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HUMAN CLONING:

Comments by political groups, religious authorities...

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Comments by individuals, and political groups:

bulletA 1997-FEB CNN poll conducted among 1,005 American adults has a margin of error of 3%. They found:
bullet93% felt that cloning humans is a bad idea
bullet66% felt that cloning animals, such as sheep, is a bad idea
bullet69% are scared of the possibility of cloning humans
bullet74% believe that human cloning is against God's will; 19% say that it is not. 8

A subsequent Time/CNN poll, conducted on 2001-FEB found:
bullet90% felt that cloning humans was a bad idea
bullet67% felt that cloning animals, such as sheep, was a bad idea.
bullet45% believe that it will be possible to clone a human within the next ten years.
bullet69% believe that human cloning is against God's will; 23% say that it is not. 9

Time.com did not indicate the margin of error of this poll.

These data need to be taken with a grain of salt. When people think of cloning, many, perhaps most, recall a horror movie, like The Boys from Brazil which involved the creation of clones of Hitler for evil purposes. They may well be reacting emotionally, without a great deal of information to base their opinion on.

bulletRichard Nicholson of the British Bulletin of Medical Ethics said that cloning research may well be "sowing the seeds of our destruction."
bulletThe Libertarian Party believes that cloning "is one of the 'most exciting and important scientific breakthroughs of the 20th Century' and should not be prohibited by the government." Chairman Steve Dasbach said "Politicians should not have veto power over the creation of new life -- especially human life...That's why the Libertarian Party supports reproductive freedom of choice for Americans -- whether they choose to reproduce using the traditional method, or artificial insemination, or in-vitro fertilization, or cloning...If cloning research is banned, millions of people could suffer."
bulletIn 1997-FEB, Carl Felbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization said: "One of the prospects should not be, perhaps should never be, the extension of this technique to human beings...Now that it may be possible we would say its should be prohibited if necessary by law." 8
bulletStephen Grebe, an associate professor of biology at American University in Washington said: "We're going to be facing this issue with humans...With that possibility open, I'm concerned without adequate safeguards [that] this will become a reality. It may very well already be." 8
bulletJesse Rainbow, a university sophomore, lists reasons why some people have a knee-jerk aversion to embryo cloning: 3
bulletA clone would not be a "real human": But a clone would have exactly the same status that an identical twin already does. Both are derived from a single fertilized ovum.
bulletCloning is "playing God": They have visions of Dr. Frankenstein creating life from inanimate matter. But "cloning creates life from life" and is just an extension of routine in vitro fertilization procedures.
bulletCloning is not "natural": People have very different views of what is "natural". Embryo cloning still depends on a human egg from a woman and sperm from a man. Human embryo cloning just tweaks apart a zygote at the two cell stage, changing a single two-cell form of life into two one-cell forms of life. One can argue that God did not intend cloning to be done. But the same argument was used, largely in the past, to oppose such techniques as in vitro fertilization. It all depends upon what one is used to, and what one considers to be "natural."
bulletCloning denies the "sanctity of human life": They envision a person cloning themselves so that the clone could be robbed for a needed organ. This argument is irrelevant; one has to separate possible abuses of a technology from the debate over whether a technology is moral. Quantum physics is not immoral because it has been used to design nuclear weapons.
bulletKatharina Wilson describes a misuse of cloning that she believes is going on today at one or more secret underground US government bases. She believes that scientists are cloning humans. 4,5 After the experiments are over, the women are used as prostitutes. When the researchers and military personnel are finished with them, they are killed. She claims to have seen two women at a secret base who were clones of herself. (In an unrelated event, she recalls having experienced a sexually intimate contact with an alien being). Similar stories of clones associated with UFOs and Extra-terrestrial beings have materialized in the last few years.
bulletJeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington DC, leads a coalition of 300 religious and ethics organizations from around the world. He proposes a worldwide ban on human cloning, saying that it should carry a penalty "on a par with rape, child abuse and murder." 11
bulletRandolfe Wicker founded Clone Rights United Front in 1997-JUL. About 15 members of the group demonstrated in New York city on 1997-JUL-19 in protest of a New York state bill that would criminalize human cloning. Wicker said: "We're fighting for research, and we're defending people's reproductive rights...I realize my clone would be my identical twin, and my identical twin has a right to be born."
bulletAnn Northrop, a columnist for LGNY (a New York gay/lesbian newspaper), said that human cloning is of interest to gays and lesbians: "...in a time when we're afraid that discovery of a genetic basis [for homosexuality] would lead to people aborting us, cloning would be a way of surviving...this [cloning] has the potential of giving women complete control over reproduction...a stunning possibility that could, carried to its logical extreme, eliminate men altogether."
bulletKim Mills of Human Rights Campaign (a gay/lesbian civil rights group) has not taken a position on human cloning. "The gay community is a diverse community...There are many different voices."
bulletHigh school senior Michelle Greenwald has prepared a website called "Human Cloning" as a senior class project at: http://www.geocities.com/

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Comments by Christian religious groups:

Members of some religious groups, particularly Evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism, believe that a soul enters the body at the instant of conception, and that the fertilized ovum is in fact a human person with full human rights. Dividing that "baby" in in half during an embryo cloning procedure  would interfere with God's intent. It is also human experimentation on live persons. The many cloned zygotes that died after a few cell divisions would be lost human beings; their loss is considered as serious as the death of a new born baby.

These same conservative Christians would probably also be distressed at the use of cloning to weed out genetically defective fertilized ova in therapeutic cloning procedures. The procedure would result in the killing of one of the clones during the genetic testing. Since they regard each of the clones as separate human beings, this would be murder.

Others have questioned whether a cloned embryo will have a soul. A soul is weightless, colorless, odorless, has never been detected by any measurement and may not exist. But it is a concern to some believers. Fortunately, embryo cloning is similar to the natural processes that generate identical twins. And, with the exception of the ancient Hawaiians, nobody questions whether both twins have souls.

Some specific comments:

bulletThe Church of Scotland has extensively studied aspects of cloning. 1 Their Society, Religion and Technology Project (which includes Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Dolly project) has been examining the ethical side of genetic engineering since 1995. On 1997-MAY-22, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed a motion to:
  1. Commend the principle of the production of proteins of therapeutic value in the milk of genetically modified sheep and other farm animals, but oppose, and urge Her Majesty's Government to take necessary steps to prevent, the application of animal cloning as a routine procedure in meat and milk production, as an unacceptable co-modification of animals.
  2. Reaffirm their belief in the basic dignity and uniqueness of each human being under God. Express the strongest possible opposition to the cloning of human beings and urge Her Majesty's Government to press for a comprehensive international treaty to ban it worldwide.
bulletNicholas Coote, assistant general secretary of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales echoed a Papal Encyclical by stating that every person has a right to have two biological parents. 2
bulletMartin Robra, executive secretary of the World Council of Churches would prefer a moratorium on cloning until all of the ethical questions can be resolved.
bulletMary Seller, member of the Church of England's Board of Social Responsibility said that "the antics of a few cranks and Hitler types" should not interfere with cloning research: "Cloning, like all science, must be used responsibly. Cloning humans is not desirable. But cloning sheep has its uses." 2
bulletIn 1997-JUL-28, Ben Mitchell, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote: "The time is right for an outright ban on the production of cloned human embryos from fertilization to birth, regardless of how the research is funded. The vast majority of the American public favors a ban on both privately funded and publicly funded research." 7
bulletPope John Paul II delivered an address to the International Congress on Transplants on 2000-AUG-29. He commented that medical "...methods that fail to respect the dignity and value of the person must always be avoided. I am thinking in particular of attempts at human cloning with a view to obtaining organs for transplants: these techniques, insofar as they involve the manipulation and destruction of human embryos, are not morally acceptable, even when their proposed goal is good in itself." 6

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Reactions by Islamic authorities:

In Islam, there is no central authority comparable to the pope in Roman Catholicism. It will take some time before the topic will be "dealt with in some detail by Muslim jurists belonging to the major five legal rites, four Sunni and one Shi`i school..." 3

bulletProfessor Abdulaziz Sachedina of the University of Virginia quotes Chapter 23, verse 12-14 of the Qur'an. It describes the development of an embryo into a full human person: "We created (khalaqna) man of an extraction of clay, then we set him, a drop in a safe lodging, then We created of the drop a clot, then We created of the clot a tissue, then We created of the tissue bones, then we covered the bones in flesh; thereafter We produced it as another creature. So blessed be God, the Best of creators (khaliqin)!" He suggests that "A tenable conclusion, derived by rationally inclined interpreters of the above-cited verse of the Qur'an, suggests that as participants in the act of creating with God, (God being the Best of the creators) human beings can actively engage in furthering the overall well estate of humanity by intervening in the works of nature, including the early stages of embryonic development, to improve human health." 3
bulletSheikh Mohammad ibn Saleh al-Othimin is a member of the Council of Ulema, or body of Moslem theologians. It is the highest religious authority in the Saudi kingdom. Responding to the birth of Dolly, he said "I think that the lowest penalty imposed on those who invented cloning should be amputation of their hands and feet. Otherwise, they should be executed. It amounts to manipulation of humankind. It's the worst kind of corruption on earth" 4
bulletSheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual guide of Shiite Moslem fundamentalists in Lebanon stated that "it is false to say that cloning is an attempt to intervene in the divine creation. [The researchers] have not invented new laws. They have only discovered new laws for the organism, just like they discovered laws of in-vitro fertilization and organ transplants. They made these discoveries because God allowed it. We must emerge from the dark ages to which science is an anathema." 4
bulletMahmud Zaqzuq, Egypt's religious affairs minister, stated: "It is not advisable to announce a hasty religious judgment on the cloning of animals and humans, especially as Western scientists have said they need another seven years" to complete their research. 4
bulletA 1997 conference was organized in Casablanca by The Islamic Fiqh Council. A consensus was reached "that cloning does not bring into question any Islamic belief in any way. Allah is the Creator of the universe but He has established the system of cause-and-effect in this world. Sowing a seed in the ground is the cause but only Allah produces the effect from it in the form of a plant. Similarly cloning is a cause and only through Allah's Will it can produce the effect. Just as the person sowing the seed is not the creator of the resulting plant, so the cloning technician is not the creator of the resulting animal. Allah alone is the Creator and all creation takes place solely through His Will." Most attendees concluded that cloning is permissible for plants and animals, but not humans. "The extension of cloning to human beings would create extremely complex and intractable social and moral problems."

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References:

  1. The Church of Scotland has an extensive series of essays on cloning. See: http://webzone1.co.uk/www/srtproject/cloning.htm
  2. Nature magazine has an index of items on cloning titled "A flock of clones" in their 1997-FEB-27 issue (Volume 385 no 6619). See: http://www.nature.com/Nature2/serve?SID&CAT=NatGen
  3. Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina, "Islamic perspectives on cloning," at: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~aas/issues/cloning.htm 
  4. "Cloning should be punishable by death or amputation, Saudi cleric says," Agence France-Presse, 1997-MAR-13. Online at: http://web.missouri.edu/~psycmm/bgnews/1997/msg00065.html  
  5. Ayman Nawash, "Cloning: Friend or foe," IslamOnline.net at: http://www.islamonline.net/iol-english/dowalia/
  6. Pope Paul II, "Address to International Congress on Transplants," 2000-AUG-29, at: http://www.cin.org/pope/organ-transplant-cloning.html 
  7. "ERLC cites flaws in opposing ban on federal funds for cloning," The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, at: http://www.erlc.com/Biomed/1997/81flaws.htm
  8. "Poll: Most Americans say cloning is wrong: Seven % would clone themselves," CNN, 1997-MAR-1, at: http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9703/01/clone.poll/
  9. "Time.CNN poll - Cloning," 2001-MAY-8, at: http://www.time.com/time/health/  

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Copyright ©1997 to 2003 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1997-AUG-5
Last updated 2003-MAY-29

Author: Bruce A Robinson

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