Monday, March 09, 2009

Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research

Today, President Obama over-turned President Bush's policy on the federal funding of stem cell research. You can read about it here. Now, I have no trouble mounting an ethical argument against the destruction of embryos to get stem cells. Once you believe that human life begins at conception, then the argument is easy to make. We have been irresponsible in our quest for reproduction, resulting in 'extra' embryos. Frankly, science has far outstripped our ethics in this category.

What strikes me as odd is how vehemently President Obama comes down against human cloning. In his speech he says, "And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society." I find this bizarre. I am personally unable to come up with why it is unethical to clone human beings if it is perfectly fine to destroy embryos to obtain stem cells.

Indeed, the only reason I find cloning repugnant is because it is creepy. It has nothing to do with ethics at all. The only reason I cannot condone cloning ethically is because the technology is so primitive, perhaps, that attempting this might lead to the horrible disfiguration of cloned infants or something of that nature. But cloning itself is a naturally occuring event. Identical twins share the same DNA.

This sort of logical inconsistentcy boggles my mind. I need help in understanding why the "majority" of Americans think it is morally permissible to destroy embryos, but it is ethically repugnant to clone humans. I believe it means that Americans are not being rational, but rather, we are simply guided by pragmatics and gut feelings.


Keith Horton said...

Good thought, preecha. I think it is that we want what we want and will make arguements to support what we want. Selfishness and greed, probably.

Eugene said...

great observation. the gut feelings do guide us a lot more often than we would care to admit. i am confident obama will change his mind on cloning when it will become expedient for him.

Pastorette's Progress said...

Hey Brad, this is Kayce Reed. I have been following your blog. I have one too now. It is nothing fancy, but I am learning. Can't get Rusty on board with the whole blogging thing but I LOVE it. I have a blog that I think Amy would love - one mom's walk. It is my friend Kellye's. She is doing a great study right now that is fantastic. My blog is Pastorette's Progress - cute huh?? Hope ya'll are well. Keep in touch. Kayce

Ben said...

Well, cloning now can lead to selective breeding later, which is playing God and kinda prejudiced.

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Iron Paws said...

I liked this spot of thought and it really encourages another, perhaps even more fundamental question: how do we define what is ethical in this day and age? Sure, we can refer to the bible on certain issues or get a little more modern and look to Kantian ethics, but as written in the blog:

"Frankly, science has far outstripped our ethics in this category."

And is it that surprising? With the huge leaps we have taken in technology just through the past 60 years, how is it justifiable to continue applying two millenia old ethics to the new dilemmas and problems which have and will arise? If our moral compass is insufficient or confused now, will it really get better after another 60 years? And in 60 years from now, will arguments such as "dangerous", "profoundly wrong", and "has no place in our society, or any society" be enough to satisfy us? Should it? New technology continues to permeate our daily lives and we become increasingly reliant on it. Attempting to put a lid on technology therefore seems like two steps backward to the one step forward of humanity's improvement. Demonising these things won't stop them from advancing, but seems to me rather to encourage the negative possibilities. Human cloning was never about cloning whole people, but about being able to provide organs to those in need.

By ignoring the benefits of this technology and focusing on the demonisations, doesn't it then become one of those things, twisted to evil where it began as good? A crude example would be the pen: if we demonise it due to it being a possible weapon, rather than a tool for writing, don't we then encourage the conception of the pen as a weapon? Similarily, if we continue to demonise human cloning by our fears of what it might be used for, won't that demonisation encourage the realisation of our fears? After all, what we percieve to be a weapon, will be used as a weapon by us. And if we say that human cloning is detestable because it might lead to undesirable ends, isn't that then the end we encourage?

We should keep a keen eye out for the evils that can come from new technologies, but we should also beware of our fear of change. Knee-jerk reactions can do as much damage, if not more, as they prevent by keeping us in the dark ages rather than attempting to reconcile morality with technology.

Sarah Willie said...

I would definitely like to say one thing and that is cloning and in fact the entire biotechnology has one really draw back or more accurately we can call it the risk and that is that we are dealing with the DNA directly. And you can easily understand that even a slight mistake can really lead to disaster.