Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Two bantengs are better than one

I saw a clone today. I don't know how old it was -- the sign didn't say. But it was a healthy adult male and seemed to be enjoying his lot in life. I can't be sure about that last part, but he was chewing his cud as contentedly as all the bantengs.

This was at the San Diego zoo. I came up to an enclosure with a dozen or so bantengs -- wild cattle from Java -- and happened to read that one of the males was cloned from frozen cells they had of one born in the zoo in 1974.

Are you kidding me? I read it again. Yep, it's an experiment and he's the first successful clone at the San Diego Zoo, and, I think, the first banteng.

Am I the only one who thinks that's kind of amazing? Dolly the sheep -- the first cloned mammal -- was born in July of 1996. Now clones are commonplace enough that it's not a big deal.

I left the enclosure shaking my head. There seems like no chance that people in the current culture can possibly say that there are some lines we just shouldn't cross. Cloning proponents only see a bright shiny future ahead where everyone has a spare version of themselves chilling in the back like a pick-your-part auto/body shop. At least that's the way this article from Instapundit sees it. In it, the Speculist happily imagines the day "a few years from now" when he'll have a clone of himself developing:
It would be an amazing little bud of life, similar to (genetically identical to) the amazing little bud of life that eventually grew into me. But we have a different developmental path for this bud.
Chilling, no?
We aren't going to kill it; the whole idea is to produce a viable collection of ongoing cells. We will remove that part of it that makes it want to grow into a different person ... and otherwise, we will allow it to go on living indefinitely. If I am injured or get sick, part of this collection of cells will be reintroduced into the organism from which it came — that would be me — to help it recover. As I age, more of the cells might be introduced to help counteract the effects; still others might be put on a new developmental path towards being a finished "part": a heart or a set of lungs or a new pair of eyes.
I was sort of hoping he was kidding, but I don't think he was.
Each time one of these procedures was done, this living human tissue would grow into a human being. Why would anyone insist that it has to grow into a different human being? Says who? My twin brother can't demand that he has a right to exist. I never have to create a clone in the first place. And if I do create one, I assert that I have the right (before it grows into a separate and distinct human being) to decide that it will be me, rather than him, when it grows up.
Yep, no problem with playing God here.


Blogger The Parson said...

Grace, I would be interested in hearing your and your priest's (and your husband's, too, now that I think about it, and, shucks, do you have a pet cat who might offer a little something?) thoughts on cloning used in this fashion as a way of, as the Creed puts it, bodily resurrection. Cloning scares the hell out of me and I at this point can't support it, but I am intrigued by this angle on it.

December 1, 2004 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

I'm honored that you think my take on things is worth anything special. I wish I had something really great to offer, and I'll see if I can get Greg the Husband (who has pretty great insights, IMHO, on almost everything) to weigh in.

My gut feeling is this: producing cells from me that might be used to replace damaged parts -- acceptable; producing them from a zygote (whether a separate fetus or a clone) -- unacceptable. I don't believe that tinkering with creating human life can possibly have real and lasting benefit for us, no matter how tempting the evidence. But I do think there's a real danger. It seems to me that with every "advance" like this, we end up paying a price.

Not trying to be spooky, and I wish I could put it into better words than that. But I guess that'll do for now.

December 2, 2004 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

My priest is very ill right now (I wrote about it a couple weeks back as a prayer request), so I can't ask him. But I'll do a little research into the Orthodox position on this, and post it later.

December 2, 2004 at 7:45 PM  
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