Human Cloning isn't as scary as it sounds

Essay by jim hensonUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 1997

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Human Cloning Isn't as Scary as It Sounds

The recent news of the successful cloning of an adult sheep--in which the

sheep's DNA was inserted into an unfertilized sheep egg to produce a lamb

with identical DNA--has generated an outpouring of ethical concerns. These

concerns are not about Dolly, the now famous sheep, nor even about the

considerable impact cloning may have on the animal breeding industry, but

rather about the possibility of cloning humans. For the most part, however,

the ethical concerns being raised are exaggerated and misplaced, because

they are based on erroneous views about what genes are and what they can

do. The danger, therefore, lies not in the power of the technology, but in the

misunderstanding of its significance.

Producing a clone of a human being would not amount to creating a 'carbon

copy'--an automaton of the sort familiar from science fiction. It would be

more like producing a delayed identical twin.

And just as identical twins are

two separate people--biologically, psychologically, morally and legally,

though not genetically--so a clone is a separate person from his or her

non-contemporaneous twin. To think otherwise is to embrace a belief in

genetic determinism--the view that genes determine everything about us,

and that environmental factors or the random events in human development

are utterly insignificant. The overwhelming consensus among geneticists is

that genetic determinism is false.

As geneticists have come to understand the ways in which genes operate,

they have also become aware of the myriad ways in which the environment

affects their 'expression.' The genetic contribution to the simplest physical

traits, such as height and hair color, is significantly mediated by

environmental factors. And the genetic contribution to the traits we value

most deeply, from intelligence to compassion, is conceded by even the most

enthusiastic genetic...