In “Wisdom of Repugnance” in his book “Ethics of Human Cloning” Leon Kass blames the willingness of people to entertain and use alternative forms of human reproduction on being “softened up” by the media. Kass contends that it is procedures like test tube babies, surrogacy and invitro-fertilization that has opened the door to the possibility of cloning. He believes that cloning threatens to change the connections within the family dynamic because cloning allows the people to reproduce outside of the typical male-female relationship. In his opinion the ability to clone will change the meaning of what a family is. According to Kass that would “undermine the justification and support that biological parenthood gives to a monogamous marriage” In this paper I will lay out Kass’s main arguments against cloning and rebut him using the points that Immaculada De Melo-Martin uses in her work “On Cloning Human Beings”.
Kass’s main arguments against cloning are the following (1) It goes against the natural rules of reproduction. In fact, Kass finds the idea of cloning to be an affront to morality. This is seen in his belief that “the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize him” (2) the cloned child would not have its own individuality (3) cloning affects the family relationship dynamic, Kass uses Bioethicist James Nelson’s contention that a female clone might desire and seek out a relationship with her “father” who would in fact be her grandfather and that this confusion of the relationships between relatives would cause the cloned child great harm. (4) this could open the door to permitting social taboos such as incest because the terms of kinship according to social identity would not be clear. This is because the original is the sibling/parent of the clone and as such the clone is the result of incest. (5) clones will be seen as property who are supposed to relive our lives for us. (6) cloning will lead to DNA manipulation in order to guarantee that the clone only receives the best parts of the original. (7) the cloned child would not be able to consent to being a clone. (8) mankind would be overstepping in their attempt to play god.
In her the argument against point 7. De Melo-Martin points out that people contend that cloning goes against morals because it is a procedure that has not been proven safe. They argue that unless science can guarantee a healthy child each time a clone was created that cloning should not be done and that experiments on humans are illegal without their consent. The De Melo-Martin concedes that the argument has some merit before pointing out that is not necessary to obtain the consent of the unborn child because the parents are the ones who give consent in any medical procedures done on a child. She goes on to admit that it can be argued that the parents are unable to give informed consent because they do not have the information of the risks of cloning. This is because even though examples of animal cloning are scarce. The attempts at animal cloning that do exist do not support the idea that cloning a human would be safe. This would mean that while the parent’s consent can be given it cannot be informed.
This of course would change as science is able to improve cloning procedures and gain more information as the risks and safety of cloning. De Melo-Martin points out that it is unsafe at this point to clone. Due to the fact that the parents would not have enough information to give informed consent. She goes on to say that that informed consent can only be obtained by completing more testing on animal clones. This would render the argument that cloning is unsafe for humans is obsolete because once science works out the kinks with animal cloning then it would be perfectly safe for humans to be cloned
In her arguments against points 2 and 3 De Melo-Martin points out that while many people contend that there would be psychological harm done to the cloned child due to a loss of individuality. De Melo-Martin ascertains that this would only be possible if identity and uniqueness were based on our genes. The evidence does not support the idea of genetic determinism because people are a result of both biological and environmental factors. So therefore even though the clone would share the same genes as their parent. They would be a completely different person due to their environment. This would lead to them making different choices, and having a different personality then the original.
Some scholars argue that harm comes from the violation of “right to ignorance” (Hans Jonas) and/or “a right to an open future” (Joel Feinberg). Jonas contends that unlike natural twins, cloned twins grow up knowing everything about themselves. This is because the original twin has the same origins and they have made choices that still exist in the clone’s future. The cloned twin may feel as though their life had already been lived, therefore their destiny had already been determined by the actions of their forbearer. Feinberg believes that a child has a right to an open future. This means that the child must have a future that is free from determinism from the original’s actions. This means that a person needs to have enough room to make their own decisions and to live their own life. Feinburg like Jonas does not believe that it is possible for a cloned child to live a life that is separate from the original because they will feel as though their lives are already determined by the choices of the original.
The idea that one’s future is predetermined by their genetics is ludicrous. Genetics only determine things like hair and eye color, predisposition to health issues, body build, etc. Things such as personality and likes and dislikes come down to the environment and personal choice. Genetics has no bearing on a person’s life path or the choices they will make. A person’s choices are not made based on genetics. Instead their choices are based on a number of factors such as their environment, and family. Thus if we remove the idea of genetic determinism from the equation then we would ascertain that cloning violates the “right to ignorance” or that of an “open future” no more than the choices of an older sibling violates that of a younger.
Other people believe that clones harm society by changing the idea of family and diminishing respect for human life. Of course, the arguments regarding the family are not unique to cloning. These arguments can be found in any aspect of medicine that allows for a child to be created outside of the traditional means. Individuals who believe that cloning harms society argue that cloning threatens the family because there would be arguments about the relationship of the relatives.
De Melo-Martin contends that this line of argument seems to only support the concept of traditional families and that genetic relationships only becomes an issue if the family makes it so. If the job of parenting the clone is left to the original as a child born in a “natural” way would be. Then there would be no issue as to the relationship of the child’s relatives. Another thing that the De Melo-Martin points out is that such arguments seem to view the family as something that is static and that a traditional household is the best one for a child to grow up in. This of course ignores historical and anthropological evidence that shows that people have been able to successfully adapt to a number of different family arrangements. They also provide no proof that traditional families provide a child with a better life than that of non-traditional families.
There is also the argument that cloning makes people replaceable. This is only an issue if one subscribes to the notion that a person’s life is determined based on their genome. If a person is seen as the result of their experiences, then this is a concept that is irrelevant. There is also the idea that cloned children would not be created for themselves but for a purpose. They would be valued as a means rather than for themselves. De Melo-Martin counters with the fact that a cloned child can be given value as both a person and a means and besides, just because the clone would have the same DNA does not mean that they would have the same traits or abilities. Supporters of cloning often use the following three arguments (1) They contend that cloning is just another technology that enables people to have genetic offspring. (2) They purport that cloning is another tool in the fight against genetic disease (3) Cloning will allow people to clone dead loved ones. De Mel-Martin believes that if these arguments are true, then we have even more reason to go through with cloning.
Using cloning to solve fertility issues. Infertility affects between 7-10 percent of women during childbearing age. Infertility is defined as being unable to conceive in the course of a year with unprotected intercourse. Cloning would provide a way for an infertile parent to have a child that is genetically related to them. The problem with this is the notion that using cloning to solve infertility should just be accepted and that a biological problem can be solved by technology. The fact is while we enjoy many advancements in medicine and medical technologies that did not exist 50 years ago. We still have not solved all medical issues, so if we look at infertility from that perspective, it is now just something that must be solved.
In my opinion, Kass seems to believe that everything was perfect in 1975 saying “today we must apologize for voicing opinions that twenty-five years ago were nearly universally regarded as the core of our culture. Wisdom on these matters” Kass in his own words dislikes that changes that have occurred in the rights of women and homosexuals. when women were having back alley abortions, the Pill was just starting to be used and most homosexual men and women lived in fear of coming out. Kass then continues on with his archaic belief that children should only be born to monogamous heterosexual married couples.
That being said, I disagree with all of Kass points and will explain why in order (1) The idea that cloning goes against the natural rules of reproduction. Yes, having a child through cloning, surrogacy or invitro is a different form of reproduction. This does not mean that it is wrong. Plus, these non-traditional methods of reproduction allow people to have the biological children they may not be able to have naturally (2) The belief that a cloned child would not have their own individuality. The fact that Kass, believes this, shows in my opinion his ignorance and bias on the subject. I will be open minded enough to give him the benefit of having a lack of knowledge because his paper was written in 1997 and there have been a number of changes in the scientific community that he would not have been aware of. The thing is, just because two people share the same genetic coding does not mean that the DNA coding of both people manifests in the same way. Basically, this means that a person’s clone could look nothing like them even though they are genetically the same. This is because the genetic markers may end up lining up differently (3) The idea that clones would affect family dynamics. This assertion is mind boggling. The cloned child is not the original and so the family dynamics need not be any different than they would be if the woman had given birth to a child that was conceived with two parents (4) Cloning causes a loss of individuality. First, most people would not know that the clone was a clone in the first place. Even if they did there would be a pretty high chance that they would not have known the original at the same age, so they would have nothing to compare the clone to. This means for them the clone would be the original. Even though the family would have known the original. I do not see this as being a problem because as I pointed out earlier being a clone does not mean that the cloned child will look or even act like the original. Most people are pretty adaptable when it comes to things like social identity (5) Clones will be seen as property and be expected to relive our lives for us. I will admit that Kass may have a point here. There are many parents who try to live vicariously through their children when they are not clones. I can see where the need to remedy one’s mistakes with their clones would be appealing to some. This does not mean that no one should be permitted to clone themselves or their loved ones because of it. (6) DNA manipulation to guarantee that the clone only gets the best parts of the original. I can also see Kass’s point here because many parents would want to have their cloned child to only have the best parts of their DNA (7) The lack of consent. A child cannot consent to anything anyways, so the question of consent is irrelevant (8) Playing god. Not everyone believes in God, so telling someone who follows a non-Abrahamic religion that they cannot clone their child because they would be playing god is wrong.
Human cloning while still a long way off is something that is poised to become a volatile issue in the future. The ability to create human clones could have far reaching consequences, some of which may be negative The negative consequences could include creating clones for spare parts, using the clones to fix one’s mistakes, or as slaves, etc. This does not mean that cloning should be banned, but that laws would have to be implemented to decide the rights and responsibilities of the original to the clone.
de Melo-Martin, Inmaculada. "On Cloning Human Beings". Bioethics 16.3 (2002): 246-265. Web.
Kass, Leon, and James Q Wilson. The Ethics Of Human Cloning. Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1998. Print.