Print


Originally published April 24, 2003 in the Sierra Times.

I’ve written for The Twilight Zone. Let me take you there.

It’s yearbook photo day for Springfield Junior High’s class of 2025. Jason’s been avoiding getting his picture taken. His teacher wonders why until she looks in a yearbook from a generation ago and finds a photo of a student who looks identical to Jason.

A mandatory reporter, Jason’s teacher phones authorities. They investigate, arrest Jason’s father for violation of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003, and place Jason in a foster home.

This law isn’t science fiction. H.R. 534 has already been passed by the United States House of Representatives. A final vote on S. 245, the identical Senate version, is still pending.

The bills should be defeated. They haven’t been thought through.

Cloning Human Organs for Replacement

Cloning is a potential form of replacing failing human organs. Right now the only way to replace a failing kidney, liver, heart, or lung is to cannibalize the organ from another human being. In the case of an organ such as the heart, which a potential donor could not live without, this requires a newly dead human body to cannibalize.

There’s always much more need for replacement organs than there are donors. Sometimes doctors let a patient die rather than extend resuscitation efforts because they know they have a patient who needs an organ transplant. In other countries, people are murdered to cannibalize their organs and sell them to the highest bidder on the black market.

Cannibalizing organs from other people also entails the risk of rejection because of incompatibilities, not only for tissue-typing but also for gross anatomical mismatches. Cloning organs, once the science has been perfected, which requires letting the research continue to fruition, has the potential of taking a human being’s own genetic material and growing perfect replacement organs which are fully compatible with their genetic makeup. It would not necessarily require any killing in order to produce such replacement organs because they might be grown right within the human body of the person who needs them.

Human cloning is potentially a far better solution to the problem of saving the lives of people dying from organ failure than engaging in latter-day human cannibalism.

Making Twin Children

A human clone — more precisely, a baby that is the identical twin of only one parent — will be no less a fully human individual than an identical twin brother or sister.

Having a twin child might be the only sort of healthy baby which a couple might be able to have, just as in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood have already given children to other couples with reproductive challenges.

Just as one example, if there is a genetically transmitted disease or defect that one spouse in a marriage carries, and the other spouse does not, a couple wishing children carrying their own natural traits currently have no options.

Growing a baby from the genes of only one parent, the defect-free one, would allow the couple to have a child of their own without going outside their marriage. The holiness of their marriage would therefore be preserved without bringing the genetic material from an outsider, possibly that of an unknown stranger, into the sanctity of their marriage, adulterating it.

Another Potential Alternative to Adoption

Currently a couple who have barriers to normal reproduction for a variety of reasons must either remain childless or graft a child from some other family into their own family and hope the transplant will work. The euphemism for this act of high charity and blind faith is “adoption.”

Preserving a natural family line is not merely superstitious worship of blood. Adoption is a wonderful thing for some parents and some children, but adoption does not preserve a family’s natural traits. If a child with natural musical gifts is adopted by a family that sees no value in spending money on violin lessons for a four-year-old, we could lose the next Joshua Bell. Likewise, if a family of violin virtuosos adopts a child from a non-musical family, forcing a musical education on a child without the natural gifts to benefit from it may prove both frustrating for the parents and psychologically damaging to the child, whose true gifts may reside elsewhere, undiscovered.

Invasion of the Family by the State

It’s no business of the government to dictate to a family how to have children. Only the arrogant hubris of a dictatorial regime dares to interfere with the right of free human beings to self-determine their own reproduction. The State has no rightful business telling parents how to go about having their own babies. It is blatantly unAmerican.

The War Against Science, the War Against Conscience

Laws which cripple the ability of scientists to pursue research potentially beneficial to humanity are destructive of free inquiry, and law should apply only in those cases where one human being is violating the rights of another human being. Regardless of those who claim the mantle to know the mind of God, human cells or even organs are not human beings and do not have human rights. Kidneys do not have souls. Livers do not have souls.

It’s a theologically debatable question whether embryos have souls. Some religious traditions maintain that a soul does not even enter a human body until the baby takes its first breath. It is a form of religious coercion — government by theocracy — to allow one religion’s or sect’s article of faith to dictate matters of personal conscience to people of other beliefs. It is destructive to the fundamental values of a free society for law to replace individual conscience on matters which, for those who believe, can only be answered in prayer to the Almighty.

Left Behind

Moving beyond the theological basis for moral concerns about cloning, it is self annihilating for a society to outlaw an entire field of scientific research. A society which declares war on science is relegating itself to the dustbin of history. It is crippling its economic growth, its competitiveness, its spirit of adventure. It is cultural suicide. It is damning one’s progeny. It is making the human mind a prisoner to the fears of the ignorant.

Perhaps we do not know how to clone a human being safely today. Banning cloning and cloning research guarantees that we will not know how to do so tomorrow. It is a form of antiscientific terrorism, a form of Ludditism.

It is also the Sin of Pride, because it assumes that when God gave human beings that He cloned in His image independent minds, He expected us never to attempt anything new with those independent minds.

Back Alley Clones

When clones are outlawed, only outlaws will have clones. In a back-alley abortion, there is no surviving baby who will live to wonder, like an illegal twin would have to worry, like Jason, that when their yearbook photo is compared to their parent’s high-school yearbook photo, it will lead to the parent’s imprisonment for a Reproduction Violation.

Will the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 lead to a future where we have orphanages and foster homes filled with displaced twins treated as second-class citizens because one of their parents went overseas or to an underground clinic to obtain an illegal pregnancy?

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Isn’t it strange that when it comes to trying to figure out the ethical and practical problems that exist in the future, nobody in Congress even bothers asking the people who spend more time than anyone else thinking about the future — science fiction writers? I’m a science fiction writer. I explored the ethics of cloning technology in my novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, which was first published twenty years ago.

No Congressional representative or senator has ever asked me to give testimony before a House or Senate committee.

People with no imagination should not be in charge of putting a red light on our future. I’m not saying introducing a fundamental new way of having babies should be green-lighted. But can’t a free society agree to an amber light and proceed with caution?


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share
Print