- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

Americans overwhelmingly oppose human cloning fully 90 percent, according to a recent CNN/Time poll.

Oddly, however, the law has yet to prohibit cloning. Certainly, it should, and Congress now has before it a new bill proposed by Republicans Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Dave Weldon of Florida that would accomplish that goal.

In case you are new to the story, human cloning is the fabrication of individuals who are genetically identical to other individuals, living or even dead. Scientists who have studied the cloning four years ago of Dolly the sheep know how it would be done:

Take a donor egg. Suck out the nucleus and thus remove the DNA. Place in the egg a nucleus taken from a cell of the person who is to be copied. Jolt it with an electrical current and then hope the renucleated egg, upon transfer to a woman´s uterus, grows into the intended person. If you think human cloning is fantasy, not to happen ever, think again. The making of Dolly has inspired a race among a small but determined band of people with Ph.D.s or M.D.s after their names to become the first to clone a human being.

An "infertility specialist" from Kentucky has formed a consortium to produce the first human clone. And then there is a Canadian cult that worships (appropriately) science: The Raelians, as they call themselves, actually are in the lab right now, according to recent congressional testimony by one of their scientists. Biotechnology specialists expect a human being will be cloned by someone somewhere within a few years, perhaps even months.

Most people are revolted by the very idea of human cloning, and rightly so. To achieve "success," many nuclei will be needed to fashion enough embryos so at least one of them might take hold of life in utero and finally be born. The line score on Dolly: 277 nuclei transferred, 29 clonal embryos implanted, one live lamb clone.

There is no reason to think the numbers would be any different for human cloning. Yet even if they were to "improve" over time, the entire business still would constitute a monstrously immoral experiment upon the person to be.

Scientists agree that cloning carries with it, as Leon Kass of the University of Chicago points out, "massive risks of producing unhealthy, abnormal and malformed children." Even in the case of a healthy, normal child, there would be matters of identity and individuality. The child, possessing the genotype of someone else, would have been cloned for a reason and would be shaped by "parents" accordingly.

It takes no great insight to see the narcissism cloning invites to create the person I had the genes to be (a professional basketball player, say) but for some reason was unable to be (a career-ending injury). Human cloning constitutes a rejection of the wisdom of the ages: That the arrival of a newborn announces a future that will be different from the past, precisely because the lottery of sex has given the world a new creation.

Here it bears emphasis that human cloning is asexual reproduction. It stands in contrast to natural procreation. Philosophically, not to mention theologically, the two are vastly different. In procreation, parents beget children. In the asexual affair of cloning, parents or whoever manufacture a child. What cloning proposes is nothing less than a new understanding of human nature indeed, to borrow C.S. Lewis´ haunting term, its "abolition."

You might think a prospect so severe would already have moved Congress to act. But there has been a major snag: Some members want a ban on human cloning to be written so narrowly as to sanction "therapeutic cloning" the creation of cloned embryos for research purposes. Such cloning is quite attractive for many people: Stem cells from cloned embryos, it is said, might give us a cure for cancer or Parkinson´s disease.

There are moral problems with such cloning, not least that new life will be created only to be exploited. But the ultimate reason that "therapeutic cloning" also should be outlawed is that cloning a human being necessarily begins with producing cloned human embryos. Only by preventing the latter can we be sure we are doing as much as we can to stop the former or at least to make it less likely.

The Brownback-Weldon bill would aim that broadly. A more narrow focus won´t do. And meanwhile, in "undisclosed places," there are eggs being donated, nuclei being sucked, clonings being attempted. Aldous Huxley´s "Brave New World" may be closer than ever, but the good news is that we aren´t without means of preventing its arrival.

Terry Eastland is publisher of the Weekly Standard.


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