Carefully Considering Human Cloning

Signs of tinkering with life are everywhere. Some very recent headlines: from New York Times on the Web--Drug Developed From Gene Study Tested on People; Reuters--Scientists Craft Mouse with Human Brain Cells; Washington Post--Pa. [Biotechnology] Firm Asks FDA To Back Experiment Forbidden in U.S.; Reuters--Leprosy Gene Map Could Point Way to Quicker Diagnosis. Researchers and doctors use cloning regularly, for example, to develop vaccines. Many observers get a sense of great promise, but many warn of great perils, too. Where's the balance?

On February 12, 2001, an international research consortium and a competing private company that raced last year to finish the summary mapping of the human genome announced their first analyses of the vast bodies of data they discovered (see our previous Special Focus). An article in Scientific American published the same day, Reading the Book of Life, offers perspective: "[The genome mapping effort] was...one of the greatest scientific undertakings of all time. But these drafts revealed only the beginning of the story--the scrolls containing the instructions for life. Now both teams have started reading--gene after gene--the actual scriptures within the scrolls."

On a public radio talkshow today, Dr. Skip Garner, who served on the Human Genome Project (the international consortium) said of the analysis, "We're finding out just how complex we are." Some like Garner, claim unmistakable proof of the theory of macro-evolution while others claim further support for the Intelligent Design theory.

As more findings and potentialities unfold, the primary question for bioethicists seems to be, "How measured should our advances be and how will we determine their use?" Reverend Kevin T. Fitzgerald, assistant professor at the Loyola University Medical Center, worries, "Some of the proposed uses of human genetic engineering that are defended solely by philosophical, legal or political arguments run counter to our common-sense view of right and wrong."

Do scientific advances carry a de facto imprimatur? (Should we, since "we can"?) Are we on a slippery slope regarding the use of human lives for enhancing or even saving other humans? (This, of course, raises that persistent question of when life begins.) What will result from the change to an orientation toward "quality of life"? On the other hand, shouldn't medicine aggressively engage promising therapies given the breakthroughs we have already seen? Is science pushing ahead without reflection? How far have we come in the field of cloning and how urgent are these questions now? We touch on these vital issues and more in our Special Focus.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe

Feature Articles:

Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?
Review by Jorge Garcia
Garcia demolishes Pence's facile defense of unrestricted human cloning.

Begetting and Cloning
Gilbert Meilaender
The author, a Protestant theologian, considers the question of human cloning. He seeks to understand and explain the issue in a distinctly Christian context. This task involves looking back to the biblical account of God's plan for family life.

Biotech Cannibalism
C. Ben Mitchell
Government-approved human cloning may begin any day now. Already we've seen the cloning of sheep, monkeys, cows, and pigs--a veritable barnyard of clones. Ole McDonald, the mythical farmer, is next.

To Clone Or Not To Clone
Hugh Ross
Is cloning inherently evil or merely a tool? Are there circumstances in which cloning a human might be good?

Affirming Ourselves to Death
Gilbert Meilaender
"..'Affirm[ing]' every person in whatever state he...may be, we find it difficult to state and adhere to any standard of conduct. To articulate such an ideal might seem too much like condemning those who do not meet it." A fitting example: human cloning.

Can Humans Be Cloned Like Sheep?
Dr. Ray Bohlin
A scientist trained in cloning techniques looks at the cloning of Dolly the sheep, examining the value of cloning in general and humans in particular. Includes 8 concerns about human cloning from a Christian perspective.

Related Articles:

Copying the Human Script
Nancy Pearcey
The race to decipher the code of life has ended--in a tie between two research groups. Now that the human genome project has succeeded, what does it imply for our understanding of life and its origin? Find out in this article by Nancy Pearcey, published in World magazine, Vol. 15, No. 27, July 8, 2000.

Two Boats, a Helicopter & Stem Cells
Russell E. Saltzman
Saltzman writes about his own experience with diabetes and his reaction to those who would harvest fetal tissue in order to advance research into cures for his disease.

Michael Kinsley Out on a Limb: Stem-Cell Rationale Recalls Ideas of Debunked Scientist
Nancy Pearcey
Syndicated columnist Michael Kinsley tries to use an out-dated evolutionary theory to support embryonic stem-cell research, and is roundly trounced in this article by Nancy Pearcey, which was published in Human Events.

Genetic Testing for Diseases: A Judeo-Christian Perspective
Michael Atchison
Recent advances in technology (the polymerase chain reaction, in particular) make it possible to characterize the genotype of single cells, or rare mutant cells in a population of normal cells..... A variety of ethical problems arise from knowledge gained by the power of this technology. Issues such as the right to privacy and ethical questions about the personhood of the unborn come into play. We will look at some of the ethical issues that arise from this technology and will examine how different worldviews shape our approach to those issues. In particular, I will contrast the Naturalist worldview with the Christian worldview . We will then look at some of the logical consequences for adopting either worldview.

The Sanctity of Human Life: Harvesting Human Fetal Parts
Dr. Ray Bohlin
Once a sanctity of human life standard is abandoned for a quality of life ethic, a slippery ethical slope leads to horrors undreamed of even 20 years ago. Legalized abortion has led to the sale of fetal tissue and eventually to legalized euthanasia.

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