In my last article, I discussed a new species of crayfish which has the ability to self replicate by cloning, rather than sexual reproduction as most other animals do. This brought up the subject of cloning in my mind and I decided to discuss it today. Cloning appears famously in the wildly popular Star Wars movies and books but it is not just science fiction. Creating clones is creeping into the mainstream of both science and society and thus something that should be considered from a creationist world view.
Before going any further, we need to establish what cloning is. Cloning is essentially creating a clone of something. A clone is defined by dictionary.com as follows: ” a cell, cell product, or organism that is genetically identical to the unit or individual from which it was derived.” Thus a clone can be considered a living organism that is an exact genetic copy of its parent organism. While this sounds innocent enough, there are massive ramifications. A Hollywood actress recently cloned her pet dog when it died to create two puppies identical to her departed pet. Theoretically, this could also be applied to humans as it was in the aforementioned Star Wars series. Cloning has huge moral and ethical ramifications, particularly when it comes to humans.
Cloning is a very specialized process but it starts with a single cell. Every cell in an organism contains the complete DNA instructions for the entire organism. However, very early in development, the cells differentiate into the type of cell they will become, such muscle or skin cell. However, they retain the instructions for the entire body. Until recently, it was thought to be impossible to reverse the differentiation. This was not the case and in recent years, scientists have been able to reverse the differentiation in the lab to create carbon copies of individual organisms, in particular a sheep named Dolly.
Cloning does come with problems, at least in a laboratory sense. The aforementioned Dolly the sheep had multiple health problems including severe arthritis and cancer before being euthanized at age six. Most sheep of her breed live twice that long. Since there have been so few clones, there is not sufficient evidence to claim that all of Dolly’s health issues were a result of cloning but it is a concern. Natural clones, such as the crayfish mentioned in the previous article, do not have these health issues so perhaps there is room for improvement in the cloning technique researchers use.
All the above background leads us to the question of whether cloning is right or wrong. The answer, like so much else in science, is that it depends. From a Biblical perspective man is commanded to have dominion over the earth and everything in it according to Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Cloning a creature would certainly be part of that dominion. At the current state that the cloning procedure is in, it could not be used for any form of mass production, but there is room to refine the technique for future use.
The real problem with cloning comes when the idea is applied to humanity. Man is not like the animals. He is made unique, in the image of God as the verse above says. In fact, there is more to this uniqueness than just being made in His image. Genesis 2:7 tells us more about man’s unique creation. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The phrase “living soul” used here specifically refers to having a consciousness of God. The word soul is used countless times in the Scriptures to refer to the part of man that is eternal. So a living soul in that context would be part physical, part eternal. It is the combination of these two things that makes man so unique. Nothing in the animal kingdom is like the physical image of man, which bears the likeness of the Creator, marred as it is by the fall. Nor does anything in the animal kingdom bear an immortal soul which can be in direct contact with the Creator.
Cloning disrupts this order of things, which is why I personally believe that God will never permit scientists to successfully clone a human. Since a clone is nothing but a copy of another organism, how would a human clone possess a soul? And since having a soul is what makes man unique, such a clone would be subhuman at best, going through the physical motions of life but unable to enjoy the spiritual benefits of a relationship with God. Further, since the created clone is often placed in a female organism and allowed to develop naturally from a single cell, how many human lives would be created and snuffed out on a laboratory bench to get just one clone? The ethical considerations of human cloning are such that it is something that should never be considered. However, in the wicked, sinful world we live in, it already is being discussed.
Cloning of itself is not harmful. The process is certainly something that could be used in the plant and animal kingdoms. Perhaps one day, when the method is perfected, a Jurassic Park could become a reality instead of a science fiction movie. However, using it on humanity is wrong, and likely will never work. Countless thousands of human lives could potentially be created and ended for a process that has little potential benefit at the end of it. Cloning humans should be left to Star Wars and other science fiction films, but all other forms of life could potentially be cloned with no ethical ramifications.