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Kenneth P. Sullivan, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Huntsville, AL


What's the matter with cloning?


Human reproductive cloning is wrong, and many people have said so, but the reasons why have not been explained well. There is one thing about cloning that is unique and that makes human reproductive cloning uniquely and profoundly wrong. In this essay I will explain the moral objection to cloning and will follow with short story vignettes to illustrate what problems are brought into our society if human cloning is practiced.

Advocates for human cloning try to make it look practically the same as in vitro fertilization. “It’s just a baby”, they say. This is where the cloning advocates fall into deceit. There are reasons to abhor human cloning particularly.

Cloning completely predetermines the genetic makeup of a child.  All of the child's genes would be exactly the same as another person’s who came before. For the first time, with cloning, there would be absolute certainty about the genetic potential of a child at birth.

Our genetic potential is our greatest asset. Discovering it, exploring it, and developing it is our greatest privilege. A person with identical genetic potential to ours has never existed before. Every human born so far has explored virgin territory. By not knowing what our potential is, we do not know what our limits are, and we grow up with a feeling of unlimited potential.

Clones would not have that. Their potential would be pretty much known before. Even if their family hid the photographs and the scrapbooks of the clones’ predecessors, there would be some constriction in the experience of every clone.  Someone already trampled around in the only territory they can explore.

There is another aspect to this issue, which is even more troubling. Not only is the clone’s genetic potential known, but it is entirely controlled.  There is no chance allowed for the clone to turn out differently, genetically. All the chance is taken out of the equation.

Clones are not given any chance to have greater potential than their predecessors. Twins can be identical to each other, but both had their chance together to gain a lucky combination of genes that might give them greater potential than anyone ever had before. Clones are not afforded that chance. They would be created with exactly the same limits as their predecessor, no more and no less. 

Human beings have always been conceived in a sexual process that holds both risk and promise. Parents have some idea what to expect in their children, based upon the track record of the ancestors, but there has always been great room for difference and for surprises in our children born. A random collection of half of one parent’s gene pool, and a random collection of half of the other parent’s gene pool combine in an embryo to make the next baby. Through that random mixing of genes we gain the possibility of producing a new combination of genes that gives the baby greater potential than its predecessors.

Some lucky babies hit the genetic jackpot and are born with advantages in strength, beauty, and intelligence. Others are simply average, and still others are born with misfortune. Each random combination that occurs could be God’s will, or sheer luck, if you believe there is any difference, but no one can deny that something profound happens there and then.

If you were searching for God, where would you look, but to randomness?

Randomness is supremely mysterious. It cannot be predicted, and no human can explain why a random event occurred even after it occurred.

Randomness is supremely powerful. It is the engine that drives all of nature.  Everything from the atom to the stars begins with some random movement or vibration, and then is organized through the various laws of nature, including gravity, chemical bonding, and survival of the fittest. Without the randomness, nothing would move or change, and nothing would ever happen. Randomness is everywhere.

This chance factor, or randomness, is supremely fair. By definition, random events give every outcome an equal chance. Good happens as well as bad. None gets the advantage over others.

The hand of God in randomness would not be that of a cheating butcher, with a finger tipping the scales. God should be fair and evenhanded. There is nothing wrong with a God who would obey His Own laws of nature. Miracles can happen even without any cheating, just look at a newborn child, a longstanding marriage, or a sunset.

If God does reside within randomness, than we would want every human to get their brush with chance, to be most vulnerable to the touch of God at the moment the most important decision about them is made: their genetic makeup. That may be our divine spark.

A human can control very nearly all the factors that determine some event, remove virtually all chance or luck from the outcome, and short of a miracle, defy and constrain the hand of God. That is our free will in action.  We have imposed our control over many aspects of nature, sometimes to our benefit, and sometimes not. God willing, we will prevent our society from doing it in matters where divine influence is crucial.

Even if some day scientists can offer to correct genetic flaws and problems before the birth of a child, the great majority of genes could remain uncontrolled, and every baby born would still be full of surprises. Parents buy their ticket, spin the wheel, and take their chances. Why should they take that scary chance if they could be sure of an excellent clone?

Imposing total control over the genetic process that conceives human life takes God out of the process. Lightning bolts of wrath will not come down, time and space won’t dissolve, but don’t expect any thanks, or any luck, either.

Would you want to settle for children that you knew, positively and absolutely, would have no more potential than some other person you knew? Would you, knowing absolutely that the child would have no more potential than you?  Would you expect the child clone to respect you or to be grateful to you?

There is something seriously wrong with the parent who wants to completely control their child's genetic potential.  Any parent who is unwilling to take a chance on how their child will turn out genetically, has no business with a child. Such a parent would be a Godless coward, without the generosity to be a proper caretaker. A society that allows parents to impose their will so absolutely on another human being is irresponsible.

Clones would be robbed of basic human rights that no government ever needed to protect before: the right to be the first to explore their own potential, the right to be raised by people who do not already know their potential, and the right to a God given chance to gain greater genetic potential than their parents. Once born, clones would suffer a slavery that lasts their lifetime. Not even Lincoln could free the clones.



Short Story Vignettes


The Michael Jordans


We knew this was a historic year, 2035, when The ‘95 Bulls first knocked the Chicago Bulls out of the NBA playoffs. The Chicago Bulls never did rebuild successfully as a team ever since their heyday in the 1990’s. Some say that the owners neglected their team building efforts, simply and cheaply relying on the most competent players they found in the college draft. The owners knew they had a great legacy, and perhaps it was their nostalgia for past glory that inspired them to franchise their franchise. They built a new team from clones of every player on the Bulls at the peak of their success, and named it The ‘95 Bulls. That team has now come of age, and they had advantages in speed, intensity, and experience over the lackluster Chicago Bulls.  They dispatched them from the playoffs in just four games.

Now, as if by destiny, the ‘95 Bulls meet The Michael Jordans for the title. Most of the Michael Jordans are younger than the Michael Jordan on the ‘95 Bulls, but every Jordan in the NBA is a formidable talent.

The Michael Jordans is a renegade team, except in the character of the players themselves. The players can hardly help what the team is named, and they take no part in the owner’s decisions. The ownership of The Wizards and The Chicago Bulls joined in an attempt to prevent The Michael Jordans from gaining their franchise, but that simply looked self-serving. The players were there and the NBA decided the spectacle of an all Michael Jordan team roster might help their sport regain fans lost to wrestling.

The fans have turned out and none are seated at the final seconds of this game. The score is tied and its been a whiplash rodeo all night.  The Michael Jordans bring in the ball and immediately Rodman hounds Michael with lunges and swats at the ball. Under pressure but with time, Michael passes away to Mike. Michael, Jordan, MJ, and His Airness take their positions. In response, the 95’s are doing nothing if they are not swarming. Scottie Pippin faces MJ with an intent and familiar gaze. Steve Kerr clearly is at a disadvantage against Jordan, but he is getting help from Kukoc in the zone. Michael Jordan comes up to face Mike at half court, as the game clock ticks down to 10 seconds. We all watch with wonder. Which of the Michael Jordans will take the last shot of this championship?

Michael Jordan reaches in, gets a piece of the ball! Mike pivots, they’re both dribbling the same ball! The entire Michael Jordans come up, all five of them together fighting Michael Jordan, and each other, over the ball! Rodman dives underneath that pile, squirts out the ball to Kerr. Kerr, from half court sets up, no one in front, the clock at one second! The shot is off, and through! A first! The 95 Bulls are champions once again!



You can dress him up, but you can’t take him out

Ouch! Dennis Rodman, the first, and he will tell you the only, is pained again. The needle prick he feels is momentary, a gnat’s bite, but it means another sample of his flesh has been stolen. Surprisingly fresh for his age, he is assisted to his table in this finest of restaurants. He did not see the DNA pickpocket help himself until after he struck.  Rodman’s DNA has been used to make 17 replicas, and only one with his permission!

“See you in court, worm”, called the thief as he fled, talking that way still in 2035.

Rodman protested to everyone and himself “Man, another clone of me? The child support payments are eating me up! Those boys have expensive habits!”

Rodman knows he will pay. When his lawyer had first explained the new facts of life, Mr. Rodman sputtered, “The progenitor pays? Not with my dime!” He lost in court sixteen times, and by now knows better.

Rodman vows, “Tomorrow I’m getting one of those body armor suits, with the lighted copyright symbols front and back! Enough of these dresses!”



Keep ‘em coming


It wasn’t hard to think of. They got the idea from the old movie “Jurassic Park.” The cloning techniques were well established by 2035, and the only uncertainty was getting the genetic material.

The Shroud of Turin was under inspection with the latest molecular scanner, to determine once again, for once and for all, if it really had the face of Jesus imprinted.  They schemed to take a sample from it while it was in the lab, in their own way giving it the ultimate test of authenticity.

Who would know that a child clone would be born from it? A virgin birth, at that! A second coming! A third! And more!


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© 2003 Kenneth P. Sullivan, Ph.D.