Genetic engineering and cloning are the most important and controversial issues in modern science. The benefits of cloning are possibility to treat incurable diseases and increase longlivity, reduce human sufferings and treat genetic diseases. Some people argue that this kind of genetic intervention is motivated by the desire of parents to have a ‘perfect’ child and an unwillingness to accept what nature and the genetic lottery come up with (Watson 43). On the other hand, it is not a matter of wanting to have a ‘perfect’ child made to order; it’s simply wanting to have a child who is not going to develop into a human vegetable, or suffer total paralysis, or have gross deformities. Parents likely to have children with such genetically caused diseases have a moral obligation to take what means are at hand to avoid passing on those genetic defects to their offspring. Remedying genetic defects in this way is sometimes called ‘negative’ eugenics in that we are using our knowledge of human genetics to get rid of certain defects and are not directly attempting to improve or enhance the human stock. Cloning is important for modern science as it allows scientists to save animal species and reproduce unique plants (Harmon, p. 1).
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Opponents of genetic technology have for the most part accepted these scenarios at their face value and reacted accordingly. First, all the most recent work in genetics has shown how extraordinarily complex the genetic control and regulation of human characteristics and functions are, and how impractical it is to manipulate most of the genetic mechanisms in any direct way. Some human characteristics and pathological conditions are controlled by a single gene and these are mostly manipulable, but many others are regulated by a number of genes interacting with each other in very complex ways (Kass, 2003). Some cloning organs directly determine specific human characteristics, but others provide conditions or dispositions for human traits and functions. Again, there is a continual reaction between genetic factors and external environmental factors. What this means is that, while it is quite feasible to predict that a number of single gene-based diseases will be able to be remedied by genetic manipulation or the reshaping of human beings is, scientifically speaking, likely to remain an idle dream (Krauthammer, p. 22). Cloned organs are another important benefit of cloning. The possibility of genetically redesigning the germ cells of a person with a genetic disease is very attractive since it means that that person will henceforth produce genetically normal children. This would mean that parents who are carriers of genetic defects would not need to make decisions about procreating children; it would relieve generations of people with hereditary diseases of their suffering and it would also reduce long-term medical costs for caring for countless generations of genetic defectives.
In sum, cloning diverts people from attending to the social and ethical problems brought up by the less spectacular but nevertheless important forms of cloning. Changes in the germ-line cells are transmitted to the offspring so that if it were possible to remedy some hereditary disease by manipulating someone’s germ cells, the defect would not then be passed down to the person’s children and their descendants. If a cell’s genetic program could be reset, scientists might be able to prolong life by encouraging a cell or group of cells to turn into a new organ.
- Harmon, A. My Genome, Myself: Seeking Clues in DNA. The New York Times. 2007. p. 1.
- Kass, The Moral Case against Cloning-for-Biomedical-Research. 2003.
- Krauthammer, Ch. Crossing Lines: A Secular Argument Against Research Cloning. New Republic 20. 2002, pp. 20-23.
- Watson, J. Genome Ethics in Kress, A. Winkle, S. Next Text: Making Connections Across and Beyond the Disciplines. p. 547