The Benefits and Liabilities of Cloning

An event which was heralded as one of the greatest achievements of the Twentieth Century concerned the cloning of the first mammal, a ewe named “Dolly.” She was born July 5, 1999 at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was a noteworthy scientific achievement, an excellent example of man’s God-given ingenuity. This was not the creation of life nor was it reported in a balanced way by the news media. This event, and the cloning of various other mammals since then, should make us ask several questions about the validity and purposes of cloning mammals and people.

Technology is neither good nor evil in and of itself. Technology is good or evil depending upon how it is used.

“Dolly,” named for the Country Music singer Dolly Parton, was developed at a cost of $50,000 after 277 failures.

How was Dolly cloned? An adult cell nucleus (an adult somatic cell nucleus) was removed from a cell of a “donor” sheep; the donated nucleus was transplanted into an egg cell from a second sheep after the nucleus had been removed from that egg cell; and, finally the “complete” egg was placed into the womb of a surrogate sheep. The cell nucleus had been removed from a 4 to 6 year old sheep. The question at the time was whether Dolly would have a normal life or would she live a shorter life because she would already be an “adult” when she was born.

As it turned out, Dolly aged faster than normal. She started to suffer from arthritis in 2002 and died prematurely. She was euthanized after contracting lung cancer at age six, February, 14 2003 (normally sheep live 11 to 12 years). She had six lambs during her short life. In 2007, the nuclear transfer technique used to “create” her was declared inefficient for use in humans.

Will cloning technology be used to benefit man with new pharmaceuticals or with donor organs which will then be transplanted from animals into people to prolong useful human life? Will cloning technology be used by wealthy people to clone donor organs for themselves?

The cloning of an individual to make copies of themselves, with the purpose of growing organs to provide transplants for the original donor, and thus supposedly provide immortality to the donor, would require the death of the clone. This would mean that the production of a human clone would be for the purpose of committing murder.

These are real situations and those persons involved with bioethical questions understand it only too well. Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, observed: “It is a pretty shocking change in the way we have to think about biology.”

For those concerned about such research let us set some things straight. The genetic clone of a mammal or human being only duplicates the genetic information for the structure of the physical body (the blueprint) and the basic operating instructions for maintaining the life of that body. The individual cloned does not have a duplicate personality; the clone does not contain a duplicate soul (in the case of an animal or human being); nor, does the clone contain a duplicate spirit (in the case of a human being). Acquired knowledge, wisdom, memories, character, behavior, etc. do not transfer from the old body to the new body. All learned behaviors, personality development, vocational and avocational interests will be different in the cloned individual. Everyone will admit that not even identical twins, which are clones, are truly identical. They may appear to have identical outward appearances but they have different fingerprints, they have different retina scans and they definitely have different personalities.

Each person or individual is just that, an individual unique creation of God. Once a complete human cell exists, regardless of how that cell was fertilized or came into being, God places a spirit inside that cell. (Ps. 139:13-16; Ecc. 3:19-21; Ecc. 12:6-7) A cloned person would still be their own person with a unique spirit, soul and body and would not be an extension nor a replication of the donor. The cloning of a person with the intent to use their organs for the premeditated purposes of the donor would be murder in the first degree.

The proposed medical benefits of cloning animals for research purposes may have very limited potential benefits, but the downside liabilities are great.

The idea behind cloning farm animals is the economic benefits to be achieved from that cloning. But, what happens if we find the “perfect cow” or “perfect pig” or “perfect chicken?” First, who decides what is “perfect?” The “perfect” animal might be considered to be the animal that produces the most meat per pound of food consumed; or, produces the most milk and cheese per pound of food consumed; or, produces the most eggs per pound of food consumed. Whatever the basis for the decisions, the decisions are made for purely economic reasons.

What then happens if we concentrate our efforts at raising only these “most desirable” animals? We would allow the smaller purebred varieties, which are not as efficient, to become extinct. They are no longer “desirable.” But, if a virus or bacteria then mutates and is capable of killing all our “perfect” animals quickly, before an antidote can be developed, where will we get the genetic information to start over? The genetic information stored in the smaller purebred varieties is important to keep for many sound economic and scientific reasons.

There is also the problem of “genetic fade.” If we clone the “perfect” animals, and then clone the clones, what will eventually happen? In genetics you copy the previously existing material and pass it on into the next generation in new combinations of information, but never new information. This process allows the genetic information to be refreshed as normal mixing and matching occurs during mating. When we clone a clone, however, this refreshing process does not occur. As information is being copied again and again eventually some of the information is lost. If we continue to clone clones, eventually so much information is lost that the final clones become sterile. The problem of genetic fade becomes obvious.

Finally, the pharmaceutical benefits of cloning are commendable if done with extreme care for the moral and bioethical questions. One must wonder, however, is fallen man is capable of handling such technology without causing more problems than he solves.

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