The Ethics of Human Cloning
“Cloning” has been a volatile topic in the news of late. In England, for example, the House of Lords recently voted 212 to 92 in favor of promoting experiments which will attempt to clone human beings – even though a conglomerate of religious leaders (Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs) petitioned the politicians to pause and study the ethical issues involved in such an ambitious enterprise. There are those in this country who would take us down the same road.
What is Cloning?
The word “clone” derives from the Greek term klon, meaning a “sprout” or “twig.” It refers to a method of reproduction apart from the parental, sexual-mating process that is characteristic of most organisms.
Cloning a human being would involve the following process: The cell nucleus of an adult person would be removed from an ordinary body cell (e.g., a skin cell). Since the nucleus of each cell (red blood cells excepted) contains all of the genetic information (the DNA) for a complete human being, a nucleus extracted from a donor would be transplanted into an unfertilized host egg cell (the nucleus of which had been removed). Supposedly, then, the embryo – transplanted into some woman’s “rent-a-uterus” – would develop, ultimately producing an exact copy of the person whose original DNA provided the “starter.” In theory, one could, by this method, “Xerox” himself hundreds of times!
The Reality of Cloning
Many still believe that cloning occurs only in science fiction. For example, in 1978 Gregory Peck starred in a film called The Boys From Brazil. The story line had to do with a plan undertaken by a group of South American Nazi scientists who wanted to clone a batch of little “Hitlers.”
Real cloning, however, has been around for some time – approximately 40 years. Frogs were first cloned from asexual tadpole cells in 1952. In 1997, there was much notoriety surrounding the cloning of a sheep (“Dolly”) in Scotland.
Will humans actually be cloned in the laboratory? I do not know. Scientists may be able to manipulate certain biological laws to evil ends. In their valuable book, Human Cloning – Playing God or Scientific Progress? (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming Revell / Baker Book House, 1998), Drs. Lane P. Lester and James C. Hefley suggested that on a scale of one to ten, scientists are at about a 9.9 on the human cloning project – and that was three years ago! One thing we do know, man’s ability to achieve certain effects far outstrips his ethical values. It is wrong to conceive a child outside the bonds of marriage, but it happens all the time. It is immoral to murder a fellow human being, but the technology for so doing is available in abundance.
The Moral Implications of Cloning
While there is no apparent ethical offence in cloning a carrot, or even a frog, such is not the case with people. Contrary to the arrogant assertions of the Darwinists, humans are not mere animals that have evolved from biological slime. They are creatures specially fashioned by God; which means they are unique in their nature. The Christian, therefore, must condemn the cloning of human beings (in the event that such should actually occur), on the following bases:
- One must first raise this question? Why do scientists want to clone human beings? It certainly is not because they are anxious to generate a larger population for our planet. They continually protest that the earth is over-crowded already.
Rather, they are anxious to create a brand of humans with whom they can experiment. It is the same mentality that seized Adolf Hitler during that dreadfully dark era of World War II. In reality, this would be nothing short of a form of slavery. In the meantime, as a by-product of the process, thousands of tiny human beings would be destroyed in this misguided quest, which, allegedly is intended to improve the quality of human life. A more illogical position could scarcely be imagined.
- In the December, 1998 issue of the prestigious journal, Scientific American, there appeared an article titled “Cloning For Medicine.” The author, Dr. Ian Wilmut, who is associated with the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland (where “Dolly” was cloned), argued for the cloning of human embryos. The basis of his rationale was that this would be helpful in research leading to the treatment of certain diseases (e.g., AIDS, Parkinson’s, diabetes, etc.). He argued his position on the ground that the embryonic cells have not begun to differentiate, the nervous system is not developed enough to feel pain, or sense its environment, etc.
On the other hand, Dr. Wilmut contended that it is not ethically acceptable to clone adult human beings. His standards, however, are purely arbitrary. These scientists would be gods! Human uterine development is a matter of degree (growth); it is not an evolutionary advancement where one “kind” of organism changes into another.
- Any onslaught against a fellow human being, regardless of his stage of development, is ultimately against God. The first formal legislation against murder was grounded in the truth that people are “in the image of God” (Gen. 9:6; cf. 1:26-27). The implication from that clearly is this: To arbitrarily destroy a human being, i.e., without explicit authority from the Giver of life (see Acts 17:25), is an assault upon the Creator himself.
- Human beings were designed to be a part of a family relationship – involving a loving father and mother. The “family” unit existed from the first day of man’s existence upon the earth (Gen. 2:18ff; 4:1). Children are to be introduced into earth’s environment as a part of this protective and stable arrangement. God never intended for people to be cranked off an assembly line like so many pieces of machinery. This is such a fundamental principle that even the most obtuse ought to recognize it.
Human cloning would be a moral atrocity!
In conclusion, we happily acknowledge the following points. The arguments introduced above are grounded in the following premises.
- There is a God who exercises sovereignty over the human family.
- He has revealed his will to man in that series of documents called the Bible.
- Those inspired pieces of literature contain the principles by which the morality of human actions are to be either approved or condemned.
If one does not accept the proposition that a Supreme Moral Being has regulated human conduct, and that He revealed the code for such in an objective body of revelation, he is without a precise moral compass.
Correspondingly, if one subscribes to the concept that man is his “own god,” with the liberty to make whatever rules suit his fancy, then there is no stopping place in the arena of human experimentation. Life becomes a cheap, expendable commodity. Indeed, human existence degenerates into a nightmare of unimaginable proportions.
Are we headed for that eventuality?
For further information on this and related themes, see “Courier Publications” for our little booklet, Biblical Ethics and Modern Science ($4.00 – $1.30 shipping.)
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.