Reader's Comments on

Cloning, Genetic Engineering, and Population Control

or "Playing God in the Third Millennium?"

One of our first responses comes from another DIALOGOS consultant, Pat Stonehouse.

While cloning may have its place in our society we must remember its limitations.

First, the new life forms produced from clones don't get any better. They are at best static unless some genetic engineering takes place to mutate them for the better but at that point you cease to have a clone but a mutant.

Second, because it is always mature; i.e. aged, cells that are cloned, if cloning clones for the sake of immortality takes place, wouldn't a new-born clone have the genes of a very old person and might not live long?

Third, cloning people for spare parts is practical but at this point unethical in our present society.

I think ultimately cloning will be insignificant next to the great technical leaps being made in cyber-consciousness and artificial intelligence.
Patrick Stonehouse 

A self-described "Bible-belt dissenter" writes:

As God said all possibilities are open to man, the cloning of humans should not be viewed as sin or against the nature of species. The making of a better humanity through scientific accomplishments could be also viewed as a resurrection of generations. This would not discard the spiritual aspect of life after physical death nor disrupt the faith one has in God. The perfecting of a "godly seed" continuing within each generation.
Barbara Whitmore, Cleveland, Tenn.

Our next set of comments come from a mathematician:

Isn't there also the possibility that cloning is a perfectly natural phenomenon in God's eyes? After all any cloning procedure as I understand it must go through a process essentially identical to what now happens in advanced fertility clinics - a cell is removed and forced to grow into an embryo by scientific, well, really engineering, methods. It seems to me that the spirit or soul is established in some mysterious, unkown way at some point in this process. Why shouldn't it also happen when a cell is removed from an adult and forced to grow into a genetically identical embryo? To think otherwise would require a genetic basis for one's soul, a concept that I, for one, refuse to acknowledge. But the comment I really objected to was Stonehouse's second one -- namely that cloning an old person would produce "old genes", whatever that means.
Ray Hoobler, Ph.D., New York City College

Next, a lengthy set of comments coming from a psychiatrist in Belgium:

[In this discussion of cloning,] I have the impression that some essential aspects of the theories of Teilhard de Chardin have not been enough taken into consideration:

First: The phase of biological evolution has come to an end. Just to recall: the mechanics that govern the evolutionary process can roughly be divided into 3 stages:

(1) lithophase or lithosphere, where evolutionary processes are governed essentially by external interactions and structures: levels 1 (strings), 2 (elementary particles), 3 (atoms), & 4 (molecules). (2) biophase or biosphere, where evolutionary processes are governed by DNA-codes: 5 (eobionts), 6 (protozoa), & 7 (metazoa) (3) noophase or noosphere, where evolutionary processes are governed by (a) psychocultural changes & (b) technological changes: 8 (socialization)

As we are now firmly advanced into this noophase, we should not expect more useful evolutionary changes at the biological level(s). Whatever human cloning contributes to human well-being, we should not expect eugenetic improvements in the psychosocial sphere, e.g. less aggressive or destructive, and more cooperative and constructive behaviour. Apart from the correction of some specific neurological problems (e.g. epileptogenic behaviour disturbances by brain damage), the evolutionary process is now active on a post-biological level: science (& technology) and psychology (& psychosocial culture) are the vehicles of this evolution.

Second: On every level of evolution, there is a natural limit, as if nature couldn't develop more variations, more complex combinations beyond this point to answer to the deep needs of evolution. Evolution came to an end, at least at this particular level. (Evolution continued by composing systems on a higher level, with more complexity and consciousness). Every scientific, technological effort to "create" a more complex system on that particular level was in vain. E.g. in spite of half a century of cyclotron research and experiments, not one new STABLE baryon (level 2) than the "natural" baryons, and not one new STABLE atom (level 3) than uranium (92) was created. Nature seems to have reached a natural limit, at least on that particular level of complexity. The same natural limit seems to be reached by man, the most complex organism on level 7 (the metazoa). The fact that evolution has advanced pretty well into level 8 (socialization) is a supplementary indication that the biological level 7 (metazoa) came to an end.

It will be a frustration for geneticians, as it was for elementary physicists, that in spite of modern medical and genetical technology no major improvements (albeit many useful corrections of genetical diseases) can be made to the genome. In the light of the laws of evolution, described by Teilhard de Chardin, we have not to fear the creation of an Ubermensch, at least not by biotechnology. At most a Frankensteinian monster, that we'll have to confine or kill for everybody's safety.

Third:  From a neuropsychological point of view, we may not overlook the importance of 9 months of pregnancy, and even a few months and years of extreme dependence of the young baby. It is not a mistake of nature that a young cow -also a mammalian-, stands up after 1 or 2 days, whereas human offspring takes more than 1 year to do so. The brain, after being composed anatomically, enters a long and intensive "training programme", not only from a psychological but also from a neurophysiological point of view, first in the womb of the mother, and afterwards in an intensive interaction with the mother. It is even scheduled in the genes: neurodevelopmental research revealed that some fundamental reflexes in the young baby are already present at an earlier stage than generally assumed, but are "artificially" suppressed by our organism for months and months. The hypothetical purpose of this to install an "artificial" dependency in the young being, to enable an appropriate psychological development. It is a good thing that after artificial insemination, the fertilized ovum is put back into the uterus, because the process of fetal development is probably more critical than the combination of chromosomes or the art of cloning.

I think that whereas the biological science of cloning is perhaps ready, the psychological and even neurological developmental science has yet to start. The moment that we will be ready to educate a cloned human into an improved member of socialized mankind, we will perhaps also be able to achieve this goal with natural offspring... Personally I see more advantages in tissue and organ cultures, and in chromosomial corrections, even from a financial point of view. And these will perhaps better satisfy the need for transplantation material than killing a clone.

Finally, I think clones can and will be developed. What can be realized will eventually be realized somewhere by somebody... But once they are available, with or without reimplantation in the uterus, I don't see which advantages they will present compared with natural offspring, besides the elimination of some genetic diseases. They will anyway be complete human beings, as troublesome and complex as natural ones.

Kris Roose, M.D. , Gent, Belgium

For another look at the question, this time from the other side of the world, see:
"Cloning:Will Pharaohs Rule Again?"

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File: DIAL8a.htm 8/27/2001