Cigar, the champion racehorse, is a dud as a stud. Attempts to impregnate numerous mares have failed. But his handlers are not discouraged. They think they might try to have Cigar cloned.

If a sheep and a monkey can be cloned—and possibly a racehorse—can human clones be far behind? The process is novel, though the concept is not.

We have long known that virtually every cell of the body contains a person's complete genetic code. The exception is sperm or egg cells, each of which contains half the genetic material until the sperm fertilizes the egg and a new human being with a complete genetic code begins growing.

We have now learned that the partial genetic material in an unfertilized egg cell may be replaced by the complete genetic material from a cell taken from an adult. With a full genetic code, the egg cell behaves as if it has been fertilized. At least, that is how Dolly, the sheep cloned in Scotland, came to be. Hence, producing genetic copies of human beings now seems more likely.

We have been anticipating this possibility in humans for decades and have been playing with it in our imaginations. The movie The Boys from Brazil was about an attempt to clone Adolf Hitler. And in Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World, clones were produced to fulfill undesirable social roles. More recently the movie Multiplicity portrayed a harried man who jumped at the chance to have himself copied—the better to tend to his office work, his home chores, and his family relationships. It all seems so attractive, at first glance, in our hectic, achievement-crazed society.

The costs of clones
But how do we achieve this technologically blissful state? Multiplicity is silent on this matter, implying that technique is best left to scientists, as if the rest of us are interested only in the outcome. But the experiments of Nazi Germany and the resulting Nuremberg Trials and Code taught us long ago that there is some knowledge that we must not pursue if it requires the use of immoral means.

The research necessary to develop human cloning will cause the deaths of human beings. Such deaths make the cost unacceptably high. In the process used to clone sheep, there were 277 failed attempts—including the deaths of several defective clones. In the monkey-cloning process, a living embryo was intentionally destroyed by taking the genetic material from the embryo's eight cells and inserting it into eight egg cells whose partial genetic material had been removed. Human embryos and human infants would likewise be lost as the technique is adapted to our own race.

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Goal rush
Yet, as we press toward this new mark, we must ask: Is the production of human clones even a worthwhile goal? As movies and novels suggest, and godly wisdom confirms, human cloning is something neither to fool around with nor to attempt.

Cloning typically involves genetically copying some living thing for a particular purpose—a wheat plant that yields much grain, a cow that provides excellent milk. Such utilitarian approaches may be fine for cows and corn, but human beings, made in the image of God, have a God-given dignity that prevents us from regarding other people merely as means to fulfill our desires. We must not, for instance, produce clones with low intelligence (or low ambition) to provide menial labor, or produce clones to provide transplantable organs (their identical genetic code would minimize organ rejection). We should not even clone a child who dies tragically in order to remove the parents' grief, as if the clone could actually be the child who died.

All people are special creations of God who should be loved and respected as such. We must not demean them by fundamentally subordinating their interests to those of others.

There is a host of problems with human cloning that we have yet to address. Who are the parents of a clone produced in a laboratory? The donor of the genetic material? The donor of the egg into which the material is transferred? The scientist who manipulates cells from anonymous donors? Who will provide the necessary love and care for this embryo, fetus, and then child—especially when mistakes are made and it would be easier simply to discard it?

The problems become legion when having children is removed from the context of marriage and even from responsible parenthood. For instance, Hope College's Allen Verhey asks "whether parenting is properly considered making children to match a specific design, as is clearly the case with cloning, or whether parenting is properly regarded as a disposition to be hospitable to children as given." Clearly, from a biblical perspective, it is the latter.

Further, the Bible portrays children as the fruit of a one-flesh love relationship, and for good reason. It is a context in which children flourish—in which their full humanity, material and nonmaterial, is respected and nourished. Those who provide them with physical (genetic) life also care for their ongoing physical as well as nonphysical needs.

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As Valparaiso University's Gilbert Meilaender told CT, this further separation of procreating from marriage is bad for children. "The child inevitably becomes a product," says ethicist Meilaender, someone who is made, not begotten.

"To beget a child is to give birth to one who is like us, equal in dignity, for whom we care, but whose being we do not simply control. To 'make' a child is to create a product whose destiny we may well think we can shape. Hence, the 'begotten, not made' language of the creed is relevant also to our understanding of the child and of the relation between the generations."

"If our purpose is to clone people as possible sources of perfectly matching organs," says Meilaender, "that clearly shows how we could come to regard the clone as a being we control—as simply an 'ensemble of parts or organs.' "

Xeroxing Michael
It is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that people are more than just physical beings, Meilaender's ensembles of organs. What most excites many people about cloning is the possibility of duplicate Michael Jordans, Mother Teresas, or Colin Powells. However, were clones of any of these heroes to begin growing today, those clones would not turn out to be our heroes, for our heroes are not who they are simply because of their DNA. They, like us, were shaped by genetics and environment alike, with the spiritual capacity to evaluate, disregard, and at times to overcome either or both. Each clone would be subject to a unique set of environmental influences, and our loving God would surely accord each a unique personal relationship with him.

The problem with cloning is not the mere fact that technology is involved. Technology can help us do better what God has for us to do. The problem arises when we use technology for purposes that conflict with God's. And, as C. S. Lewis argued, technology never merely represents human mastery over nature; it also involves the power of some people over other people. This is as true in the genetic revolution as it was in the Industrial Revolution. When human cloning becomes technically possible, who will control who clones whom and for what ends? Like nuclear weaponry, the power to clone in the "wrong hands" could have devastating consequences.

There is wisdom in President Clinton's immediate move to forestall human cloning research until public debate and expert testimony have been digested and policies formulated. But there is even greater wisdom in never setting foot on the path that leads from brave new sheep to made-to-order organ donors, industrial drones, and vanity children.

-John F. Kilner is director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, Bannockburn, Illinois. The center's annual conference, this year on managed health care, resource allocation, and patient-caregiver relationships, will be held July 17-19.

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