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This staff working paper was discussed at the Council's January 2002 meeting. It was prepared by staff solely to aid discussion, and does not represent the official views of the Council or of the United States Government.

See also Staff Working Paper 3a: Arguments for "Reproductive" Cloning



Staff Working Paper 3b

Arguments against "Reproductive Cloning"

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the arguments presented in defense of human cloning is the extent to which they have to stretch and work to get around what appears to be an almost instinctive revulsion against cloning human beings on the part of the public and many scientists and decision makers. For reasons that many people have difficulty articulating, nearly everyone agrees that they do not want to see a cloned human being brought to term. What should we make of this revulsion? Is it mere prejudice, born of ignorance and of the fear of novelty? Or does it rest in some genuine insight?

Exploring and explaining this revulsion, which persists in the face of what in many cases appear to be rigorous and internally consistent analytical and philosophical arguments in defense of human "reproductive" cloning, is a task that may have much to teach us about the purpose and the proper role of bioethics in our times. For if our revulsion rises up from deep within us, it may rest upon and express a sense of our humanity and its meaning that we are unaccustomed to expressing in logical, political and rhetorical terms. Making an effort to express these ideas -- these human goods -- in clear, distinct and rigorous form will help us see what is at stake in the matter of cloning: what is at risk, what there is to defend, and why it ought to be defended.

The arguments put forward in defense of "reproductive" cloning tend to strike the ear at first as more familiar and congenial because they generally address themselves to subjects we are quite used to dealing with in our political and public life: to individual rights, to the satisfaction of personal desires, to the exercise of human will. Modern liberal democratic politics is especially good at thinking about these human goods and at providing for them. Arguments against permitting human cloning have a far less familiar ring to them, because while they do draw on some of the most prominent and important liberal premises (for instance by pointing to serious concerns about safety and consent, among others) they also draw upon a rather different set of human goods, to which our politics does not often address itself explicitly: human dignity and worth; human bonds, both natural and social; the freedom that can come only from certain sorts of limits on the human will; the meaning and the power of our procreative nature and its relation to our mortality. These are, in many ways, the highest human things, but they are not always, and should not be always, political things; and so our politics does not often think of them. We human individuals, however, do think about them. They speak to us often more clearly and directly than do the theories of individual rights and the promise of comfort and even of health. For the most part, we are quite well able to keep these two realms -- one higher but less political, the other lower but more immediate and practical -- separate. But when the two fall into conflict, we are challenged to prioritize among them.

The prospect of twenty-first century biotechnology forces us to think of this, because it threatens to bring the two realms into conflict. It does so precisely because the powers it makes possible are to be used on the bodies and minds of human beings, and in ways that go beyond the traditional medical goal of healing the sick. In their quest for comfort and health, advocates of human cloning seek to give new form to human procreation -- and we must think of what that might do to all the human goods that are connected in countless subtle ways to human procreation. In their desire to empower human will, they seek to break the mold of natural human limitation -- and we must think of where a new standard of human behavior and dignity might come from. In their quest for the empowerment of individuals, they raise questions that human societies can answer only together -- and we must face these questions and consider them carefully before we decide how we ought to proceed.

All the human goods in question -- individual rights, the quest for health and longer life, the desire for a biologically related child, the desire for freedom, human dignity, human humility and wonder, and the procreative character of human life -- are of great importance to us; but as biology and medicine seek out new powers, some of these goods may come into conflict with others. It will be up to us, as individuals and particularly as political communities, to address these conflicts, and in doing so we must take an active role and not simply let things fall where they may. The stakes are too high for passivity. The promise is too great. The risks are too serious. And we must deliberate carefully to reach the wisest judgment and to determine the best course of action. In making this judgment, we must understand and we must articulate as clearly as possible both sets of human goods: not only the one we are very good at talking about, but also the other, which we rarely speak of, but which we find impossible to ignore.

The arguments in favor of human "reproductive" cloning speak mostly, though not exclusively, in the terms of human choice and human comfort and health. The arguments in favor of refraining from "reproductive" cloning and prohibiting it will speak mostly (though again certainly not exclusively) in the terms of human dignity, human flourishing, and human nature. In both cases, it is less the technical details of cloning that matter, and more the meaning of "reproductive" cloning in relation to those goods and those ideals that matter most to us all.

Opposition to human "reproductive" cloning falls into several general categories, some of which address the more familiar questions of safety, consent, and individual rights, but most of which focus mainly on the larger human questions at stake in making this decision.

1. Safety and Health of Children and Mothers
The first of these is a concern raised by nearly everyone on all sides of the cloning debate: the safety of all involved. Even most proponents of "reproductive" cloning generally qualify their support with a caveat about the safety of the procedure. Almost no one argues that cloning is presently safe enough to attempt on human beings, and the example of cloning experiments in other mammals strongly suggests that human "reproductive" cloning is, at least for now, far too risky to attempt. Safety concerns revolve around potential dangers to the cloned child, as well as to the egg donor and the surrogate mother.

Risks to the cloned child must be taken especially seriously, not least because -- unlike the risks to the egg donor and surrogate mother -- they cannot be accepted knowingly and freely by the person who will bear them. The risks to the cloned child have at this point led nearly everyone involved in the debate to consider cloning thoroughly unsafe. In animal experiments to date, only approximately 5 percent of attempts to clone have resulted in live births, and a substantial portion of those live-born clones have suffered complications that proved fatal fairly quickly.1 Longer term consequences are of course not known, since the oldest successfully cloned mammal is only approximately five years of age. Some medium-term consequences, including premature aging, immune system failures, and sudden unexplained deaths, have already become apparent in some cloned mammals.

Furthermore, there are concerns that a cell from an individual who has lived for some years may have accumulated genetic mutations which -- if used in the cloning of a new human life -- may predispose the new individual to certain sorts of cancer and other diseases. 2

Along with these threats to the health and well being of the cloned child, there appear to exist some risks to the health of the egg donor (particularly risks to her future reproductive health caused by the hormonal treatments required for egg donation) and risks to the health of the surrogate mother (for instance, animal experiments suggest a higher than average likelihood of overweight offspring, which can adversely affect the health of the birth-mother.)

These concerns have convinced most of those involved in the field that attempts at "reproductive" cloning at present would constitute unethical experimentation on human subjects, and should be forbidden. These considerations of safety were among the primary factors that led the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to call for a prohibition of human "reproductive" cloning in 1997, and the evidence in support of such concerns has only grown since then.

Nonetheless, as the NBAC report also articulated, safety concerns may well be temporary, and could prove amenable to technical solutions.3 These concerns constitute a persuasive argument for a moratorium or temporary ban; but in themselves they do not get beyond the technicalities of cloning to the deep moral, social, and ethical issues involved. The present Council, given its membership and its charter, may be more inclined to consider the meaning of cloning beyond its technical feasibility and its safety record, and to look at the more permanent significance of cloning as an activity that reflects on those who engage in it and on the society that permits or encourages it. It is in those areas of inquiry that serious and permanent objections to cloning arise with the greatest force.

2. Consent
Beyond physical safety, the prospect of "reproductive" cloning also raises concerns about a potential violation of the rights of individuals, particularly through a denial of the right to consent to the use of one's body in experimentation or medical procedures.

Consent from the human clone itself is of course impossible to obtain. It may be argued, on the one hand, that no one consents to his own birth, so concerns about consent are misplaced when applied to the unborn. But as George Annas and others have argued, the issue is not so simple. For reasons having much to do with the safety concerns raised above and the social and psychological concerns to be addressed below, an attempt to clone a human being would expose the cloned individual-to-be to great risks of harm, in addition to, and different from, those accompanying other sorts of reproduction. Given the risks, and the fact that consent cannot be obtained, the ethical choice may be to avoid the experiment.

Against this point it might be said that the alternative to cloning is for the cloned individual not to exist at all, and that no one would prefer non-existence to the chance at life. Such an argument, however, could easily come to be used as an excuse for absolutely any use and abuse of embryonic or newborn life. Giving life to an individual does not grant one the right to harm that individual. It is true that the scientist cannot ask an unconceived child for permission, but this puts a burden on the scientist, not on the child. All that the scientist can know is that he or she is putting a newly created life at enormous risk; and given that knowledge, the ethics of human experimentation suggest that the best option is to avoid the procedure altogether.

Indeed, an inquiry into the purpose and meaning of consent may well support this point. Why, after all, does society insist upon consent as an essential principle of the ethics of scientific research? The requirement for consent is not quite an end in itself. It exists to protect the weak and the vulnerable, and particularly to protect them from the powerful. It would therefore be morally questionable, at the very least, to choose to impose potentially grave harm on an individual, even by the very act of choosing to give them life.

A separate question of consent arises in light of the possibility that individuals, living or dead, may be used as sources of DNA for a cloning procedure without their permission or even their knowledge. Unlike other forms of reproduction, including assisted reproduction and in vitro fertilization, cloning could be carried out with DNA from individuals who have chosen to be involved in a reproductive procedure. While an egg or sperm donor may not consent specifically to have the egg or sperm used in a particular reproductive procedure, the donor has knowingly donated the sperm or egg, and thus has consented to having them used in such procedures in general. But since, at least in theory, the nucleus of any cell from a given individual could be inserted into an egg to clone that individual, and since cells can be obtained illicitly with relative ease, individuals may find themselves cloned without their knowledge or approval, and thus essentially forced to reproduce without their consent.

A subset of this problem involves the cloning of the deceased, who, like the unborn, cannot provide or deny consent. Among the possible uses for cloning suggested by proponents of human "reproductive" cloning is the opportunity it offers for parents of a deceased child, or the family of any deceased individual to clone that individual. Such an action, taken without prior permission, could be a patent violation of the principles of reproductive consent, though of course the individual whose rights are violated would be unable to object.

In these different ways, the long-standing insistence on obtaining consent for medical procedures, and particularly reproductive ones, could be seriously undermined by the advent of human "reproductive" cloning.

3. Eugenics and Enhancement
Human "reproductive" cloning could also come to be used for eugenic purposes: that is, in an attempt to alter (with the aim of improving) the genetic constitution of future generations. Indeed, that is the stated purpose of some proponents of "reproductive" cloning, and has been at the heart of much support for the concept of "reproductive" cloning for decades. Proponents of eugenics were once far more open regarding their intentions and their hopes to escape the uncertain lottery of sex and reach an era of controlled and humanly directed reproduction, which would allow future generations to suffer fewer genetic defects and to enjoy more advantageous genotypes. In the present debate, the case for eugenics is not made quite so openly, but it nonetheless remains an important driving motivation for some proponents of human cloning, and a potential use of "reproductive" cloning.

Cloning can serve the ends of eugenics either by avoiding the genetic defects that may arise when human reproduction is left to natural chance; or by preserving and perpetuating outstanding genetic traits. In the future, if techniques for precise genetic engineering become available, cloning could be useful for perpetuating the enhanced traits created by such techniques, and for keeping the "superior" man-made genotype free of the flaws that sexual reproduction might otherwise introduce.

The darkest side of eugenics is of course familiar to any student of the twentieth century. Its central place in Nazi ideology, and its brutal and inhuman application by the Third Reich, have put that science largely out of favor. No argument in today's cloning debate bears any resemblance to those of Hitler's doctors. But by the same token, it is not primarily the Nazi analogy that should lead us to reject eugenics.

It is a less dark side of eugenic science that threatens to confront us. This side is well-intentioned but could prove at least as dangerous to our humanity. The eugenic goal of "better" and "healthy" children combined with modern genetic techniques threatens to blur and ultimately eliminate the line between therapy and enhancement. Medicine is guided by the natural standard of health. It is by this standard that we judge who is in need of medical treatment, and what sort of treatment might be most appropriate. The doctor's purpose is to restore a sick patient to health. Indeed, we even practice a kind of "negative" eugenics guided by this standard: as when parents choose to abort a fetus who has been diagnosed with a serious genetic disease. This "negative eugenics" may be morally problematic in itself, but it is at least a practice that is informed by a standard of health.

The "positive" eugenics that could receive a great boost from human "eproductive" cloning does not seek to restore human beings to natural health when they are ill. Instead, it seeks to alter humanity, based upon a standard of man's (or some men's) own making. Once the natural goal of health has been blurred out of existence, medicine will come to serve only ends designed by human will, and thus may have no limits, may feel no constraints, and may respect no barriers. Reproduction itself might come to serve one or another purely man-made end, and future generations may come to be products of our artful and rational design more than extensions of our humanity. All of this may well be guided by what plainly seem like good intentions: to improve the next generation, to enhance the quality of life of our descendants, to let our children do more than we ourselves could do. But in the process, we stand to lose the very means by which to judge the goodness or the wisdom of the particular aims proposed by a positive eugenics. We stand to lose the sense of what is and is not human; a set of limits on our hubris; a standard against which to judge the legitimacy of certain human actions. All of these, along with the specific traits and characteristics done away with in the process of eugenic enhancement, could be lost. "Reproductive" cloning may well contribute to these losses.

Eugenics, and cloning itself, may also contribute to an unhealthy belief in genetic determinism, which could have profoundly negative social consequences. As we become better able to manipulate and to control human genotypes, we may tend to place greater importance on the genotype, wishing to secure for our descendants every possible advantage. To a man with a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. To a society armed with the power to control and change the genome, the genome will suddenly look very much in need of control and change. The ability to manipulate the genotype of an individual may tend to convince us of the supreme importance of genetics in shaping an individual, which in turn may lead us to want more control, in a self-intensifying cycle pointing toward an increasing surrender to an ideology of genetic determinism. Whether or not our control of the genome actually turns out to give us much control over individuals, our new ability may of itself be enough to lead us to place undue importance on genetics.

It is essential to realize that many of the social concerns raised below could result from this very attitude. An excessive focus on the importance of the genotype would exacerbate the social and psychological pressures to which a cloned individual may be subject.

In addition, eugenics may also open the road to a new inequality, by which only those who can afford it can procure advantages for themselves and their descendants into future generations. A situation in which only the rich can grant their children high IQs, broad shoulders and long lives would prove unbearable to a liberal democracy, and might either lead to serious social tension or more likely to a government entitlement to genetic enhancement and manipulation -- managed by the state.

By serving the ends of eugenics, "reproductive" cloning may open the door to all of these various difficulties.

4. Respect for Nature
Cloning also raises a number of concerns about humanity's relation with the natural world. The precautionary principle, which informs the ideals of the environmental movement, may have something to say to us about cloning. It urges us to beware of the unintended consequences of applications of human power and will -- particularly over nature. Natural systems of great complexity do not respond well to blunt human intervention, and one can hardly think of a more complex system than that responsible for human reproduction. This principle suggests that geneticists should not pretend to understand the consequences of their profound alterations of human nature, and lacking such understanding they should not take actions so drastic as the cloning of a human child.

The ethic of environmentalism also preaches a respect for nature as we find it, and argues that the complex structure of the natural world has much to teach us. Such an ethic therefore disapproves of efforts aimed at simply overcoming nature as we find it, and imposing a man-made process over a slowly evolved natural process. It opposes the hubristic overconfidence inherent in the cloning project, and fears that such a project may erase the boundary between the natural and the technological.

In addition, cloning, in the unlikely event it should become commonplace, may diminish the diversity of the human gene-pool. Sexual reproduction introduces unique combinations of genes into the human gene-pool, while eugenic cloning aimed at reproducing particular genotypes will tend to diminish that diversity, and with it the "strength" of the species. Eugenic enhancement may thus "weaken" future generations.

5. Manufacture and Commodification
"Reproductive" cloning could also represent an enormous step in the direction of transforming human procreation into human manufacture.

In natural procreation, two individuals come together to give life to a new individual as a consequence of their own being and their own connection with one another, rather than merely of their will. They do not design the final product, they give rise to the child of their embodied selves, and they therefore do not exert control over the process or the resulting child. They beget something that is in essence like themselves; they do not make something that is in essence their own. The product of this process, therefore, stands beside them fully as a fellow human being, and not beneath them as a thing made by them with only their own purposes in mind. A manufactured thing can never stand beside its human maker as an equal, but a begotten child does stand equally beside its parents. The natural procreative process allows human beings -- through the union of male and female -- to make way for fellow human beings, to whom they give rise, but whom they do not make. It thus endows each new generation with the dignity and freedom enjoyed by all that came before it.

Even most present forms of partially artificial reproduction, including IVF, essentially imitate this natural process, and while they do begin to introduce the characteristics of manufacture and industrial technique, they cannot claim to control the final outcome as an artisan might shape his artifact. The end they serve is still the same -- the birth of a child from the sexual union of seed from two progenitors. Reproduction with the aid of such techniques therefore still at least implicitly arises from (and gives rise to) a willingness to accept the product of a process we do not control. In this sort of procreation, children emerge out of the same mysterious process from which their parents came, and therefore are not mere creatures of their parents.

Human "reproductive" cloning, and the forms of human manufacture it might make possible, could be quite different. Here, the process would begin with a very specific end-product in mind, and would be tailored to produce that product. Scientists or parents would set out to produce specific individuals for particular reasons, and the individuals might well come to be subjected to those reasons. The procreative process could come to be seen as a means of meeting some very specific ends, and the resulting children would be products of a designed manufacturing process: means to the satisfaction of a particular desire, or to some other end. They would be means, not ends in themselves.

Things made by man stand subservient to the man who made them. Manufactured goods are always understood to have been made to serve a purpose, not to exist independently and freely. Scientists who clone (or even merely breed) animals make no secret of the instrumental purposes behind their actions -- they act with specific instrumental ends in mind, and the resulting animals are means to that preexisting end. Human cloning threatens to introduce the same approach and the same attitudes into human procreation.

The transformation of human procreation into human manufacture could thus result in a radical dehumanization of the resulting children, as well as of those who set out to clone, and by its effect on societal attitudes also a dehumanization of everyone else. When we become able to look upon some human beings as manufactured goods, no matter how perfect, we may become less able to look upon any human beings as fully independent persons, endowed with liberty and deserving of respect and dignity.

There is also cause for concern about the dignity of the sources of "raw material" in the cloning process, who are after all human beings themselves. Of particular concern are the attitudes that the industrialization of human reproduction might engender (and to some extent are already engendering) toward egg donors. Wide-scale human cloning depends upon the availability of large numbers of eggs, which would need to be donated (or otherwise procured). With the introduction of the attitudes and approaches of manufacturing into the realm of human reproduction, women who donate (or sell) their eggs for use in cloning could increasingly come to be seen as mere sources of raw material, and in time may come to be pressured to donate or sell, for the sake of life or science or progress. The attitudes of modern industrial societies toward the sources of their raw materials are well known, and turning human beings into such "natural resources" is a worrisome prospect.

A further concern along these lines has to do with the commercialization of human reproduction that would almost necessarily follow from the industrialization of cloning techniques. Manufactured objects naturally become commodities in the marketplace, and their manufacture comes to be guided by market principles and financial concerns. When the "products" are human beings, the "market" could easily become a radically dehumanizing force.

"Reproductive" cloning presents us with the potential for a market in clones of particular outstanding individuals (as in some sense already occurs with existing techniques when potential parents seek egg or sperm donors with high IQs or deep blue eyes); or more generally for the further encroachment of market principles and profit motives into the realm of human procreation. Present techniques already point the way toward a world of celebrity cell auctions and rent-a-womb agencies, and the widespread use of human "reproductive" cloning might very well get us there.

The concerns expressed here -- and, indeed, throughout this critique of cloning -- do not depend on cloning becoming a very widespread practice. On the contrary, even small scale markets, say, in celebrity cloning, could affect far more than just the lives of those individuals who are involved in particular transactions within them. The acceptance of such markets by society would affect the way everyone thinks about the issues at stake. The adoption of market terms and ideas in the arena of human moral choices could easily blind us to genuine moral issues. The reconceptualization of society as a system of rent-seeking, of human life as a scarce good in demand, and of moral wrongs as mere costs, could make us far less capable of reasoning thoughtfully about our status and responsibilities as human beings.

In sum, human manufacture, guided by market principles, violates some fundamental principles of human dignity and moral conduct; and "reproductive" cloning could make such violations easier and thus more common.

6. Identity and Individuality
The above-stated concerns about the consequences of cloning as a manufacturing process lead into broader and more serious concerns about the mental and emotional life and the personal and social relations of the individual produced by a "reproductive" cloning procedure. These concerns would apply even if cloning was only conducted on a small scale.

The natural procreative process is uniquely capable of endowing new human beings with a combination of rootedness and family bonds on the one hand, and independence and individuality on the other. Our genetic uniqueness and our genetic relatedness to others both mirror and ground this social human truth: Each of us has a unique, never-before-enacted life to live with a unique trajectory from birth to death; and each of us owes our existence and our rearing to those who have come before and who have brought us into being and taken responsibility for our existence and our rearing. By nature, every child is tied to two biological parents, and that child's unique genetic identity is determined by what is essentially a chance combination of these parents' genotypes. Each child is thus related equally and by the closest of natural bonds to two adult human beings and yet each child is genetically unique. Both these characteristics, and the procreative nature of humanity from which they arise and to which they point, help give shape to the psyche of each of us, and to the human institutions that allow us to thrive.

Our genetic uniqueness, manifested externally in our looks and our fingerprints and internally in our immune systems, is one source of our sense of freedom and independence. It symbolizes our autonomy and it endows us with a sense of possibility. Each of us knows that no one has ever had our unique combination of natural characteristics before. We know that no one knows all the potentialialities contained within that combination. A cloned child, however, will live out a life shaped by a genotype that has already lived. However much or little this may actually mean in terms of hard scientific fact, it could mean a great deal to that individual's experience of life. He or she may be constantly held up to the model of the source of his or her cloned genotype, or may (consciously and unconsciously) hold himself or herself up to that model. He or she would be denied the opportunity to live a life that in all respects has never been lived before, and (perhaps more importantly) might know things about his or her own genetic destiny that may constrain his or her range of options and sense of freedom.

It may be reasonably argued that genetic individuality as such is not an essential human good, since identical twins share a common genotype and seem not to be harmed by it. But this argument misses entirely the context and environment into which a human clone would be born. Identical twins are born together, before either one has developed and shown what his or her potential -- natural or otherwise -- may be. They are each largely free of the burden of measuring up to or even just knowing the genetic traits of the other, since neither twin is yet known to the world. But a clone is the twin of a person who is already (or was) living. Moreover, he or she was cloned from that person's DNA for a reason, and must therefore in one way or another deal with his or her connection to that person and that reason. This would constrain the clone's individuality or sense of self in ways that differ in kind from the experience of identical twins. The key, again, is the cloned individual's life as that individual experiences it, and not just the scientific question of the extent to which genetic identity actually shapes us.

In these ways, even though genotype is certainly not destiny, the cloned individual and the society around him may come to place too much importance on the genotype, because as something known it is something which can be analyzed. By leading this individual to be judged in relation to his genetically virtually identical twin source in a way that others are not judged, his status as a clone could turn that origin into a kind of destiny, and might sharply constrain his freedom and sense of identity. It could prove very difficult for the cloned individual to step outside the shadow of his progenitor, and to live a truly new, unique, and free and independent life.

The cloned individual's sense of independence could also suffer because of his status as a being made to order by another. Children conceived by sexual reproduction (even with the aid of IVF) know that they, like all human beings before them, entered the world as something of a surprise. No parent knows exactly what to expect, and so every good parent is willing to accept what comes and to welcome the children as they are. This characteristic of human procreation encourages parents to start off on their important task with an attitude of acceptance and humility, and to start the new child off on its course through life as one who is welcomed, whatever he or she turns out to be. Parents, of course, will proceed to rear and educate their child with certain aims in mind, but these aims tend to be moderated and informed by the need to humbly accept the child they have begotten, as that child is. A great deal of our sense of freedom and independence derives from this vital aspect of our relationship with our progenitors. But the cloned child does not (or at the very least may think he does not) share such a relationship with his parents. The cloned child will have been created by the deliberate design of parents or scientists, and thus his relation to others will be fundamentally different from that of naturally conceived individuals. As discussed above, a begotten child stands in the same relation to the world as his parents; a created child -- any kind of manufactured or designed child -- does not. He stands beneath his parents and others in a way that children generally do not: as a human artifact designed and constructed. This fact of his origins almost cannot help but harm the cloned person's sense of individuality and freedom.

At the same time that our procreative origins endow us with individuality and freedom, our natural connection to our family of origin also binds us to the human world in ways that matter deeply. Personal and social identity and social links of responsibility are connected in countless ways to ties of biological kinship. The psychic identity of the cloned individual, already troubled by a diminished sense of individuality as mentioned above, could be much further troubled by the utter confusion of kinship relations that would result from the circumstances of its origins.

7. Family and Procreation
Just as the cloned individual's sense of individuality may be confused by his origin, his connection to others, and particularly to their own family, may become muddled as well. Moreover, this effect could be mirrored and amplified in the effect that cloning might have on the institution of the family, and the way in which individuals and communities come to think of procreation.

The clone's place in the scheme of human relations will be uncertain and confused. The usual clear designations of father and mother, sister and brother, would be confounded. The clone would have only one genetic parent, his or her connection to grandparents would span both one and two generations at once, and every other family relation would be similarly confused. Even if the child was cloned from someone who is not a member of the family in which the child is raised, the fact would remain (and may be known to the child) that he or she has been created in the nearly precise genetic image of another, for some particular reason with some particular design in mind. This is far from the way children generally (and naturally) relate to their family of origin, and the differences may tend to run against the grain of the social institutions that surround the family.

It may be sensibly argued that some social arrangements already in existence break the link between natural kin and social family structure. A great many children, after all, are adopted, and live happy lives in loving families in the absence of biological connections with their parents. Some children are also conceived by artificial insemination and various IVF techniques, and may have unusual relationships with their genetic parents, or no relationships at all. This is true, but it must be noted that all of these existing arrangements attempt to emulate the model of the natural family (at least in its arrangement of the generations), while cloning actually runs against the grain of that model. Adopted children, like biological children, are welcomed as they are (sometimes more so than biological children), frequently before their adoptive parents know much about what they are and may become. They were not conceived with some specific predetermined end in mind, and indeed they were not conceived to be adopted (nearly no one deliberately produces children for the purpose of adoption.) Their connection to the parents who raise them is not biological, but it follows closely the model of the biological family: It is based, in most cases, on a loving union of the parents aimed at raising up a new and unique individual whom the parents did not make but whom they wish to love, protect, and guide. It combines the same genetic uniqueness and the social connectivity of the biological parent-child relationship. Nothing about the adoptive child-parent relationship prevents the development of traditional familial bonds. The same generally holds true for children conceived through IVF for the same reasons.

But something about the relationship between the cloned child and the cloning parent may indeed interfere with the development of these traditional social bonds. The confusion created by the complicated relationship of cloner to cloned may mean that no clear lines of parent-child, sibling-sibling, or other familial kin relations will develop. These vital links could be subject to serious confusion and uncertainty, and so the model of the natural family would be very difficult if not impossible to emulate. By breaking through the natural boundaries between generations, cloning threatens to undo the social links between them. A clone of oneself is a brother and a son, or a sister and a daughter. Should you relate to him or her as parent or as sibling? Neither relationship could take form very well under the strains of the peculiarly muddled natural relation established by cloning.

The point may be made thus: Existing family relationships are either drawn from or based upon the relationships that naturally arise from the process of human procreation. Cloning not only does not point naturally to these relations, it actively opposes them by undermining their foundations, especially the relationships between generations. The cloned child's psychic health and sense of identity may well be placed in jeopardy.

And the family, as an institution, may be harmed as well. The family, of course, is at once a social and a natural institution, and the two elements reinforce each other in countless subtle ways. Breaking some of the links between them could leave the institution of the family without a firm grounding in nature and without strong social support.

This may take form, for one thing, in the attitudes of parents toward their roles. As stated above, parents who choose to have a child at least tacitly acknowledge a certain humility before the procreative process which is out of their hands. They tacitly acknowledge the limits of their power to control, and they implicitly promise to accept their child, whatever he or she proves to be. This humility before the hand of procreative chance sets the parents in a certain relation to the child, and helps set quite necessary boundaries on the power of one generation over another. In cloning a child, on the other hand, parents seek to exercise total control over the outcome of the reproductive process itself. This does not mean that they completely shape their child before it is born: After all, there is more to each of us than our genome and our environment. But it does mean that they control and -- even if they do not -- that they will be held responsible for those things that parents have until now been forced to leave to chance, and that they therefore do not acknowledge, with humility, the limits of their powers, but rather they approach procreation as an exercise of their power and will. Rather than accept whatever child they turn out to have given rise to, these parents determine in advance what sort of child they will accept. The resulting child is much more the product of these expectations than a child conceived in the natural way would be. Such a cloned child is likely to be regarded more like a possession of its parents, or even an instrument of their will, than a normally conceived child would be. The parents begin their child's life with an overbearing act that must be said to border on despotism. They begin the new child's life by restricting the new child's independence and individuality. The family, in this way, loses something of its character as a nursery of a novel and independent new human generation, and gains something of the character of an instrument of the present generation. This does not mean that the parents are ill-intentioned, but it could very well mean that their children are less free to flourish. The character of families thus changes in ways we may not like.

Other, more immediately concrete, troubles may confront family life as well. The parents of a cloned child may find themselves unable to treat a child who is the clone of someone they have known (let alone of themselves) in the way that parents may presently treat a child generated sexually. Such a cloned child would be born with an unnatural and perhaps unhealthy relation to someone (past or present) in the world, and this could make healthy family life more difficult.

In addition, the presence of human clones may over time tend to undermine society's sense of what a family relationship means and how it relates to nature, sex and reproduction. The distance between the procreative nature of humanity and the social status of the family could grow, and both may become less thoroughly grounded in one another. That grounding, as has been discussed, is vital for both, and its diminution could bring with it profound problems. Family relations, and social relations in general, are founded at the deepest level on mankind's procreative nature, and on our character as begotten and begetting creatures. Undoing that nature and that character may tend to undo the roots and the foundations of family structure and family life. Much about the way we live as human beings has to do with our procreative nature: begetting and belonging condition the way we think of our place in the world, our place among human beings, our place in time, our mortality. Society is structured around all of these things.

Human institutions, and particularly those (like the family) that transcend specific times and places, are storehouses of human wisdom. They possess in their very structure more intelligence and experience than do the thoughts and ideas of any particular generation. Undoing these institutions, as "reproductive" cloning may begin to do, would very likely have far greater repercussions than we can fully contemplate.

8. Impact on Society
These repercussions, moreover, would not be limited to the lives of individuals and families directly affected by cloning. Indeed, the impact of human "reproductive" cloning on society at large may be the least appreciated, but among the most important, factors to consider in contemplating a public policy on human cloning.

Cloning is a human activity, which affects not only those who are cloned or who are clones, but also the entire society that allows or that supports (and therefore that engages in) such activity -- as would be the case with a society that allows some of its members to practice slavery, to take a most extreme example. The question before us is whether "reproductive" cloning is an activity that we, as a society, should engage in. In addressing this question, we must reach well beyond the rights of individuals, and the difficulties or benefits that cloned children or their families might encounter. The question we must face has to do with what we, as a society, will permit ourselves to do. When we say that "reproductive" cloning may erode our respect for the dignity of human beings, we must say that we, as a society that engages in cloning, would be responsible for that erosion. When we argue that vital social institutions could be harmed, we must acknowledge that it is we, as a society that clones, that would be harming them. We should not ask if "reproductive" cloning is something that some people somewhere should be permitted to do. We must ask if cloning is something that all of us together should want to do or should allow ourselves to do. Insofar as we permit cloning in our society, we are the cloners and the cloned, just as we are the society affected by the process. Only when we see that do we understand our responsibility in crafting a public policy regarding human "reproductive" cloning.

Since we are the ones acting to clone, we must further realize that our actions will affect us not only in what they directly do to us, but also in the way they shape our thinking. A society that clones human beings is a society that thinks about human beings differently than a society that refuses to do so. We must therefore also ask ourselves how we as a society prefer to think of human beings.

These sorts of questions are not easy for a modern liberal polity to contend with. We are not accustomed to thinking in these terms, and we are not comfortable using them in political discourse. But cloning (along with the accompanying broader issues raised by contemporary biotechnology) forces us, as few other matters do, to think this way, because cloning is a human activity that threatens (or promises) to affect the very nexus of human societies: the junction of human generations. Liberal society will not and should not seek to regulate every sort of human activity, but it cannot help but involve itself in those that directly affect its highest and most urgent tasks: tasks like its own perpetuation and the transmission of its ideals and way of life to future generations. Doing nothing about such a subject is not an option. If we as a society refrain from considering the question entirely, we would -- implicitly -- be saying yes to cloning, with all that such a statement would entail. We face the choice only of engaging in cloning or forbidding it, and the option we select will say a lot about us. Given the issues involved, there is no neutral ground for the polity to hold in this particular debate.

Society exists beyond individuals, beyond generations. And among the highest tasks of any society is the management of its relation to the future, and the transmission of its institutions and its ideals to the next generation. As we have seen, it is here, at this vital junction of the generations, that cloning threatens to wreak havoc, and this junction is insufficiently protected by the market and by private interests. It is here that cloning poses a special challenge to society, and it is here that politics becomes important in meeting that challenge.

Politics becomes important because politics is the means that a free society has at its disposal to protect its common interests, to serve its common needs and to express its common will. There is, in modern free societies, a very reasonable reticence to bring politics into what is usually quite properly thought of as the very private realm of human reproduction. This attitude is generally a healthy one, but in some cases it is dangerously misplaced, and "reproductive" cloning is such a case. It is so precisely because "reproductive" cloning would affect more than individuals, and more than the private relationships at the heart of reproductive choices. The way in which the next generation will enter this world has everything to do with the way in which our society will live into the future. A society that produces children through cloning is a society that thinks about children and family and the human condition in a certain way; and we must be given the option, as a society, to decide if that is the way that we wish to think about these most important matters.



1. For further details see Working Paper: Scientific Aspects of Human and Animal Cloning.

2. Some further examples of these concerns about the safety of cloned children may be found in the article reprinted in Working Paper: Scientific Aspects of Human and Animal Cloning, Appendix A.

3. Though it must be noted that however safe animal cloning may become, the first attempt to clone a human being will constitute an extremely dangerous experiment on the cloned individual, since identical techniques have yielded vastly different results in different animal species.

See also Staff Working Paper: Arguments for "Reproductive" Cloning


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