The Clone Sars: Transhumanists Embrace Genetic Engineering as a Means to Create a Post-Human Species. If They Prevail, All Human Beings May No Longer Be "Created" Equal. (Cover Story: Abortion)

By Grigg, William Norman | The New American, January 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Clone Sars: Transhumanists Embrace Genetic Engineering as a Means to Create a Post-Human Species. If They Prevail, All Human Beings May No Longer Be "Created" Equal. (Cover Story: Abortion)


Grigg, William Norman, The New American


A wit once described the typical Victorian Englishman as "a self-made man who worships his creator." That gibe acquires an ominous undertone when considered in the context of human cloning.

Last November, Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori claimed that a cloned baby boy would be born in January. In December, chemist Brigitte Boisselier, head of a company called Clonaid (an affiliate of a bizarre cult called the "Raelians"), publicly claimed that a baby girl would be born late that month or in early January, with four more cloned babies to arrive by the end of February. Scientists greeted these announcements with disdain, and most specialists believe that the technology doesn't yet exist to produce a full-term cloned human infant.

If human cloning were to become possible, it would generate some very serious moral questions, largely because of the legal environment created by the Roe v. Wade decision. Roe's singular accomplishment was to supplant the sanctity-of-life ethic with a concept called "reproductive freedom"--which actually means the right to nullify reproduction by ending a human life after it has begun. Post-Roe, the "right" to life is contingent on the permission of another: Every living unborn human child can be legally killed, at his mother's request, by an abortionist, at any stage in the pregnancy.

The central question is whether the clone is considered God's creation, or an artifact reflecting the ingenuity of supposedly god-like humanity. Where the Declaration of Independence speaks of the right to life as an endowment from the Creator, the post-Roe concept reduces that right to a revocable privilege. Obviously, cloned human embryos implanted in the womb would be subject to the same lethal possibilities confronting all unborn children in the post-Roe era. But what would happen once a clone is born? Would a clone--literally, a "self-made man"--be considered a person, or property of the person who served as the genetic template? Could a clone be created for the sole purpose of being "harvested" for body parts?

Genetic engineering raises other similarly troubling possibilities, such as creating "chimeras"--organisms combining human and non-human genes. Various researchers have already succeeded in creating "transgenic" animals. Scientists have combined the DNA of monkeys and jellyfish, resulting in a hybrid that glows in the dark; others have fused DNA from spiders and goats, producing ewes whose milk contains spider-web silk. And according to the November 27th New York Times, "A group of American and Canadian biologists is debating whether to recommend stem cell experiments that would involve creating a human-mouse hybrid."

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can be transformed into various types of tissues. "Adult" stem cells can be collected from various sources, including human fat. Adult stem cells harvested from bone marrow have shown great potential for treating cancer and other diseases. However, most federally sponsored stem-cell research involves cells harvested from human embryos--a process that involves creating and destroying a human life.

A November 13th meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), cosponsored with Rockefeller University, examined using human embryonic stem cells in experiments with laboratory mice. According to a recent report in the journal Nature, humans and mice have roughly 99 percent of their genes in common, making mice "a unique lens through which we can view ourselves." To explore the potential usefulness of embryonic stem cells in treating various diseases, the NYAS proposes inserting the human cells into mice.

Among the possible permutations of these experiments are mice with brains composed entirely of human cells, or mice that make human sperm and eggs. Dr. Irving Weissman of Stanford University, a leading proponent of embryonic stem-cell experimentation and "therapeutic" cloning, believes that while the chimera experiments are "enormously important," they could give rise to outcomes "too horrible to contemplate.

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