A Journal for Western Man
The Morality of Cloning
G. Stolyarov II
Issue V- September 19, 2002
Traditional anti-abortionists claim that undertakings ranging from reproductive cloning to therapeutic stem cell research are immoral as a result of the fact that a majority of embryos reproduced would be required to be destroyed or transformed into stem cells, organs, or merely shells for unsuccessfully implanted genetic material. In my previous essay, I had emphasized that the evil of abortion lay in the fact that it terminated entities possessing the distinction, “futuristically certain”, i.e. bound to be born and develop volitional consciousness absent destructive intervention. Do cloned embryos meet such a criterion? No. Cloning is an artificial, scientific process requiring colossal knowledge of human genetics and its medical applications. A cloned embryo would not have been crafted absent the technology which was intended so that it becomes a stem cell, or an organ, or, in the most complex of instances, a human being. A cloned embryo is a mere potential entity, just as is a child prior to conception (as his genes can be forged in any chance manner). Its designation as potential is upheld by the fact that it has not yet been implanted into a surrogate mother, and its birth is not guaranteed absent human action. No human being possesses the obligation to act for the birth of a child. If they did, as quoted from “An Objectivist condemnation of abortion”, “because "potential" would be the standard of value, and a different genetic code would result during every act of fertilization between every ‘potential’ couple, moralists would be able to claim that it is every person's duty to undergo infinite reproductive activity with every other earthling of the opposite gender so as not to kill the ‘potential’ DNA configurations to emerge from every such act. The result, granted, is absurd.” Thus, there is nothing fundamentally immoral about transforming artificially generated embryos within the laboratory as scientists see fit in assisting their research endeavors.
A second claim expounded by opponents of cloning is its alleged un-safety and experimental status, implying that it should not be distributed into the marketplace nor employed as a medical treatment. Gregory Pence, professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and moderate cloning advocate nevertheless embraces such an argument. Writes Kristen Philipkoski for Wired News, “He believes, however, that cloning must be proven safe first in primates. The primates should be allowed to live out their 35-to-45-year lifespan to make sure there is no flawed genetic expression later in life.” Such a proposal amounts, in mild terms, to an effective prohibition of human cloning until an absolute verification of clone health and functionality can be achieved. Scientific research would be stalled for nearly a half-century, simply to dissolve the yet unfounded speculation that clones would age at a more rapid rate or exhibit (unidentified) diseases. Cloning activist Randolfe Wicker provides a counter to this moratorium: “’I think the biggest flaw in this argument is the underlying premise that once cloning in primates had been perfected, that the cloning of human beings would be given the go-ahead,’ Wicker said. Human cloning won't be accepted until the first healthy baby is born, he believes, much like the birth of Louise Brown in 1978 halted worldwide alarm that in vitro fertilization would create a Frankenstein-like creature. He points out that IVF was possible in the early 1940s, and in 1978, researchers started an eight-year study to see if IVF would be viable. Just as that study was getting underway, Louise Brown was born. ‘For 30 or more years, infertile couples were denied access to IVF," Wicker said. "I don't want to see history repeat itself and have human reproductive cloning delayed for decades as well.’” Indeed, the only manner to ensure consumer confidence and render cloning practices a marketable commodity is to demonstrate that there shall be no harmful effects thereof on both the customer and the resulting entity. The sole means of achieving this verification is through experiments, not on primates, but on human beings. Primate studies may prove a useful supplement, but the ultimate objective of the practice is to produce new people or repair the malfunctions in old ones. In addition to this, data obtained from primates may not be compatible with human clones due to distinct genetic variations within the two species.
Moreover, there is nothing immoral in proceeding with cloning while still in its experimental stages and on shaky footing. No development of technology, including railroads, automobiles, industrial concerns, nuclear plants, antibiotics, and anesthesia, had ever emerged into being with an outright one-hundred-percent safety guarantee. Only through customer investments, however, were security standards able to rise dramatically. Thus, pollution became slashed, accidents reduced, and medical side effects quelled, not due to government dictum, but because the sustenance of the producing companies required their customers’ consent to purchase their products, and customers do not prefer to inhale smog, or veer off the roadway, or lose their immune system along with their infection. Thus, the natural trend of a free market-- and only of a free market—is a constant surge in the reliability of commodities and consumer satisfaction.
This theoretical proposition has already been partially verified in practice with cloning just as it had been with IVF. According to Sacramento Bee Staff Writer Stuart Leavenworth, a panel by the National Academy of Sciences assembled to discuss potential harmful effects of cloning has found none in the milk of cloned cattle and other livestock. This is already a step forward in the quantity of safe and healthy goods accessible to consumers. The panel did discuss, however, the harmful effects of swiftly reproducing cloned fish released into ecosystems where they would displace regular brands but die swiftly afterward without ample time to reproduce. This may be a legitimate scientific grievance, but panel members such as Dr. Joy Mench of the University of California, “stressed that they are not calling for tougher FDA regulations in any area.” Essentially, the meeting was a noble endeavor. It sought to pinpoint potentially harmful side effects of particular cloning efforts to companies and consumers without coercing them into adopting regulatory measures. A permanent destruction of salmon populations, for example, will disrupt the profitability of fisheries and the nation’s food supply. Rational businesses will of their own accord refrain from releasing transgenic salmon from their experimental pools, and rational customers will not associate themselves with businesses who refuse to do so. Already a company is enhancing its practices based on such information. Writes Leavenworth, “Officials for Aqua Bounty hope to minimize the risk by selling only sterile female fish.” They will profit from the advantages of cloning salmon, but will prudently evade its unfavorable effects.
Additionally, no consumer is forced to undertake a cloning endeavor if he personally deems it to be to immense a risk on his behalf. A staunchly religious man can refuse to clone himself on grounds that such action conflicts with the teachings of his faith. However unfounded such teachings may be, it is the theist’s right to be an individual practitioner of them. But, by virtue of the separation of church and state, an essential component of liberty, as well as by virtue of religious freedom, no man possesses the right to coercively impose the dictates of his faith upon others. He can preach the undesirability of cloning within his church to willing listeners, but he cannot, unless we are to convert to a theocracy, promulgate prohibitive legislation in that regard. His legitimate stance is, “Don’t like cloning, don’t clone yourself, and I am going to attempt to persuade you not to.”
In-vitro fertilization today is a widespread practice which has permitted numerous families otherwise incapable of bearing children to receive the pleasure of such an experience as well as increased control over family management. Cloning can grant parents a similar determining role in the contractual exchanges that they undertake. As I had written in “An Objectivist condemnation of abortion”, the birth of a child is the first investment in a relationship reminiscent of a contract between a business and a customer. “A child can be a pillar of support during one's retirement years and can be morally conditioned to offer aid to his elderly ancestors not as a duty but simply as back payment for the sustenance provided to him during his youth. But more significant is the direct spiritual value that a child brings to a sound home as a complex, inquisitive entity on its path to full mental competence. The relationship between parent and child is undertaken for the same reason and with the same value-value symbiosis as a business contract between a producer and a consumer.” If parents are capable of determining the physical attributes of their children, to eliminate deformities or even enhance intelligence through genetic engineering, or to craft a human being with all of their characteristic fortitudes, internal and external, and none of their weaknesses and disorders, will their relationship’s convenience and profitability not surge dramatically? An intelligent, reasoning, swiftly-absorbing child is to a greater degree independent and civil in his relations. A child who is physically strong and enduring and lacks any inherent ailments is likely to lead a longer, more fulfilling life, all the meanwhile supporting his parents with the material and emotional values for which he receives his sustenance and his education.
A superb prospect looms in the
distance for humankind should it choose to permit
cloning and recognize its desirability. A sect known as
the Raelians, led by French journalist Claude Vorilhon,
is one of the pioneer groups in the field of cloning and
presently claims to have implanted a human embryo into a
South Korean woman. It is riddled with arbitrary
superstitions, such as the belief that life on earth had
first originated through a cloning operation by
intelligent aliens, but the consequences of its
reality-oriented activities can only yield magnificent
effects. "Once we can clone exact replicas of ourselves,
the next step will be to transfer our memory and
personality into our newly cloned brains, which will
allow us to truly live forever," the Raelian website
says. What would you say to a man who proposed to
deprive you of a chance for immortality, or even delay
the procurement thereof by forty-five years? We cannot
hop right away into a state of such technological
wonder, as the science is not yet present for an
undertaking of this magnitude. Yet, we can proceed
toward it by embracing stem cell research, cloning, and
genetic engineering in a free market. Perhaps in a few
centuries’ time, this Raelian dream will become a
reality for man, forged by the diligent apparatus that
is his reasoning mind.
G. Stolyarov II is a science
fiction novelist, independent filosofical essayist,
poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to
Enter Stage Right,
Le Quebecois Libre, and the
Ludwig von Mises Institute,
Senior Writer for
The Liberal Institute, and
The Rational Argumentator, a
magazine championing the principles of reason, rights,
and progress. His newest science fiction novel is
Eden against the Colossus.
His latest non-fiction treatise is
A Rational Cosmology. Mr.
Stolyarov can be contacted at
This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.
Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.