The cloning of humans is now very close to reality, thanks to the historic scientific breakthrough of Dr. Ian Wilmut and his colleagues in the UK. This possibility is one of incredible potential benefit for all of us. Unfortunately the initial debate on this issue has been dominated by misleading, sensationalized accounts in the news media and negative emotional reactions derived from inaccurate science fiction. Much of the negativity about human cloning is based simply on the breathtaking novelty of the concept rather than on any real undesirable consequences. On balance, human cloning would have overwhelming advantages if regulated in a reasonable way. A comprehensive ban on human cloning by a misinformed public would be a sorry episode in human history. This essay will discuss both the advantages and the alleged negative consequences of human cloning. What is a Human Clone?
A human clone is really just a time-delayed identical twin of another person. Science fiction novels and movies have given people the impression that human clones would be mindless zombies, Frankenstein monsters, or "doubles." This is all complete nonsense. Human clones would be human beings just like you and me, not zombies. They would be carried and delivered after nine months by a human mother and raised in a family just like everyone else. They would require 18 years to reach adulthood just like everyone else. Consequently, a clone-twin will be decades younger than the original person. There is no danger of people confusing a clone-twin with the original person. As with identical twins, the clone and DNA donor would have different fingerprints. A clone will not inherit any of the memories of the original person. Because of these differences, a clone is not a xerox copy or "double" of a person, just a much younger identical twin. Human clones would have the same legal rights and responsibilities as any other human being. Human clones will be human beings in every sense. You could not keep a clone as a slave. Human slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865. It should be emphasized that all human cloning must be done on an individual voluntary basis. The living person who is to be cloned would have to give their consent, and the woman who gives birth to the clone-twin and raises the child must also be acting voluntarily. No other scenario is conceivable in a free democratic country. Because cloning requires a woman to gestate the baby, there is no danger of evil scientists creating thousands of clones in secret laboratories. Cloning will be done only at the request and with the participation of ordinary people, as an additional reproduction option. Many people have asked, "Why would anyone want to clone a human being?" There are at least two good reasons: to allow families to conceive twins of exceptional individuals, and to allow childless couples to reproduce. In a free society we must also ask, "Are the negative consequences sufficiently compelling that we must prohibit consenting adults from doing this?" We will see that in general they are not. Where specific abuses are anticipated, these can be avoided by targeted laws and regulations, which I will suggest below.
The cultural and economic value of cloning Clint Eastwood would be enormous.
Cloning Exceptional People
Exceptional people are valuable in many ways, both culturally and financially. For example, US movie stars and sports stars are often worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Let's consider the specific example of Clint Eastwood. His films have grossed several billion dollars over thirty years. Today he is 67 years old and nearing the end of his acting and directing career. He is one of the most popular living movie stars. As Richard Schickel says in an essay on Eastwood, "For actors, more than for most people, genetics is destiny." The cultural and economic value of cloning Clint Eastwood would be enormous. Tens of millions of fans would be delighted. Furthermore,...
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