The Many Implications of Human Cloning
"Clones are organisms that are exact genetic copies of any living organism. Every single bit of their DNA is identical."
In recent times, the concept of human cloning has caught the attention of 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.
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 immuno-suppressive drugs by replacing the weaker cells and tissues in humans. Therapeutic cloning can also help stave off the effect off the effect of aging, by replacing related cells with specifically developed ones. Also, according to research, serious diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, and diabetes might benefit greatly from the development of such new technology.
Secondly, reproductive cloning (creation of whole human being) can produce benefits to 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 IQ's 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 the 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 if often our naturally occurring internal differences that often help researches understand what condition may and may not withstand certain illnesses 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 the 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 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 in due to its method. Reproductive cloning takes place through artificial embryo splitting, in which mono zygotic 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 female with the aim to establish pregnancy). This process is deemed unethical by by Article 11 of UNESCO's Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights which state that reproductive cloning is contrary to human dignity. That is because they believe that a 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 human race is supported and commercialized, it is likely to lead to disputes between the religious bodies, and scientific authorities and government. This conflict might bring about adverse consequences for the masses.
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.