Human cloning pros and cons have been the subject of a lot of discussion and speculation for a lot of years. The very chance of duplicating a human being artificially has raised plenty of controversies. The ethical side of the question makes researchers seek reasonable arguments in defense and against the creation of genetically identical copies of humans.
More than 40 countries in the world have banned human cloning. Several countries allow it for the purpose of research but not for the purpose of reproduction.
Human cloning pros and cons: Restrictions and laws
As already mentioned above, the very procedure of cloning people is banned in many countries. The ban involves both the so-called therapeutic and reproductive replication of humans.
Therapeutic cloning bears an incalculable value in science and medicine. It allows taking a deep insight into the hidden process of the development of an embryo from the earliest stages. This insight may help researchers discover a lot about diseases and defects that affect embryos in the process of their development.
What is more, stem cells of these embryos can be used for the purposes of regenerative medicine. This branch of science is dedicated to growing organs suitable for transplantation.
In the meanwhile, in spite of the apparent benefits of cloning for therapeutic purposes, legislators in many countries in the world forbid it. The reasons for such a position are mostly ethical.
The theoretic pros and cons of human cloning
The technology does have a range of positive aspects. The development of science is one of the doubtless positive arguments. Still, we need to remember about the moral and ethical aspects of the creation of genetically identical copies of ourselves, no matter how significant the scientific value of the technology is.
The arguments in defense
In a nutshell, these are the most apparent positive arguments used in discussions around pro and cons of human cloning:
- Detecting and getting rid of genes that bear defects
Diseases that happen due to defects in genes are not pandemic yet. The situation may change, however, in the nearest future. People will not stop reproducing in the future, but the damage to their DNA can increase. This disaster can be omitted wisely by choosing and replicating only the healthiest cells. This approach will make the elimination of genetic mutations and defects possible, making the entire population of the globe much healthier.
- Taking a step forth in the process of natural reproduction
Generally speaking, identical biological twin babies are, in fact, natural clones. Popular culture and lack of knowledge make us think that a clone is somebody who looks like another person, behaves, thinks, moves, and feels exactly like another person. In reality, clones are exactly what twins are. They may look like identical copies, but they will have different tempers, habits, ways of thinking, likes and dislikes, and so on. From this point of view, cloning is similar to the creation of twins.
There are people who suffer from infertility and cannot have children naturally. There are many parents who have suffered the loss of their children for a number of reasons. All these people may have a chance to have identical copies of themselves or their children to soothe their pain. If developed properly, the creation of genetic copies of infertile parents can eliminate the problem of infertility completely.
- Making the process of recovery from injuries way quicker
Some injuries take enormous amounts of time to heal. For professional athletes, such time lapses may mean a total loss of their career. With the help of regenerative medicine and tissues or organs grown from their own cells, people may heal their injuries much faster. Having organs grown from patients’ own cells would reduce the risk of rejection and all the connected complications.
- Making the process of reproduction highly technical
Potential parents may be able to choose whichever traits of their future children they would want to pre-select. They may decide on the gender of their future baby, his or her eye and hair colour, and many other things that are left to chance during natural conception.
Although the selection of specific traits and characteristics is often treated as a negative aspect by ethics of cloning, it may be viewed from another angle, too. Many children need medication to battle the stress of their everyday life. What if it was possible to modify children with a set of genes that would help them cope with these problems on their own?
- Giving people a natural shield against viruses
For centuries, there have been people who have a natural immunity to disastrous diseases. The possibility of cloning specific genes that give this innate immunity could save the entire population from Ebola, HIV, and other dreadful viruses.
- Helping humans adapt to new conditions on the planet
We do adapt gradually, but the process is very slow. We could speed it up by means of cloning the genes that are in charge of key features needed for survival. Some of these features can be lost in the course of natural selection, but targeted replication of these features can help us a lot.
Arguments against cloning
Even with these apparently positive sides of the technology, the debates around the pros and cons of cloning still remain heated. The list of counter-arguments offers a range of compelling points, too:
- Faster aging issues are quite possible
Since the cells that are withdrawn to create clones are not brand new, it is possible that the embryos grown from these cells will adopt the imprinted age of these cells. This adoption can, in turn, lead to faster or premature aging. In theory, this issue can even cause the premature death of the grown copies.
- The technology interferes with natural processes
The point of view that rejects the possibility of duplicating an existing living being insists that the artificial process goes against nature. As a rule, some opponents of the technology believe that the natural process of the creation of living beings must not be altered or corrected in any way. It is supposed that the creation of smarter or healthier individuals, for example, will leave no place under the sun for those who were conceived in a natural way without any upgrading.
- Society can experience another great divide
One of the arguments used to debate cloning pros and cons has it that such a problem may emerge if copies of already existing people are not treated as equals in society. Since there are already many aspects that divide people into groups and many gaps in societies, the creation of another one may cause massive unrest and a lot of harm.
- The preciousness of life may experience devaluation
A developed and smooth technological process of reproducing humans will decrease the very value of each person’s life. Since it will be easy to create as many copies of whoever is chosen as one may wish, life will lose its initial value of the greatest treasure in the world. Also, people would lose the sense of grieving. If it is easy to reproduce a passed away person, why should one grieve a lot? The loss of such a powerful and profound emotion may impact people’s psychology significantly.
- Religions give the creation of new living beings a divine touch
Religions are still strong in the hearts of billions of people. Due to this, the highly technological and artificial process of creating copies of existing individuals may be treated as an offense to the divine power of creation. The very fact that somebody becomes the creator of life decreases the might and authority of gods. On the list of cons of cloning, the arguments associated with people’s religion and beliefs still remains one of the most popular.
- The more people there are, the higher their exploitation might be
This scenario looks quite like a sci-fi TV show but it is based on the imaginary possibility that the creation of many new individuals may be used to turn them into slaves. While the process of duplication of living beings is still extremely costly, this scenario remains very unlikely. It will take years and years of researching and development to reduce the costs, and only then may the creation of millions of slaves become possible in theory.
- The technology has already faced a number of failures
In fact, many clones have already failed. The DNA that undergoes manipulations is put at considerable risk in most cases. What is more, there has not been enough research to discover what happens and which consequences may come out if the entire process turns into a mess.
- The natural diversity of DNA can be reduced
If we start to select DNA artificially, we may end up with quite a limited number of the available options. Existing within close genetic groups is not good because it may cause a noteworthy increase in the number of genetic diseases. This phenomenon can be observed in the example of royal families in previous centuries. Years of getting married to blood relatives with the same DNA has caused a number of genetic diseases and poor health in royal descendants.
- Embryos are treated as a source of biological material
Human cloning ethics are against the process of creation of embryos that are merely a means to an end. Even though their stem cells can save other people, the idea of creating human embryos that are sentenced to die in the end may repel even those who support the progress of science.
So, why is cloning bad? Why is it good? There is no precise answer. It is impossible to answer such a question once and for all because matters of ethics and moral controversies are too multi-faceted.
The idea of having organs and tissues for transplantation at hand at any moment is a great relief, so is the idea of having a more powerful immune system, a more advanced defense against climatic changes, or a supply of stem cells that can avert the inevitable process of getting older and dying.
Simultaneously, while discussing human cloning pros and cons, we need to give an answer to ourselves: are we ready to sacrifice many lives for the greater good? Are we ready to turn a blind eye to all the ethical conflicts and just let the science take a step further? As of the current state of things, humanity is still far from turning the technology into a booming business, but when we get ready for it, we will need to answer a range of very difficult questions.