Cloning is a controversial topic, even when it is just animals involved. We recently discussed a Gallup poll that found, among other things, human cloning was only acceptable by a scant twelve percent of the population. Animal cloning was acceptable only by 34%. However, this is a question that is one we will have to answer soon. Dr. Rob Carter of CMI likes to pause in his genetics talks to ask the question “What are you going to do when someone clones a human?” It’s not a far fetched question either. The technology to do it exists. So….what do we do with a potential human clone?
I think the first thing to answer is whether this will happen at all. It’s probably a matter of when, not if, at least if the question is purely technological. CRISPR was not supposed to be used to edit the germline, despite the fact that it could be done, and a Chinese doctor did it anyway. How long until a burgeoning military super power like China or Russia realizes it can manufacture soldiers and never send the prototypes into battle? If the only question is the technology, human cloning will happen, no matter how unethical it is.
However, there are far more issues at stake here than simple technology. Humans have something animals do not: a soul and spirit that directly relates to God in one way or the other. Humanity is made in God’s Image. Would this apply to a clone? Without going into all the complicated philosophical implications here, the answer depends on a lot of factors.
What is the Image of God? Much ink has been spilled on this topic and not everyone agrees. It seems to me that the Image of God is what separates man from the animals. It cannot be his physical form, since we know God is Spirit (John 4:24). Something else has to separate man from the rest of creation. I think the best answer is a combination of man’s consciousness and his spirit. While some animals may be said to have some rudimentary form of consciousness in being able to recognize themselves, man’s consciousness is the only one capable of abstract thought and feeling. While an animal may be “friends” with another animal, or may recognize itself, or do complex Calculus in its head, man is more than that. Man can feel abstractly. He can choose to love, hate, and even act against his own best interest when it suits him. He can create and solve puzzles, discover the secrets of the universe, and create forms of entertainment like music and books.
Man also has an innate need to communicate with God. I hate the “God shaped hole in your heart” illustration, but it expresses a partial truth. Man does have a need to commune with God. that is why there are so many false religions in the world, even today with atheism being more common than ever. People have a need, a yearning to think that there is something bigger than themselves. This is part of their spirit and soul. Everyone, even atheists, will worship something, It just depends on what they choose to worship.
With this in mind, will a human clone be conscious and will it have the soul and spirit that characterize humanity? My answer might surprise a few people. I think the answer is yes, conditionally. If you truly think about it, what actually is passed on through a normal pregnancy? Not the soul or spirit or consciousness, just the bodily traits. The soul, spirit and consciousness are imparted by God at conception. We already “create” new people who would not exist naturally through various forms of infertility treatments like IVF and surrogacy. This would be little different than an infertility treatment except it would contain the DNA from one person, not two.
There is, however, one condition I will attach to my opinion. It is possible that there is some undiscovered mechanism that will prevent human cloning from being successful. So far as we know it will work, but it may be God, in His wisdom, installed some kind of failsafe if you will, that prevents human cloning from working. I do not view that as likely, but human cloning has not been tried as yet (that I know of), so we can’t be certain.
The next question that arises is “should we clone a human?” I think the answer is probably no, particularly with current techniques that would require thousands of fertilized embryos to be destroyed to perfect the technique, not to mention the thousands more that would be experimented on thereafter. I see no potential value to the practice. Bringing back a dead loved one will not make the person that they were return. The soul is not coming back. Cloning someone for their abilities or their appearance is grossly unethical and reduces man to the level of an animal. The only time I could see cloning as potentially helpful would be during a miscarriage. Since the babies personality would not be known to the couple yet, a cloned baby could ease the loss of the miscarried one. However, I do not believe this is ethical and risks doubling the loss if the second baby miscarries. Human cloning should be off-limits to science, though I doubt it will be forever.
Once a human clone is created, how should we respond to it? I suspect we won’t be able to tell the difference between it and a human born the natural way: we can’t with IVF and surrogacy babies. This inability will make it easy to integrate clones into society if I am correct about them having a soul, spirit and consciousness. They will just have a close to identical twin out there somewhere. The advent of human cloning will wreak havoc on the use of genetics to solve crimes though, as the DNA sequences will be identical or close to identical between the two. I’m sure other societal problems will arise, such as ID cards with very similar faces on them but two different people, or paternity tests being useless. If the Lord tarries, some of us might get to experience the first generation of human clones. Remember, it was not their choice to be made, so treat them with all the love and respect you would treat anyone else.
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