Q & A ~ It was announced recently in the papers that a US firm has decided to go ahead to attempt to clone humans. What is your opinion about human cloning?

In the first place, I must say that I know very little about cloning technology. Most of what I know about cloning comes from some articles I have read and from an informative website maintained by a Dr. B. Benoit at
http://cac.psu.edu/~gsg109/qs/emclone.html.

From what I have read, I understand that there are two kinds of cloning (i.e., the production of one or more individual plants or animals that are genetically identical to another). The first kind of cloning is known as embryonic cloning. I understand that this has been successfully carried out for years on numerous animals. This technique involves essentially the artificial production of identical twins by artificially fertilising an ovum (egg-cell) on a petri dish and then isolating the cells of the embryo (fertilised ovum) when it first begins to divide (into 2, 4, 8 cells, etc.), and then encouraging the separated cells to develop into separate embryos before implanting back to the uterus for the embryos to grow. The second kind of cloning is known as Adult DNA cloning. It involves removing the DNA from an unfertilised ovum and replacing it with the DNA from an adult animal (generally taken from cells whose DNA are in dormant or somatic state, such as in mammary tissues). Then, the embryo is stimulated electrically to encourage it to develop into a new animal with the same DNA as the donor. This was the technique, which was used to produce “Dolly” in the Roslin Institute in Scotland, in July 1996. I understand that while there were attempts at human cloning using the first method, no foetuses, not to mention full-term human babies have been produced; and also, the second method is not known to have been attempted on human beings.

According to scientists, there are many potential benefits of cloning technology. For example, scientists are trying to create transgenic pigs or pigs which have human genes and can produce organs, such as hearts, liver or kidneys, which may be transplanted to humans. Such pigs may be cloned to produce as many organs as needed. On the surface, this sounds quite right and proper. Few would object to the use of animals for the betterment of mankind, and it can be argued that the dominion over animals that God has given to man allows for such activities of preservation of the human race.

The morality issue becomes more complex when it comes to what scientist hopes to achieve with human cloning. Someone, for example, writes concerning the benefits of human embryo cloning (by which some have concluded that human embryo cloning is ‘moral’):

Treatments for damage to the brain or nervous system might be possible due to cloning. Damaged nerve tissue in adults does not regenerate on its own. However, stem cells might be capable of repairing the tissue. Because of the large number of stem cells required, human embryo cloning would be required.

Parents who are known to be at risk of passing a genetic defect to a child could make use of cloning. A fertilised ovum could be cloned, and the duplicate tested for the disease or disorder. If the clone was free of genetic defects, then the other clone would be as well. The latter could be implanted in the woman and allowed to mature to term.

In conventional in vitro fertilisation, doctors attempt to start with many ova, fertilise each with sperms and implant all of them in the woman’s womb in the hope that one will result in pregnancy. But some women can only supply a single egg; her chances of becoming pregnant are slim. Through the use of embryo cloning, that egg might be divisible into, say, 8 zygotes for implanting. The chance of those women becoming pregnant would be much greater.

Cloning could produce a reservoir of “spare parts.” Fertilised ova could be cloned into multiple zygotes; one could be implanted in the woman and allowed to develop into a normal baby; the other zygotes could be frozen for future use. In the event that the child required a bone marrow transplant, one of the zygotes could be taken out of storage, implanted, allowed to mature to a baby and then contribute some of its spare bone marrow to its (earlier) identical twin. Bone marrow can be harvested from a person without injuring [him].

The same writer also suggests that Adult Human DNA cloning is regarded as ‘moral’ by some because of the following benefits:

Some talents seem to be genetically influenced. Musical ability seems to run in families. Cloning using the DNA from the cell of an adult with the desired traits or talents might produce an infant with similar potential.

A heterosexual couple in which the husband was completely sterile could use adult DNA cloning to produce a child. An ovum from the woman would be coupled with a cell from the man’s body. Both would contribute to the child: the woman would provide the “factory” for creating cells; the man would provide the “genetic information.” …

Two lesbians could elect to have a child by adult DNA cloning rather than by artificial insemination…. Each would then contribute part of her body to the fertilised ovum: one woman would donate the ovum, which contains some genetic material in its mitochondria; the other woman the nuclear genetic material. Both would have parts of their bodies involved in the conception. …

Without going into details, I believe that anyone, who have any biblical morality or ethics, will see that the justification of morality based on the above benefits (especially that of Adult DNA cloning) are specious and wicked in the main.

On the other hand, some have objected to the morality of cloning by pointing out possible problems, such as limited lifespan of clones, possible abnormalities and disabilities that cannot be detected early, depletion of genetic diversity, as well as possible abuses that may occur, such as having renegade countries financing the creation of super human races and genetic underclasses with superior strength but sub-intelligence, etc.

Now, all these arguments tend to occupy our attention and cloud our minds. But the question is: Should these be the issues to determine whether human cloning is moral or ethical? I believe not (although some of the ‘benefits’ proposed should shock our moral senses).

I believe that the question should be, in the first place, whether the process of cloning human beings is moral and ethical. I believe it is not or, at least, it is extremely questionable.

Foremost, I do believe that a new human is brought into being with each conception (cf. Pss 51:5; 139:13–16). It is true that the Bible does not tell us in explicit terms that a fertilised ovum or an embryo is a human being, but the fact, that even science tells us that all the natural characteristics of the person who will potentially develop from the embryo is found in it upon conception or fertilisation, suggests very strongly to us that an embryo is a soul, body entity with a potential to grow into adulthood. The US National Institute of Health, appears to suggest that we should only regard an embryo as a person (if we choose to) at the 18th day of conception when the neural tube closure begins and the nervous system begins to develop. But this, in effect, is a declaration that if the soul exists at all, it exists only when there is a brain or when there is neural matter. However, the Scripture teaches us that the soul can exist and think independently of the biological brain. Yes, it is true that while we are in this world, there is a close inter-relationship between the brain and the soul, but this does not mean that the soul is non-existent when the embryo is conceived.

The implication of this doctrine is that human embryo cloning (or artificial twinning) is ethically wrong by biblical standards, for it will involve very highly risky manipulation of the lives of unborn persons. In the first place, there is a question of whether the artificially created twin will have a soul (without which it would be a monster: a human body, with animal instincts only). Though we grant that God could endow him or her with a soul, such a procedure,—without the assurance of the Word of God,—would be tantamount to tempting God. In the second place, the failure rate is extremely high, even in animals, so that if tried on human embryos, not only would hundreds of healthy embryos (unborn persons) be destroyed, but also many would be killed because of deformities or defects. I do believe that the intentional destruction of human embryos is tantamount to a breaking of the Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.”

What about the case of adult DNA cloning which does not involve the use of fertilised ova? Well, I believe there are similar difficulties. In the first place, the question of whether the clone would have a soul becomes even more acute. In the case of human embryo cloning, it may at least be argued that when natural twinning occurs, the identical twins have souls. But here the manner of conception violates the natural order established by God for the propagation of mankind. Whether the human clones will have souls remained to be seen. But even suppose we put the question aside and assume that the ovum with the dormant DNA inserted becomes true embryo or unborn living person (by the condescension and intervention of God), we will still have to deal with the fact that a very high failure rate is expected. In the case of “Dolly,” for example, out of 277 attempts at cell fusion, only 29 began to divide; and when these were implanted in ewes, only 13 became pregnant, and ultimately only one lamb was born. We can hardly imagine how many human deaths, deformities and disabilities will result from human cloning experiments.

In my ignorance I used to think that human cloning is simply questionable because of the many unanswered questions as well as the repugnant notion that man created in the image of God could be reared as spare parts for selfish men. But today, I have no doubt that human cloning is unethical, and I do not believe that the ends justify the means. Furthermore, I have little doubts that as men begin to violate the natural order of God’s creation and set themselves up as wiser than God, that temporal judgement of the magnitude and character of AIDS is not unlikely. Moreover, I do believe that it is of far, far greater value for us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and to lay up treasures in heaven, rather than to seek longevity in this world of sin, pain suffering, and sorrow. I have no doubt that the real solution for all the ailments that cloning technology hopes to cure is already available. It is available in the eternal rest of all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh that more may be shut up to Christ crucified than to bark up the wrong tree, seeking elusive dreams.