The Edinburgh event occurred after oocyte-donor nucleus fusions: only eight were successful, that is, only eight of the started to develop as embryos and only one of these eight embryos reached birth: the lamb called Dolly. Many doubts and questions remain about quite a few aspects of the experiment: for example, the possibility that among the donor cells used there were some "staminals", that is, cells endowed with a not totally differentiated genome; the role that could have been played by possibly residual mitochondrial DNA in the maternal ovum; and many other questions which the researchers, unfortunately, did not even attempt to address.
However, it is still an event that goes beyond the forms of artificial fertilization known until now, which have always been performed by using two gametes. It should be noted however that, should the extension of cloning to the human species be desired, this duplication of body structure does not necessarily imply a perfectly identical person, understood in his ontological and psychological reality.
The spiritual soul, which is the essential constituent of every subject belonging to the human species and is created directly by God, cannot be generated by the parents, produced by artificial fertilization or cloned. Furthermore, psychological development, culture and environment always lead to different personalities; this is a well-known fact even among twins, whose resemblance does not mean identity.
The popular image or aura of omnipotence that accompanies cloning should at least be put into perspective. Despite this impossibility of involving the spirit, which is the source of personality, the thought of human cloning has already led to the imagining of hypothetical cases inspired by the desire for omnipotence: duplicating individuals endowed with exceptional talent and beauty; reproducing the image of departed loved ones; selecting healthy individuals immune from genetic diseases; the possibility of choosing a person's sex; producing selected frozen embryos to be transferred in utero at a later time to provide spare organs, etc.
By regarding these hypothetical cases as science fiction, proposals can soon be advanced for cloning considered "reasonable" or "compassionate": the procreation of a child in a family whose father suffers from aspermia or to replace the dying child of a widowed mother; one could say that these cases have nothing to do with the fantasies of science fiction. But what would be the anthropological significance of this activity in the deplorable prospect of applying it to man? Human cloning belongs to the eugenics project and is thus subject to all the ethical and juridical observations that have amply condemned it.
As Hans Jonas has already written, it is "both in method the most despotic and in aim the most slavish form of genetic manipulation; its objective is not an arbitrary modification of the hereditary material but precisely its equally arbitrary fixation in contrast to the dominant strategy of nature" cf. Hans Jonas, Cloniamo un uomo: dall'eugenetica all'ingegneria genetica, in Tecnica, medicina ed etica, Einaudi, Turin , pp. It represents a radical manipulation of the constitutive relationality and complementarity which is at the origin of human procreation in both its biological and strictly personal aspects.
It tends to make bisexuality a purely functional left-over, given that an ovum must be used without its nucleus in order to make room for the clone-embryo and requires, for now, a female womb so that its development may be brought to term. This is how all the experimental procedures in zootechny are being conducted, thus changing the specific meaning of human reproduction. In this vision we find the logic of industrial production: market research must be explored and promoted, experimentation refined, ever newer models produced.
Women are radically exploited and reduced to a few of their purely biological functions providing ova and womb and research looks to the possibility of constructing artificial wombs, the last step to fabricating human beings in the laboratory. In the cloning process the basic relationships of the human person are perverted: filiation, consanguinity, kinship, parenthood. A woman can be the twin sister of her mother, lack a biological father and be the daughter of her grandfather. In vitro fertilization has already led to the confusion of parentage, but cloning will mean the radical rupture of these bonds.
As in every artificial activity, what occurs in nature is "mimicked" and "imitated", but only at the price of ignoring how man surpasses his biological component, which moreover is reduced to those forms of reproduction that have characterized only the biologically simplest and least evolved organisms.
Human cloning must also be judged negative with regard to the dignity of the person cloned, who enters the world by virtue of being the "copy" even if only a biological copy of another being: this practice paves the way to the clone's radical suffering, for his psychic identity is jeopardized by the real or even by the merely virtual presence of his "other". Nor can we suppose that a conspiracy of silence will prevail, a conspiracy which, as Jonas already noted, would be impossible and equally immoral: since the "clone" was produced because he resembles someone who was "worthwhile" cloning, he will be the object of no less fateful expectations and attention, which will constitute a true and proper attack on his personal subjectivity.
Is it significant that the cloned child would inherit a genetic identity lived in .. specific places where human cloning violates this or that stipulation of this or that . Who, in this century is permitted to clone a human? There are two geneticists who believe they may: Dr Keith Robertson in Canada and Dr Andrew McKendrick .
If the human cloning project intends to stop "before" implantation in the womb, trying to avoid at least some of the consequences we have just indicated, it appears equally unjust from the moral standpoint. In any case, such experimentation is immoral because it involves the arbitrary use of the human body by now decidedly regarded as a machine composed of parts as a mere research tool. The human body is an integral part of every individual's dignity and personal identity, and it is not permissible to use women as a source of ova for conducting cloning experiments.
It is immoral because even in the case of a clone, we are in the presence of a "man", although in the embryonic stage. All the moral reasons which led to the condemnation of in vitro fertilization as such and to the radical censure of in vitro fertilization for merely experimental purposes must also be applied to human cloning. The "human cloning" project represents the terrible aberration to which value-free science is driven and is a sign of the profound malaise of our civilization, which looks to science, technology and the "quality of life" as surrogates for the meaning of life and its salvation.
The proclamation of the "death of God", in the vain hope of a "superman", produces an unmistakable result: the "death of man". It cannot be forgotten that the denial of man's creaturely status, far from exalting human freedom, in fact creates new forms of slavery, discrimination and profound suffering. Cloning risks being the tragic parody of God's omnipotence.
Man, to whom God has entrusted the created world, giving him freedom and intelligence, finds no limits to his action dictated solely by practical impossibility: he himself must learn how to set these limits by discerning good and evil.
Once again man is asked to choose: it is his responsibility to decide whether to transform technology into a tool of liberation or to become its slave by introducing new forms of violence and suffering. The difference should again be pointed out between the conception of life as a gift of love and the view of the human being as an industrial product. In this case, the goal is to harvest stem cells that can be used to study human development and to treat disease.
Stem cells are extracted from the embryo after it has divided for five days. The extraction process destroys the embryo, which makes it ethically unacceptable. It is worth noting that embryos are not the only source for stem cells. In fact, important advances are being made with stem cells from sources such as umbilical cord blood, human fat tissue, and cells that have been reprogrammed to an embryonic-like state. A number of objections have been raised against reproductive human cloning, among them the vanity and hubris of an unnatural act of self-engineering.
Failure is common—the process often results in the production of severely deformed offspring. The boundaries of parenthood and social responsibility are completely violated. Cloning raises the prospect of designer babies, and questions about the ability of cloned children to have open, independent, and free futures when expectations connected to their DNA are placed upon them.
Significantly more cloned embryos fail during pregnancy than would in sexual reproduction. Errors or incompleteness in the reprogramming process cause high rates of death, deformity, and disability among animal clones.
Dolly was only one success out of attempts. In addition, a substantial majority of surviving cloned animals has had severe birth defects. Many attempts result in failure and lead to miscarriage, innumerable abortions, and births of massively deformed offspring. It is of the utmost importance to understand that many defects created in the reprogramming of the egg do not manifest until much later in life so that adult clones have frequently undergone unforeseen deaths.
In fact, Dolly was euthanized at a significantly young age because of ill health. The questions arising from reproductive cloning are seemingly endless. Who is socially responsible for cloned humans? What rights and legal protections do clones have? How are laws to be formulated to prevent cloning in the context of statutory and case law that favors reproductive autonomy? What disparities are furthered if since reproductive technologies are only available to those with significant financial means? Can those who clone themselves be considered appropriate parents?
The issues raised concerning the freedom of children created through cloning and the nature of the family and human communities are more than sufficient to realize that human cloning is incompatible with the notion of a humane civilization. Cloning takes human beings into a realm of self-engineering that vastly exceeds anything in the history of reproductive biotechnology. In conclusion, human cloning is a hubristic act.