|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
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,
were 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
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
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 Gods
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.