Fatema is a student living in Karachi who enjoys researching and analyzing various topics.
In recent times, the concept of human cloning has caught the attention of a great many scientists, as well as certain governments, with efforts being put into the development of this technology (which led to the gradual creation of Dolly, a cloned sheep in 1996). However, at its most essential state in terms of biology, cloning is the process of producing populations of genetically identical living things. This takes place when organisms such as bacteria, insects, or plants reproduce asexually.
Human cloning, on the other hand, is an artificial process part of biotechnology in which a genetically identical copy of a human is created. This is done by artificially reproducing human cells and tissues and, thus, does not refer to twins or natural conception. However, human cloning is still a theoretical concept, for cloning methods are not practically used yet, at least on humans.
What Is Cloning?
"Clones are organisms that are exact genetic copies of any living organism. Every single bit of their DNA is identical."
Types of Human Cloning
There are two types of theoretical human cloning:
- Therapeutic Cloning: This process consists of cloning cells from humans for use in medicine and transplants. While an active area of research, it is not yet in medical practice anywhere in the world.
- Reproductive Cloning: In this method, one aims to make an entire cloned human instead of just specific cells or tissues.
The Grand Debate
There is a great divide when it comes to the effectiveness of the concept of human cloning for the human race and the question of its practical use. While some support it for particular reasons, others vehemently oppose it with their own equally strong arguments. There are various perspectives and implications, both positive and negative, about human cloning. However, these, too, just like the concept of human cloning, are theoretical and speculative. We shall now explore these speculative positive and negative implications of cloning on the human race.
Therapeutic cloning is supported to a certain extent, as it can generate tissue and whole organs, which can be used to treat patients who otherwise cannot obtain transplants easily. Cloned cells and tissues can also be used to reduce the need for immunosuppressive drugs by replacing the weaker cells and tissues in humans.
Therapeutic cloning can also help stave off the effect of aging by replacing related cells with specifically developed ones. Also, according to research, serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes might benefit greatly from the development of such new technology.
Secondly, reproductive cloning (the creation of a whole human being) can produce benefits for couples who are infertile and cannot reproduce. This technology will, thus, allow them to have children without undergoing complicated procedures of adoption.
If the technology of human cloning is fully developed and used commercially, then cloned humans can be used in warfare. This will lead to a larger army and greater chances of victory, especially for a country with a relatively weaker, smaller, and inefficient army. Thus changing their position in global politics and power in the long term.
An important advantage of reproductive cloning is the production of desired traits. Cloning the human race can produce beings with desired qualities and traits through various genetic compositions. These include, but are not limited to, functions such as stronger immunity, higher IQ, and longer lifespan. Such a population of cloned human beings can improve the lives of the entire human race.
For instance, they can be used as organ and blood donors by those with perfect genetic matches. On the other hand, those with higher IQs can be used to help in advancements in sciences, technology, economics, etc.
Despite its possible benefits, there are various equally possible negative implications of cloning, as well as ethical issues. Firstly, according to research, reproductive cloning can make cloned humans susceptible to various diseases, despite the possibility of producing specific, desired genetic compositions. This is because reproductive cloning may result in a lack of diversity among the cloned humans, making them vulnerable to similar diseases. Also, it is often our naturally occurring internal differences that often help researchers understand what conditions may and may not withstand certain illnesses and aid them in developing resistance plans (medicine).
Apart from that, if the cloning of humans is commercially practiced, it will ultimately produce a considerable population of cloned humans. These are likely to behave and function differently since cloning technology is artificial and not yet considered reliable. Hence, they may very likely be considered and treated as a separate class and race and, thus, have difficulty in adjusting to societal conventions and norms.
On the other hand, if this technology proves to be reliable, excessive cloning of humans may cause increasing disruption in the lives of the natural-born population in the long term. That is because cloning humans with specific qualities and traits is likely to lead to a superior class of genetically modified humans, who rather than providing benefits, may leave the natural human population in disarray, specifically in terms of employment and wealth, by taking up leading positions in various work fields. This disparity can lead to severe consequences by disrupting the social structure of society and bringing about an unequal shift of power.
Apart from that, cloning humans for specific purposes and duties can break down individualism in any society. One's individuality marks them as unique. However, genetically modified humans, likely to be produced for certain purposes by scientists and governments, will have predetermined functions, goals, and set directives. Hence, rather than producing humans, a country will create predetermined engineers, scientists, soldiers, etc., with similar mindsets and brain working.
There are also ethical concerns associated with reproductive cloning, which is largely due to its method. Reproductive cloning takes place through artificial embryo splitting, in which monozygotic twins are created from a single embryo. The donor embryo is split and can then be transferred via embryo transfer (placed in the uterus of the female with the aim of establishing pregnancy). This process is deemed unethical by Article 11 of UNESCO's Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, which states that reproductive cloning is contrary to human dignity. That is because they believe that potential life is destroyed when embryonic cells are used to create two distinct embryos.
Lastly, many religious bodies across the world strongly oppose the concept of human cloning. For instance, the human Catholic Church has condemned the practice of human cloning, while many conservative Christian groups believe that life begins at the moment of conception and, thus, oppose the cloning of human embryos. If the cloning of the human race is supported and commercialized, it is likely to lead to disputes between religious bodies, scientific authorities and government. This conflict might bring about adverse consequences for the masses.
Cloning Has Risks and Benefits
These were some of the positive and negative implications of human cloning. The possible life-changing benefits of therapeutic cloning in the field of medicine imply its higher chances of endorsement and development by various authorities. However, the various ethical, religious, and possible social issues associated with reproductive cloning may lead to a more detrimental rather than positive effect on humans as individuals and society.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Fatema