Friday, March 23, 2012

Human cloning - part 3

The argument against cloning humans centers on four objections.

First, all people, including children, are of value in and of themselves. As God continues to participate in the creation of each new human, God creates each person as an individual, intrinsic good. In contradistinction, cloning reduces people from an end to a means. In other words, clones change humans from an intrinsic good into an instrumental good, a commodity.

On a micro sale, children become commodities when cloned to assuage guilt, to achieve immortality, or as a warehouse to provide spare parts that match the recipient’s blood and immune system to avoid rejection by the host. On a macro scale, people become commodities when cloned en masse for menial labor, warfighting, or any other purpose. On both a micro and macro scale, regarding people as commodities robs them of their God given dignity and worth.

Second, human community is biologically and theologically essential for shaping human identity and for respecting the dignity of all people. Simple biological and historical observation suggests that the nuclear family, regardless of the number of adult partners, has most frequently been understood as consisting of one man and one woman, with or without children. Theologically, the book of Genesis is more explicit, recording God’s concern that man should not live alone and thus explaining the creation of woman and the institution of marriage. Jesus apparently quoted those verses with approval emphasizing the permanent, monogamous nature of marriage.

Unfortunately, circumstances such as divorce or sexual orientation may make that ideal impossible to realize. Nevertheless, the nuclear family in all of its many permutations remains the basic building block for community. The extended family expands the nuclear family to include multiple generations and multiple branches of a family within the same generation. Community is created as nuclear and extended families coalesce into the larger whole of a clan, a tribe, or even a nation state. Thus, kinship has been the biological and historical basis for community.

From a Christian theological perspective, community is the body of Christ, the Church. In Christ, all, the living and dead, are connected. When asked about his family, Jesus replies that his mother, brothers, and sisters are his disciples. In our highly mobile and sadly divided society, Christian community has the potential to unite people in ways that both complements and transcends biological kinship.

On the one hand, cloning is inconsistent with biological kinship as the basis for human community. The clone, intended as a replica or extension of an individual, is not a complementary addition to a family or to a larger community. On the other hand, since cloning reduces the clone to the status of a commodity cloning is also inconsistent with the creation of Christian community.

Third, biological processes have their own integrity as integral elements of God's design for creation. The biological process of heterosexual reproduction ensures genetic diversity. As scientific research has repeatedly confirmed and as our legal codes enshrine, the biblical prohibition against incest protects Homo sapiens from the potentially devastatingly adverse consequences of inbreeding.

Human evolution depends not only upon cooperation, achieved through family and community, but also upon competition. Heterosexual reproduction utilizes competition both in the selection of a mate and in the selective joining of one particular sperm and one particular egg out of the many possibilities. God used competition within the evolutionary process to create humans and, perhaps, will use it to create whatever if any life form develops out of Homo sapiens in the future.

The book of Genesis tells the story of people who sought to become like gods by building a tower that reached to the heavens. To frustrate that intent God supposedly caused people to speak in a proliferation of languages, making them unable to understand one another and thus frustrating their desire to become like gods. Cloning seems another attempt to become like gods when we have not yet learned to live as moral human beings.

This moral failure is the fourth objection to cloning. Literally millions of children cry out for justice. They lack adequate medical care; they are unwanted, neglected, mistreated, hungry, and enslaved. Each of these children is a living argument against cloning. Jesus loved the little children and taught that the kingdom of God belongs to such as them. Until the children already in the world are truly loved, how can one realistically expect that clones will be better treated?

Scientific knowledge, per se, is neither good or evil, right or wrong. Nuclear technology, for example, has been used to heal and to threaten life. Learning how to clone is morally neutral. Employing that knowledge to benefit humanity through cloning animals is potentially beneficial though not without its hazards. But there is no valid reason to clone or to attempt to clone humans. Indeed, there are persuasive arguments against human cloning. As the noted ethicist Paul Ramsey wrote, “The good things that men do can be made complete only be the things they refuse to do.”

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