by Douglas Dunn

Copyright (c) 1998, 2001 Douglas Dunn / Word Wizards communications -- all rights reserved

The amazing reports of successfully-cloned adult mammals have been followed by a dialogue that is frightening in its fearful and outrageous tone. Once again we hear a chorus of gnashing teeth bewailing the onset of a "Brave New World" and fears of test-tube manufactured babies and a world populated by robotic armies of genetic sameness.

But these cries of fear are not really against cloning at all, but merely against the newness of innovation. In their hearts, human beings know that it is not so terrible to have a genetic double. I am an identical twin, now in my late forties. My brother, Dennis, and I look alike. Many aspects of physical appearance, emotions, mannerisms and behavior are strikingly similar. Even now, when we are out together, people often come up and ask with fascination if we are twins. They also frequently remark how wonderful it must be to have a twin.

We are also unique individuals with differing opinions, beliefs and lifestyles. Clones would be no more similar than identical twins. On the contrary, they would be more different, because they would grow up in different environments (both gestational and childhood), at different ages, with different generational experiences. Having an exact genetic match does create a special relationship, but it is not hideous nor monstrous, nor does it make us mindless robots or slaves to sameness. Cloning only seems "creepier" than twinning is because it is a novelty. This whole outrageous outcry has been an insult to all identical twins.

Does anyone remember the furor -- the fears and jokes about "test-tube babies" -- when in-vitro fertilization (IVF) was introduced? While it has raised issues that invite reasonable regulatory safeguards (such as in response to the UCI scandal) IVF has become an important resource for the fertility-challenged. Cloning, if ever applied to humans, will also raise issues requiring rational dialogue, and may require reasonable regulatory guidelines to protect patients and their potential offspring. Issues requiring further attention may include matters of parental rights and various technical and practical matters such as making sure that cloning doesn't produce an excessive number of "deformed" babies (at least not in numbers disproportionate to other reproductive practices). But these are not issues about whether a successful, properly-tested cloning methodology is worthwhile, but are concerns about where we are along the process of getting to that point. Once the methodologies have been perfected and these issues have been addressed, and with adequate monitoring to be watchful of additional issues and concerns that may arise, then just as with IVF, cloning might also provide hopeful options in matters of reproductive choice, even to the point where some single women will be able to reproduce without dependency on a male sperm donor. While natural sex will be with us as long as our species survives, and will continue to be the easiest and most generally-used means of reproduction, perhaps one of the real issues is that some men might feel threatened with a perceived loss of their role in the process.

Like other issues of reproductive self-determination, perhaps in the long run cloning will turn out to be an issue of women's civil rights. Perhaps it is not just about genetic doubles or identical twins. Perhaps more fundamental human rights issues are also involved.

Concerns and Responses:
The following are questions, comments and concerns raised in e-mail correspondence (yes, in each case, someone actually made the statement in an e-mail message -- often by more than one writer), followed by author's response:

Concern: Cloning would not be "natural."

Response: Either is using a computer. Or driving a car. Or flying in an airplane. Or eating vitamins. Or open-heart surgery. So what? What is the connection between being NATURAL and being ethical? Should we discontinue all the conveniences or life-saving treatments that are not "natural"? Poison ivy, viruses and short life spans are also natural, but we don't like them. Adoption is not "natural" either, and neither is In-vitro fertilization (IVF). It was ridiculed as "test tube babies" when it first came out, but now, more than twenty years later, it is accepted as an important option for the fertility-challenged.

Concern: Cloning is contrary to "natural selection" and not necessary for the survival of our species.

Response: Our species is already overpopulated and growing. We don't need almost any of the babies that are born to ensure survival of our species. That is not why people have babies! Would it be better to have policies as in Communist China that limit by law the number of pregnancies ... because it's not needed for survival of our species? If someone gets pregnant with an implanted clone, should they be required to have a forced abortion like in China?

Concern: Each baby should be a totally new and unique individual, not a "carbon copy" of someone else.

Response: As I mentioned in my commentary, I am an identical twin, one of "nature's clones." Is my brother a "carbon copy" of me? Does that mean we are not unique and totally independent persons? Do people think that twins are not unique individuals? Are we just "carbon copies." Back in the 1970's when IVF came out, the term "test tube baby" was popular. I wonder how Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, now in her twenties, feels about that term when she reads the old accounts of her birth and the science that led to her existence. I wonder if it hurts her feelings. Or maybe those that try to lump people into stereotypes and find deroggatory, insulting labels to apply to anyone they perceive as "different" think that IVF babies or twins or clones are "freaks" or somehow less than human. Hmmm. "Carbon copy." Maybe that is the popular term of ridicule that the twins of today and perhaps the clones of tomorrow will be labelled with, like the "test tube babies" of the 1970's. Do people with this mentality really understand how hurtful such terms can be? Or is it that they just don't care?

Comment: [from several writers] Thank you for writing to express your SUPPORT for human cloning.

Response: Please understand that I am not promoting, encouraging or advocating that humans should or should not be cloned. If it ever happens in the future, then it will be right for some and not others. Some people will never be able to handle it, just like IVF. For others it may represent a wonderful additional reproductive option. And as I noted in my commentary, there will be legitimate concerns and issues that have to be dealt with. Just as we should resist the temptation to simply say it should never be done (or even considered) we must also avoid the opposite extreme -- plowing ahead carelessly and with reckless abandon. It is probable that regulatory guidelines and safeguards will have to be implemented. If cloning of humans ever occurs, we should ensure that it benefits, not harms, those who find hope in its promises.

An excellent link on this subject that was referred to me may be found at:

Copyright (c) 1998, 2001 Douglas Dunn / Word Wizards communications

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