in man’s best interest to procreate and further the human race. And so, reproduction is seen as a strong urging rather than a command. By the Jewish faith, the use of the word “be” indicates a command, thus heightening the importance of reproduction. Having children is an order, so achieving this through other means is much more accepted.

The family unit is another point of debate and perhaps another instance where Christianity and Judaism differ. A Christian family consists of a husband and wife, bound together by marriage as it is written in the Bible. Children are related to the parents by blood, so the acceptance of IVF and usage of other reproductive technologies within the religion is rare. Marriage and procreation within the Christian faith is limited to monogamous and hetereosexual ones. On the other hand, the emphasis placed on procreation in Judaism changes the structure of the family unit and kinship ties. It is believed that the Jewish faith is passed down through the womb rather than blood. A Jewish womb will undoubtedly produce a Jewish child, regardless of whose sperm is used. Because of this belief, the use of IVF and such is accepted if not encouraged for women who have not yet had children.