Friday, July 22, 2011

Cloning and the nature of living things

Many people seem to think "human cloning" means magically creating an adult human clone, as one sees in science fiction movies. But the nature of living organisms—such as members of our species—is that they grow and develop through different stages of life. No one comes into existence as an adult. Each of us began life as a zygote, and then matured into an embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, adolescent and so on.

When organisms are created by cloning (this happens via a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer), they begin life at the earliest stages of development, just like everyone else. Cloning, like natural fertilization and in vitro fertilization, is a means of creating a new, whole, self-integrating, self-directing organism who requires only a suitable environment and nutrition to develop herself (she has a sex from the beginning) toward maturity. (The difference with cloning—what makes cloning cloning—is that the new organism is genetically virtually identical to a pre-existing or currently-existing organism.)

Like most people, I think human cloning is wrong in itself. But I think it's even worse to dehumanize the resulting human beings—indeed, to deny that "cloning" has even happened—in order to justify lethal experimentation on those young members of the human family.