A Christian Response

to Human Cloning

by Patrick L Hurd
Note (March 13, 2001) - I wrote this article for the Weatherford Democrat in May, 1998 (circulation a couple of hundred or so) in response to the hoopla over the announcement of Dolly the sheep. While the media was reporting Dolly as the first, others were breaking the news that there had indeed been others.

Cloning is in the news again as Canada entertains legislation to ban human cloning, Britain entertains legislation to allow a certain amount of human cloning, and a group of scientist announce their intent to clone a human within the next 24 months.

I heard on the radio it was reported that a scientist is claiming the first human cloning to have taken place in 1999. Reportedly, a human embryo was cloned and lived in the uterus of a pig for 32 days before being terminated. However, I have yet to find a hard copy of such a claim. But we should not be surprised if it is true. Perhaps we should be more surprised if it turns out not to be true.

May, 1998 -

Most of the very significant scientific advances of a society bring with them questions of social acceptance. This is the case surrounding the recent announcements of the successful cloning of monkeys and sheep. Since the introduction of Dolly, the lamb born last July, to the world and the subsequent announcement from the Oregon Regional Primate Center regarding cloned rhesus monkeys born last August, the news wires have been buzzing across the globe with interviews of scientists, politicians, and clergy denouncing the thought of human cloning as “repugnant” and ethically immoral.

The news of born alive clones brings forth all sorts of speculations ranging from science-fiction zombies used as a working class of sub-humans, to Planet of the Apes Live!, to soulless clones specializing as organ donors for its human counterpart, or the mass production of a super race of Einsteins and Mozarts to the more civil(?) prospects of the ability to exchange genetic material known to cause physical handicaps with that other genetic material.

Scientists acknowledge that the successful cloning from an adult cell, as was done in Scotland to produce Dolly, is a major step toward the ability to successful human cloning. Successful is the key word, as embryologists at George Washington University cloned 17 human embryos in 1993 that resulted in a few reaching the 32-cell size capable of implantation into a surrogate womb. With this in mind, everyone is dusting off their 20+ year old “human artificial insemination ethic arguments” and gearing up for the new debate. Legislation against human cloning has already been conceived in New York. “There is a great deal of justifiable anxiety. History shows that if a technology exists, it will be applied,” said the bill sponsor, Democratic Representative Nita M. Lowey. Research for human cloning has been banned by law for several years already by many European countries including Germany and Denmark.

Even President Clinton has an ethical position with regards to human cloning: “My own view is that human cloning would have to raise deep concerns, given our most cherished concepts of faith and humanity. Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science.” President Clinton has placed a moratorium on all federally funded research into human cloning until such a time that a special committee can report back with the moral answers to this issue.

In the mean time, this issue will progress as other controversial ethical issues of the past have: to complete gestation. A similar public outcry was raised over the advance of the atomic bomb and subsequent nuclear technology, with artificial insemination, and with in vitro fertilization. While the public outcry burned itself out with its inability to come to an ethical conclusion, the research continued until the technology was perfected and implemented. By that time, society acquiesced to the better judgment of somebody (who, we’re not sure of) and we all went on with life.

So it will be with human cloning. Mrs. Lowey is right. If the technology exists, it will be applied.

And so it should be. If the technology exists, it should be applied. But certainly not under the ethical guidelines of some presidentially appointed committee, the ever-changing auspices of judicial legislation and certainly not by one field of science or another. No, the technology must be applied according to the moral ethics and values of the one who gave the technology to mankind to begin with: God, the creator of the Heavens and the Earth.

However, mankind is, by his nature, inclined to vanity and greed and not to acknowledge the source of his understanding. John Calvin, the famous 16th century Christian reformer, said, “But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts.”

America has slipped significantly from the piety of 16th century pagans. At least the 16th century pagans acknowledged a source of law and ethics that was bigger than them. Not so in the America of today. We the People are the only source of law and ethics. We are our own self-proclaimed gods. In a society where the people are their own gods there are no restraints, only temporary inhibitions until the initial shock wears off.

Accordingly, successful human cloning from an adult cell source is only a matter of time. What shall we do then? Who is going to set the ethical standards for such a practice? What right do they claim to be the one who establishes the ethical standards? From where do their ethical standards originate? These are just a few of the easier questions that must be faced by our society. Many are out there already giving their answers, but there are few who are asking the right questions.

A society who restrains the use of such technology based on the revelation of God’s created order is a society that can benefit greatly from such technology. Essential revelatory application must begin with the affirmation that man is the image bearer of God, that the moral essence of man (i.e., his ability and desire to distinguish good from evil) is what separates him from beasts, and the reproductive order of man as the image bearer of God versus that of the beasts. It therefore becomes apparent that the Church must play its vital, God ordained role in society by proclaiming the source of all ethical foundations, by leading the debate to apply the ethical foundations to the issues of society, and by uncompromisingly holding society in account for its ethical faithfulness or lack thereof.




Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas

EST. 01/01/01

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