Published December 5, 2011. Updated September 5, 2019.
What is Cloning?
To put it simply, cloning is the process of making an identical copy of something. There are two main types of cloning: Therapeutic Cloning and Reproductive Cloning. The most talked about type of cloning from a media and awareness standpoint is Reproductive Cloning; it is an asexual means of reproduction by which genetically identical copies of organisms are created. Many plants can do this naturally, but scientists are now able to artificially recreate this technique with animals and even humans.
To gain a better understanding of how exactly cloning works or for greater detail on Therapeutic Cloning or Reproductive Cloning, check out:
The History of Cloning: What Has Been Cloned?
A sheep named Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned using the DNA from other adult sheep. A team of scientists in Edinburg, Scotland who were hoping to discover if it was possible to create livestock with particular genetic traits created Dolly. Her existence proved that a new being can be created using adult cells. Unfortunately, Dolly aged rapidly, developing arthritis and other health problems at a very young age. Eventually, Dolly was put to rest via lethal injection.
Humans and Cloning
What is the purpose of trying to clone humans? Although movies and books sometimes make it seem like human cloning would only lead to an army of clones taking over the world and destroying mankind, there must be a scientific reason that this topic is being researched. In fact, some scientists hope that by researching and replicating stem cells, genetic diseases might become treatable or even curable. Other scientists have the intention of cloning entire human beings, not just their cells, in order to help infertile couples have children.
Cloning: Morality and Legality
Governments and religious activists alike have spoken out against human cloning. In the US, legislation during the Bush Administration prevented federal funds from being allocated towards research in human cloning; however, recently restrictions on funding were repealed. Many of the past bans on funding were reactions to public opinion regarding stem cell research.
Stem cells have the ability to replicate into various types of cells within the human body, and they can do so indefinitely. The controversy and ethical questions surrounding stem cells derive from the fact that these cells may be taken from human embryos. While the cells are being replicated for the benefit of humans who suffer from diseases, cancer, infertility, etc., they do so at the cost of a fertilized human egg. Many religious, social, and political groups claim that this research is equivalent to killing unborn children. In their opinion, it is immoral to remove protection from an innocent human life and cause it harm when it cannot defend itself. Other religious arguments are in support of the idea that science should not be able to create life, only God can and should.
Societal Implications of Human Cloning
It can be argued that introducing human clones into the world would have a profound impact on society and human interactions. Some groups feel that cloning could lead the world down a path where human beings would eventually lose their individuality. As replicas of DNA lead to the creation of identical human beings, there exists the fear that people will have fewer distinguishing qualities. Individuality is considered an integral part of what makes a person who they are, as well as the impact that he or she has on the world. If this problem is analyzed from the perspective of clones, clones also have the potential to become insecure; in this new society, there might be high levels of pressure to meet expectations created by the original owner of their DNA.
Human cloning could also change roles and values within families. Perhaps cloned children will begin to be viewed by their parents as products or purchases rather than offspring. Concerns could also be raised that these children will not be treated the same way as children created/born through sexual reproduction. It might be hard for parents to psychologically wrap their minds around the idea that their child was born from replicated DNA.
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