Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Human Cloning and the Myth of Disenchantment

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Human Cloning and the Myth of Disenchantment

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study has a twofold objective: firstly, it aims to examine the main types of argument that have been formulated against human cloning, to identify their presuppositions and to evaluate their strength; secondly, it aims to argue that the most important objections against human cloning are philosophical and religious, in particular the objection that human cloning represents a radical form of disenchantment or an abuse of rationality. The birth of a cloned mammal, a sheep named Dolly, which was announced on 23 February 23 1997, began a wide public debate on the morality of human cloning. I shall try to show that this debate should not be limited only to ethical and legal considerations, since it has more profound ramifications. The science of cloning is rooted in a certain metaphysical background, which, discreetly, but firmly, accompanies its spectacular promises, and which has profound consequences on our metaphysical and religious beliefs. This background needs to be openly discussed and evaluated. Moreover, it warrants the special attention of philosophers and religious thinkers alike.

Key Words: cloning, ethics, human nature, God commandments, natural science, religion, scientific worldview, metaphysics, scientific ethics

Introduction

On 23 February 1997, the attention of the international community was suddenly captured by an astonishing announcement:1 the birth of the first cloned mammal, a lamb named Dolly.2 The announcement provoked genuine hysteria in the mass media, the academic community, and even legislative forums around the world. Commentators were quick to speculate about the possibility of cloning a human. This startling and hasty interpretation was determined by the fact that cloning technology had appeared so unexpectedly, and the general public was taken by surprise. It was as if all of a sudden reality had been transformed into science fiction. Although any misunderstanding regarding the imminent possibility of creating human clones was quickly dispelled by the scientists from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh who had made the spectacular breakthrough with Dolly, the idea has nevertheless stuck, prompting a wide debate concerning the morality of human cloning.

The debate about cloning is one of the most important scientific and ethical debates to have entered the public agenda in the last fifteen years and warrants special attention. The reason for this, as has been repeatedly remarked upon by participants in this debate, is that its outcomes could affect the entire future of our species. In what follows, I shall examine the main types of argument against human cloning, identify their presuppositions, and evaluate their strength. In addition, I shall argue that the most important objections formulated in the debate are religious and philosophical, in particular the objection that human cloning is a radical form of disenchantment, or an abuse of rationality. If my arguments are correct, it will follow that any decision regarding the morality of human cloning should be preceded by an open and serious debate about what modifications and changes in our worldviews we are willing to accept. Starting with modernity, natural science has brought about a dramatic enlargement of our knowledge of the world. But this extraordinary knowledge is not neutral from the metaphysical and religious point of view. On the contrary, it involves, particularly in the case of scientific revolutions and scientific breakthroughs (cloning technology included), fundamental transformations in our image of the world and our role and place as human beings therein. Such transformations should be evaluated using philosophical arguments, because their influence goes beyond the borders of natural science.

What is cloning?

Before discussing the possibility of creating human clones, and the objections that have been put forward against it over the last decade, it would be useful to look at what cloning is in fact. …

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