Thursday, September 02, 2004
Dr. Zavos Wants to Clone the Dead, Part 2 - From The Other Side 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty has posted his thoughts on the cloning issue, and I'd like to invite you to visit the discussion over at his place...it's very interesting to read his well-articulated views from the other side of the cloning argument. I've also posted my additional thoughts, in response, in the PL comments here and here.

While I do not agree with some of its findings and viewpoints, there is one passage from the July 2002 President's Council on Bioethics report, "Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry" (chaired by University of Chicago's Dr. Leon R. Kass) that sums up many of my feelings and reservations about human cloning:
"...our genetic makeup does not by itself determine our identities...[b]ut our genetic uniqueness is an important source of our sense of who we are and how we regard ourselves. It is an emblem of independence and individuality. It endows us with a sense of life as a never-before-enacted possibility. Knowing and feeling that nobody has previously possessed our particular gift of natural characteristics, we go forward as genetically unique individuals into relatively indeterminate futures.

These new and unique genetic identities are rooted in the natural procreative process. A cloned child, by contrast, is at risk of living out a life overshadowed in important ways by the life of the "original" – general appearance being only the most obvious. Indeed, one of the reasons some people are interested in cloning is that the technique promises to produce in each case a particular individual whose traits and characteristics are already known. And however much or little one's genotype actually shapes one's natural capacities, it could mean a great deal to an individual's experience of life and the expectations that those who cloned him or her might have.

The cloned child may be constantly compared to "the original," and may consciously or unconsciously hold himself or herself up to the genetic twin that came before. If the two individuals turned out to lead similar lives, the cloned person's achievements may be seen as derivative. If, as is perhaps more likely, the cloned person departed from the life of his or her progenitor, this very fact could be a source of constant scrutiny, especially in circumstances in which parents produced their cloned child to become something in particular.

Living up to parental hopes and expectations is frequently a burden for children; it could be a far greater burden for a cloned individual. The shadow of the cloned child's "original" might be hard for the child to escape, as would parental attitudes that sought in the child's very existence to replicate, imitate, or replace the "original."
My objections to human cloning aren't so much based on the idea that there is something "unnatural" about clones or the cloning process, any more than in vitro fertilization - or even general surgery - can be considered "unnatural." The part that troubles me is that cloning seems to be a technique for creating identical twins that will carry unacceptably steep personal and emotional costs for both cloned children and the society they will live in.