Cloning is a process that creates new life by copying the cell data of a living host. The cell data is gathered from the host and then implanted into an embryo, which undergoes a normal development cycle. Once born, the individual is a physical copy of the living host that had the cell data collected from it.
The first cloned animal from an adult somatic cell was Dolly the Sheep, a process which was successfully completed in the 1990s. The idea of cloning, however, dates to the 19th century. In 1885, Hans Dreisch became the first person to successfully perform a cloning experiment with a sea urchin.
There are certain advantages and disadvantages of cloning that must be fully evaluated to determine the value of this scientific process. Here are the key points to discuss.
What Are the Advantages of Cloning?
1. Cloning doesn’t need to involve making a whole new person.
Imagine if a person has a failing liver. What if the cells of the liver could be cloned so that a new liver could be created and then transplanted? It would be an easy way to solve the organ scarcity issue that currently exists. The process of cloning could also be used to repair or grow new cells to replace damaged or missing ones, which could treat illnesses and genetic disorders.
2. It removes the barrier of infertility.
Because cloning uses adult somatic cells, it is a process that allows anyone to have a child that is biologically their own. Even if that person has a reproductive system which does not support fertility, doctors could take the somatic cells and implant them into an embryo, creating new life. This technology would give everyone the chance to become a parent, even if they were not sexually active.
3. It could extend human life capabilities.
In the developed world, the average lifespan is approaching 85 years for top nations. Even in the United States, the average lifespan is upward of 70 years for men and women. Not only could cloning help to extend life to even longer lengths, it could be a way to bring the rest of the world up to the current standards as well. In Sierra Leone, for example, the average lifespan for an adult male is just 49.3 years of age.
4. Biological children could be born to same-gender couples.
Instead of using sperm or egg banks to create an embryo that could be brought to term, cloning would allow same-gender couples to have a child that was biologically their own. For women, a direct implantation of adult somatic cells wouldn’t even require a male donor at all except for the initial fertilization process to create the embryo. For men, the same would be true regarding the egg requiring fertilization.
5. It could restore balance to families.
One of the greatest tragedies that occurs in life is the death of a child. In the United States, 7 out of every 1,000 children under the age of 5. According to information published by CNN, firearms kill nearly 1,300 children in the US every year. Sometimes this happens because of disease or illness. There are also accidents and unpredictable events that can take the life of a child. Cloning offers a process where parents could effectively balance their grief by creating another child. Although the new life would be different, it would also be similar, and that could temper some of the grief that is experienced.
What Are the Disadvantages of Cloning?
1. The results on society would be unpredictable.
The most common argument against cloning involve the unknowns that would happen to society. If parents would be able to “manufacture” children to specific genetic profiles, then there is the possibility that genetic variation could decrease. This would result in humanity becoming more susceptible to disease and deformity, requiring more genetic selection, because we would eventually be inbreeding with ourselves.
2. The rich would get richer and the poor would disappear.
A society where genetic selection is possible would place a higher emphasis on the socioeconomic means of each person or household. Those who could afford cloning would essentially create their own class, while those who could not afford the process would likely be shunned or disregarded by the rest of society.
3. It is an unpredictable and certain process.
Cloning is far from a perfected science. Many of the disadvantages involve the “what ifs” of this science, but there are some facts to think about too. When Dolly was successfully cloned, only 9 eggs out of 300 were successfully implanted with adult somatic cells to create a pregnancy. Out of those 9 eggs, only one was successfully delivered to term. Although advances have been made since Dolly in the field of cloning, the science still has a long way to go.
4. There are unforeseen consequences that we cannot predict.
Every advancement in science has some positives, but equal and opposite negatives. The bigger a success, then the bigger a problem there will be to manage. Manipulating human genes will have unpredictable and unforeseen consequences that could change how we live. It could endanger humanity as a species. At the very least, people who are cloned may find themselves dealing with severe health problems at some point in their life.
5. Cloned people could be treated like cattle.
If a clone is an exact replica of the host, then embryos could be implanted with the sole purpose of helping with the health of the host instead of treating the clone with equal rights as a human being. Embryonic stem cells might be harvested from a clone. Clones might be used as automatic organ donors. They might be placed into forced labor. The levels of abuse that could occur with this type of technology are immense.
6. Children would still be in abusive situations.
According to Michael Petit, President of the Every Child Matters Education Fund, more than 2,000 children, on average, are killed in their own homes by aa family member. Child abuse death rates in the US are 3 times higher than what they are in Canada and 11 times higher than what Italy experiences. The ability to have more children through cloning would only expand these rates unless core changes to family structures could be encouraged. The US already sees an average of 4 children die every day because of abuse and neglect.
The advantages and disadvantages of cloning show us that if this science can be managed ethically, there are still societal implications that must be taken into account. There are unknowns that we cannot plan for. There are potential health benefits, but there are also potential health risks.
How do you feel about the advantages and disadvantages of cloning?