Cloning is not a brave new world

By Corky Thatcher

he Medical Post, a newspaper that most doctors throw away without reading, is making waves this week by publishing a survey it held of Canadian doctors. One in five doctors in Canada believe it is acceptable to clone humans.

Oh, no. Hide the children. Lock the doors.

People have knee-jerk reactions to new technology they don’t understand. Just like my great-grandmother who despised automobiles for allowing people to "go faster into sin." Most people today are scared shitless of cloning humans. The idea has been denounced by most governments, which makes The Medical Post’s survey so surprising.

When I read The Medical Post’s survey, I was actually disappointed at the number of Canadian doctors who thought human cloning was acceptable. Why was everyone making such a big deal about the survey? But I guess it’s surprising when you remember that the thought of cloning adult humans brings images of a brave new world for most people, à la Gattaca. If cloning is in any way allowed, opponents say, we’ll end up with a race bred to maximize certain traits. Zygotes with particular traits will be aborted.

You can’t argue against cloning by dreaming of every possible abuse; slippery slope arguments are worthless. People are so worried about abuses that are easy to avoid, that we may never benefit from what cloning offers us.

Cloning can help us understand and treat the causes of miscarriages. We can learn how a morula attaches itself to the wall of the uterus and be able to make more effective contraceptives. A technique for terminating the growth of a cancer cell might be found. Treatments for damage to the brain or nervous system might be possible due to cloning.

But how can you argue against science fiction that people confuse with fact? There’s a popular belief that cloning an adult human means we’ll also be able to clone their personality. How would you like a hundred Hitlers running around? But no matter what movies like Boys of Brazil say, you can’t clone a personality. Hitler didn’t have some anti-Semitism gene; the holocaust was not the result of his DNA.

But will a clone be a real human? Would we be playing God? Is it natural? A clone would be the same as an identical twin. Both are derived from a single fertilized ovum. Cloning creates life from life– it’s just an extension of in vitro fertilization. Why does it have to be natural? We use medicine and organ transplants. We do everything we can to live longer, but are afraid of using human cloning to repair brain damage.

Cloning will have legitimate uses, not just the popular science-fiction abuses great-grandma would scare us with.

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