Cloning is a technology often present in science fiction for a variety of reasons. At first glance, it sounds like a cool technology that could lead to life extension, quick and easy transplants, and having another you around to get all the things done you don’t have time to.
While many examples set by science fiction involve the quick and easy building of an exact replica using a series of molds, chemicals, and lights, the fact of the matter is that a clone has to be developed from a single cell and born as any other creature would be. Replacing the sperm with a single cell and inserting it into an empty egg is the current cloning process in a nutshell.
The end result is basically an identical twin of the original subject, only this subject would be older than the twin.
The FDA has approved animal clones for human consumption, with no requirement of special labeling on the part of the manufacturer. Ethical issues aside, it should take at least 20 years to study the long-term effects of adding an imperfect being created by an imperfect being to your diet. Who’s to say that the replacement of a sperm cell with a skin cell doesn’t cause some strange mutation we don’t currently have the technology to detect?
Still, human cloning raises a number of questions for scientists. Some of these will list the potential benefits of the technology while others will list moral and potentially physical risks that might result. As of right now, the practice is illegal in the US and many other countries around the world.
Is It Possible?
At the present moment, a full human clone only exists in speculation. However, in 2008, five cloned human embryos were created by scientists at the Stemagen Corporation lab in La Jolla. These embryos were a proof of concept to the idea that stem cells could be gathered to treat patients. Essentially, these stem cells could be used to grow replacement parts for someone in need that would not be at risk of rejection. The science is interesting and has potential, but the consequences of the technology could create a severe moral dilemma.
If you believe the news out of Clonaid, a human baby has been cloned that goes by the name Eve. Of course, this Raelian-tied project has since been disassociated by even the official Raelian site. That said, Clonaid has claimed to have cloned a number of individuals since then and is currently rumored to have cloned the late Michael Jackson. This rumor was neither confirmed nor denied by Clonaid.
Why It Scares Me
These five embryos were considered to be at a stage where they could be feasibly transplanted into a woman’s womb and grow into an actual living person. Whether or not this would actually work has yet to be tested, but all indications appeared to show that human cloning is actually possible given today’s technology.
Cloning animals has been done, and genetic testing has allowed scientists to create rabbits that glow in the dark, salmon that contain eel and bug DNA, and plants that create their own insect poison. Imagine what a lab at the hands of a crazed dictator or mad scientist (North Korea, anyone?) could come up with down the line.
This doesn’t even take into account the severe moral dilemma of playing God. Creating life from a skin cell and empty egg is certainly not a natural process, and there’s no telling what type of problems can come about for the clone. What is your quality of life like knowing that you’re a science experiment, and a clone of someone else. Identical twins are one thing, but this is something entirely different.
Even in a scenario where the clone itself could be left dormant and grown for spare parts, we as people have no way of telling exactly what might happen years down the line.
Religious or not, it doesn’t take much to understand why human cloning could be a bad idea. We are still discovering potential health risks in foods we’ve eaten for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. How could we even hope to predict or understand the potential problems associated with cloning that risk the health and well-being of the cloned.