Bring on the Clones?

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Yuillogistically Speaking

By Major Chick Yuill –

You must have seen the reports of the first successful cloning of a mammal–making a genetically identical copy of an existing animal from a single body cell. I don’t fully understand the process any more than you probably do, but to describe it as simply as possible, scientific researchers in the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, Scotland, have taken a cell from the tissue of a 7-year-old ewe, fused that cell with the nucleus of an unfertilized sheep egg using an electric current, and placed the resulting embryo into a ewe to develop.

The result, to quote one newspaper, is “the latest installment in a gripping biotech soap opera–the creation, as if by magic, of a wee lamb named Dolly.” Dolly and eight other lambs produced in the same way are genetically the ‘spitting image’ of their mothers. Scientists are, not surprisingly, excited about this leap forward in human expertise and knowledge. I, on the other hand, am among those who are deeply concerned by what has taken place.

It might not happen tomorrow, but the prospect of similar techniques being used to clone human beings is undoubtedly on the horizon. And don’t let anyone tell you that there’s no danger of it ever happening. Just imagine, if such a technique had been available to the crazed dictators who have come and gone throughout human history. Do you think Adolf Hitler, with his deluded notions of a master-race, would have hesitated to clone an army of fighting men genetically best equipped to march for the cause of Aryan supremacy?

Of course, we don’t want to be guilty of sensationalizing such advances in science and of lapsing into the unrestrained hyperbole of the sci-fi novel. But that doesn’t alter the fact that our knowledge has outstripped our ethical guidelines. Because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it! The existence of the huge nuclear arsenal which still threatens the existence of the world is enough to alert us to that fact.

Nor have we any desire, as people of faith, to stand in the way of progress. Life is so much better for so many people because of the discoveries of science. The latest dental techniques, ultra-scan heart examinations, micro-surgery, the replacement of arthritic joints–to name but a few of the wonders of modern medicine–all improve the quality of our lives. And we must not forget it was the whole Judeo-Christian view of the world as the orderly creation of a wise creator that prepared the way for the scientific age in which we live.

It is now almost commonplace to speak of surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination by a donor other than the husband, sperm banks, embryo experimentation. Every one of these is an ethical minefield with profound implications for the worth of the individual and well-being of society. I regret I have become increasingly aware of Christian men and women endorsing and even using such techniques without any apparent concern for ethical considerations or scriptural principles.

Let me conclude with an ancient story full of parallels and lessons (you can read it for yourself in Genesis 16). God had promised a son to Abram and Sarai. As the years passed and no child was born to her, Sarai became increasingly desperate. In the end, following the accepted custom of the times, she brought her servant Hagar to her husband. Abram and Hagar could produce a son who would become Sarai’s child from the moment of his birth.

It seemed the perfect solution and almost everyone in that society at that time would have seen it as “the done thing.” But it brought about a tension in the family that not only divided Sarai and her maid, but had serious consequences for generations yet unborn. Sarai and Abram had to learn the hard way that the making of children involves the creative and redemptive purposes of God as well as the will and wishes of human beings. Things still work best when divine promises and precepts direct and control human decisions and discoveries. We will neglect that over-ruling principle to the terrible cost of this and succeeding generations.

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