Cloning? What is it and what is a clone? Simply stated, a clone is a duplicate--
much like a photocopy is a duplicate, or copy, of a document. A good example of such
"copies" that occur in nature are identical twins, which are duplicates of each other.
On a daily basis, molecular geneticists and other scientists use cloning techniques to
replicate various genetic materials such as gene segments and cells. In light of this
relatively new science, many questions come to mind. How will those applications affect
our daily lives? What are the social and ethical implications of using such techniques?
This paper will attempt to answer these questions which deal with eugenics.
Eugenics can be defined as a "strategy of trying to orchestrate human
evolution through programs aimed at encouraging the transmission of 'desirable' traits
and discouraging the transmission of 'undesirable' ones." When these traits are believed
to be genetically determined, eugenicists advocate that controlled breeding and the use of
biotechnologies, including genetic engineering, can and should be used to improve the
human genome. The concept of eugenics is credited to Francis Galton, a mathematician
and cousin of Charles Darwin, who began developing and promoting eugenics in the
1860s. In the early 1900s a Eugenics movement lobbied for social policies that would
implement their ideas. For example, they believed that through selective breeding of
individuals thought to be of high intelligence and moral character, and by the sterilization
of those considered of low character or feeble-minded, genetic science could help
eliminate problems believed to be the result of low intelligence and low character, such
as crime, alcoholism and poverty. By the late 1920s, 29 US states had adopted forced
sterilization laws which affected over 10,000 people thought to be mentally retarded,
alcoholic, or possessing criminal tendencies.
Eugenics is often associated with racist and discriminatory policies, such as the
genocidal Nazi programs to exterminate Jews who they believed to be genetically
inferior.
In the United States, we no longer condone sterilizing people to improve the human
genome. The government does not actively promote policies defined or labeled as
"eugenic". However, it might be argued that eugenics is still practiced. For example, it
might be argued that since human mate selection is not random, but based to a large
degree upon characteristics that are genetically influenced (such as physical
characteristics) that this is a kind of eugenics- encouraging the transmission of desirable
traits through selective breeding. Hasidic Jews discourage marriage between persons
who carry the Tay-Sachs gene. Prenatal genetic screening might be perceived as a kind
of eugenics, since it is used to determine the presence or absence of undesirable genetic
characteristics so that the desired reproductive choices can be made. For example, there
are those who advocate that parents abort fetuses who reveal a possible genetic
predisposition to certain diseases, mental retardation, or some other disability .
And recent developments in genetic engineering, including transgenic technology
and nuclear transfer technology, make it possible to practice new kinds of eugenics, and
more efficiently than through selective breeding. There are those who might utilize
genetic technology in the hopes of improving the looks, intellectual ability, or athleticism
of their children.
The possibility of human cloning raises new questions about eugenics and ethical
and moral issues. Cloning could allow the "mass production" of eugenically desirable
individuals, or individuals with a eugenically improved genome. Should cloning be
utilized to take advantage of eugenic improvements? For instance, should a class of less
intelligent but physically superior clones be bred to provide cheap, efficient laborers?
Should a class of warriors be bred and cloned? Should clones be bred for the use of their
desirable body parts? But what do you do with your clone after he/she has given you
their- or is it really your own- heart?
Many scientists doubt the theoretical basis of improving the human genome
through eugenics. One of the most popular criticisms of eugenic theory comes from
Stephen Jay Gould in his book The Mismeasure of Man. Gould's idea, simply stated, is
that since there are so many genes involved in passing on human traits, and because they
function differently depending on how they recombine in an individual, predicting the
expression of the genotype makes practicing eugenics difficult. In addition, the interplay
between genes and the environment, the "nature-nurture debate", also makes the practice
of eugenics difficult. Traits such as intelligence, for example, may have only a small
genetic component. Environmental conditions may be just as, or even more, important in
determining intellectual abilities. Thus, it does not follow that a child of two super
intelligent people will necessarily be super intelligent, or