27 April 2005


Charles Krauthammer, in a column which Busy Busy Busy summarized as "To create a blastocyst for reproductive purposes and then change your mind and use it for life-saving medical research is OK, but to create a blastocyst for the purpose of life-saving medical research is a sin," says:
When you clone a (somatic, i.e. adult) human cell, you turn it first into an embryonic cell with which you can do two things: (a) let it grow (in theory, with implantation in a uterus) to become a cloned baby, or (b) take it apart very early to derive stem cells (research cloning).

Everyone opposes (a) because everyone agrees that cloning children is a monstrous idea that deserves to be banned.

Everyone agrees?


Everyone but me, I guess. This statement is entirely mysterious to me. Why is cloning children monsterous? I'm not talking about science fiction movie clones, I'm talking the real thing. Why is this bad?

Oh. It turns out that the Bush administration, at least, doesn't understand the distinction between real science and science fiction movies, as Gary "Amygdala" Farber informs us.

Diana Schaub, a Loyola College professor and adviser to President Bush, is convinced that cloning and embryonic stem cell research are evil. She says this belief was formed, in part, by watching Star Trek.

The show has "left me receptive to the view that mortality is, if not precisely a good thing, then at least the necessary foundation of other very good things," she wrote in an article last year. "There is something misguided about the attempt to overcome mortality."

Her interest in mortality and Star Trek could be regarded as the quirks of an academic if not for her position on the President's Council on Bioethics, a 18-member panel that advises Bush on some of the most polarizing subjects in society.

Good that the President is informed by such thoughtful bioethicists.

Is this what's going on with Charles Krauthammer, too? He's a doctor, for goodness' sake. Is he concerned that cloned children will turn out to be soulless automatons, or an evil reflection of the originals, or part of an insidious plot to enslave normal humans, or something? What's his problem?


Anonymous said...

I continue to be mystified by the fact that cloning is so charged a subject for some.

Its application in farming transplant organs is a bit interesting. Its application in producing more humans seems like a rather unrevolutionary scientific trick; it turns out that we have ready access to a considerably cheaper and more reliable technique for producing more humans.


Reya Mellicker said...

Hi Miniver,

I don't know if cloning humans is "monsterous" but what I do know is that learning how to do a thing does not necessarily mean we should do it. I think of DDT in the 50's ("Hey, we could spray all the kids with this and they won't get bitten by bugs.") It did work for the bug bites, but who imagined that DDT caused cancer? How about thalidomide for morning sickness? Yikes. Cloning makes me nervous. It's cool that we can do it, but ... does that mean we should do it?

Jonathan Korman said...

Aye: I'm not saying that we ought to go out and make a bunch of clones, or any at all.

And as I understand it, the process of perfecting the techniques for making cloned humans would be pretty monsterous.

But successful cloning techniques should be, as Conner observes, just another way of making more people. So what?