Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Human Cloning

Why I think about this topic? Well, I like to think randomly for a topic and then ‘linked’ to others and others through some connections. Somewhat like you go to Wiki and pick a topic, then your read the content and see a link and click it. You move from topic to topic. That’s how my mind works often. Anyway, what triggered my thought on Human Cloning? There were 2 things. First, the movie ‘I. Robot’ was played on TV last weekend. It is one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies. There were many cloning of robots in that movie. That get me thinking…...Also, lately, I’ve been asked by my wife and others repeatedly: “Do you think your son looks like you?”….hmm…..

Certainly, I can write articles about those 2 issues above. However, I’m not gonna to do that. I want to talk about human cloning. I’m not a scientist; I certainly can’t comment that from that perspective. Based on what I read in the media before, the current successful rate of cloning a mammal is still not very high. So, maybe out of 100 specimens, only few can be successfully grown to become a healthy being. When it applies to animals, we human being, at least most of us, will have a better acceptance on such results. Cos, we eat meat anyway, for those failed specimen, they could be killed, buried or simply make them into food. When it applies to human, there will so much resistance and condemn playing with human lives. Cos, we usually don’t treat our own kind as specimen except the Japanese military Unit 731 in WWII. Therefore, unless human cloning successful rate be closed to 99%, it better be done underground.

I won’t go into the religious territory on this issue neither. Cos, when you drag God into human cloning. It is a losing case. Even for other animal cloning, as long as it a human attempt to put our hand into fudging lives besides saving one, most religions will definitely reject such practice.

What I want to talk about is the social impact of human cloning. I read some comments from so ‘stupid and naïve’ local celebrities on this topic awhile ago. They said something like: “oh, that’s great! Then, my clone can help me to go to multi-functions at the same time, and then I can relax and travel.” Some people are still so naïve to think that clones are produced with the sole aim of helping us. I think that it could be the original goal of such practice, but there are so many other impacts that should alarm us. For human cloning, I've many questions.

What is the biolgical status of a clone? From a social standpoint, do we treat them as human? I think they are and no reason for not being one. So, should there be a new social class or category for them? Cos, they are not born in a mother’s womb as a result of a natural feminization. Yes, there are test-tube babies, but those babies have parents. What about clones? If I’ve a clone, would my father be his father? Or I'm his father? Does the concept of parent apply to clones? Is my clone my brother? Or else? The fuzzy part about cloning is the ‘aging’ of clone. Even if you clone yourself right after you born, you already have a 9 months head start of your clone. Assuming clone’s growth rate is the same as normal human, then your clone will definitely younger than you. So, what should his relationship with you. If you don’t live or grow up together, then the issue would be less serious, but if you parent decide to clone you, then what is the right of the clone? Would he has the same right of inheritance from your parents? What are his legal rights? Do clones have to have same name as the originals? Like Michael Jordon's clone will be Michael Jordan II? etc. What if your clones doesn't like to have same name or last name as you? Would there be confusion of identity?
If you got ill and need an organ transplant, would he be obliged to donate his to you? What if you need a heart transplant? Would he die for you? What about the other way around? Should clone and original have same social and legal status? If not, a new sub-class of citizen will be created in the society and certainly there will be revolted and social friction in future. That remind me of a Chinese sci-fiction that was written more than 30 years ago. The name of it is 'Backup'. It is about a secret Swiss Hospital which has the technology of human cloning. That hospital is also a profiteer. They send representatives as undercovers all around the world to approach and trigger minor accidents to the riches and powerfuls, like get them a finger cut by broken coctail glasses. Then, they collect their blood sample and go back to clone them secretly. One day, when the riches and powerfuls is going to die in the hospital without organ transplant, they will show up with video of their clones and extort tremendous amount of money from them by offering transplant surgery to them. They can't refuse such offer when you are dying, so they sign for whatever they ask and keep a secret of it. That's the whole premise of the story and I still remember vividly about part of it because the concept was so fascinating to me back then. Those clones were treated as spare parts for surgerical purpose. They would grow faster than normal people, so they may have a 30 years old body with a mind of a 5 years old. They were never given a chance to being brought up as a normal human being, except that their physical well being is well-protected for future 'harvest'. That's also remind me of another great movie: 'The Island' with a similar premise. The clones were trying to escape from similar fate...

Clone is genetically identical to the original, but clone has his/her own mindset and identity. It is because my clone won’t have the same grow-up experience as I am. He will think differently as his learning experience will certainly be different from mine. Therefore, the clone will act and do things differently and should be treated as a separate being from the original. It may have equal legal status as us as well. So, the problem is…..what if the clone commits murder in the presence or even worse the absence of witness. As our CSI is so advanced these days due to DNA identification technology, it has been getting easier to find out ‘who did it?’ than anytime before. However, when human clones come to play in our society, it will turn the whole CSI upside down. If my clone killed someone, how would the police identify that the killer is my clone, not me? The more complicated thing is that how would you stop a clone to clone himself? That make me think of an old movie called ‘Multiplicity’. It was a very funny movie, the thing that I remember the most (though it may not be real) is that the clone of a clone is mental retarded somehow…..

Anyway, if clone can clone himself, then I may end up having many clones. I can’t control or monitor what they do at any times. That posts a great risk to the society as a whole. Cos, we are not perfect, we are by no mean ‘holy’ in nature. We do bad things. How to pick the right guy to get punished? What if you kill your clone or the other way around? So, you successfully kill yourself, but it is not a suicide! You go to jail for killing yourself!

Come to think of those issues above, I just think that cloning is not a simple subject or as ideal as some people think. Yes, I do wish some beautiful people of our fellow human beings could live longer and ‘enriching’ our gene pool. However, it won’t be an interesting world if you see 5 Michael JordanS on the same NBA team on the same court at the same time. Or see 10 Michael JordanS playing against each other. That could be fun for once, but not any longer. Same thing applies to any human activities that the success of which involve our physical nature. There will be no competition. Uniqueness will no longer be valuable. I don’t know if I like to live in a world like that.


C.M. said...

What human cloning makes me think of is: why do we need to clone human?

If it is not just for creating a store of spare parts, human cloning is a mere waste of energy, time and resources. I condemn the purpose of creating spart parts arsenals, not just because of morality, but also of the stupidity of medical scientists to seek no other way for damaged organs to recover.

I studied genetics myself but I don't see cloning a play-god-game. What we can do is just what God leave the possibility for us to do. In the areas of scientific discovery, research and application, scientists "cannot" play god but can explore the way that God have created already.

What makes my moral side feel disgusted is just the way people (not scientists that explore) feel disgusted of the individuality of human.

C.M. said...

BTW, I like this article.