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Send in the clones...

For some odd reason, a couple of the newer blog I read have been kicking around cloning this week.

Scott Adams felt the need to reassert his position as intellectual gadfly, going into the pesky theological and grammatical challenges this whole concept brings.

Meanwhile, Stingflower over at Harshly Mellow brings up a great point -- cloning merely duplicates your own genetic material, while the more tradtional (and fun) processes offer what they called in Star Trek "infinite diversity in infinite combinations." She seems quite pleased with her daughter, who's the product of only half or so of her genetic material, and sees no reason to simply copy when one can improve.

In my case, it's pretty simple. I have so many genetically-related conditions that I decided a while ago I wouldn't risk inflicting them on a child. In the case of cloning, unless they offer to also do some clean-up work on my genes, no thanks. I'll be quite happy to be a self-selected genetic dead end. I happen to believe in Darwin's "survival of the fittest," and my genes most certainly do NOT qualify.

But the best thing I think I've ever read about cloning was a little ditty whipped up by Isaac Asimov:

Oh give me a clone
A clone of my own
With its Y chromosome changed to an X
Then me and my clone
My clone of my own
Will soon have nothing but sex.

Comments (22)

I've never heard that ditty... (Below threshold)

I've never heard that ditty before. I am amused.

Serious answer...D... (Below threshold)

Serious answer...

Differing religions and differing Christians differ... The ones I associate with teach that once creation was done, it was done. Nothing new is created. New souls come from the same place as new people come from. The necessary spiritual seed comes from the parents, same as the physical seed, same as the spark of life itself.

It makes no difference if a child has one parent or is a genetic cut-and-paste with dozens of parents.

You might enjoy the science... (Below threshold)

You might enjoy the science fiction novel "Time Enough for Love" by Robert Heinlein. The leading character has perfect genes and is 2000 years old. They decide to clone him but substitute another X chromosome for the Y so that the result is female. (They happen to make two.) Question: are they his sisters or his daughters?

Since they have no "bad" genes, he winds up having children with them. Are the offspring his daughters or granddaughters? Anyway, the book really challenges the incest taboo.

I've heard of "Evil Clone",... (Below threshold)

I've heard of "Evil Clone", but apparently you are proposing a "Naughty Clone"? That's not nice.

That little ditty was used ... (Below threshold)

That little ditty was used to make an episode of Sliders. And Scott Adams once again displays he is one of the funniest people alive.

Hmmm.I ha... (Below threshold)


I have so many genetically-related conditions that I decided a while ago I wouldn't risk inflicting them on a child.

Interesting. A childhood hero of mine, Charles Steinmetz, was a congenital dwarf who also chose not to have children for the same reason.

Frankly I oppose many cloning technologies because I distinctly fear a culture where there are grades of humanity and where being genetically human would account for nothing.

Hmmm.Anyw... (Below threshold)


Anyway, the book really challenges the incest taboo.

In far more ways than that. If you read the through the book you realise that Lazarus Long has lived long enough, and procreated with enough partners, that a significant portion, if not most, of the then existing human race are his children.

Which also challenges several cultural taboos. As in "what happens if we really can live for a millenia?". We aspire for longer life, but there are significant problems that might arise from it.

Ed - in that one, I believe... (Below threshold)

Ed - in that one, I believe, he also goes back in time and has sex with his mother. Incest was busting out all over.

Hey, he didn't actually hav... (Below threshold)

Hey, he didn't actually have sex with his mother, he just tried to.

Eww. Oedipus was right to ... (Below threshold)

Eww. Oedipus was right to stab out his eyeballs. Eww.

"I have so many genetically... (Below threshold)

"I have so many genetically-related conditions that I decided a while ago I wouldn't risk inflicting them on a child."

My thoughts exactly. I'll pass on the cloning of myself.

Cloning is one of those iss... (Below threshold)

Cloning is one of those issues where I still have not made up my mind. Assuming you could make genetically perfect clones every time (I mean no genetic degradation with each generation), then is it wrong?

It would limit the evolutionary possibilities of the human race. That would be bad.

On the other hand, John Elway could play for the Broncos til the end of time. That would be good.

But I'm a Raiders fan. Elway playing forever would be bad.

Still, we could clone Bo Jackson. That would be good.

On the other hand, if the NFL was just made up of all the clones of the best players of all-time, that could get boring after awhile.

Cloning is bad.

Science Fiction has been wo... (Below threshold)

Science Fiction has been working over the issue of cloning for more than a generation. See Cherryh in _Cyteen_ where they do try to clone a very important person and it takes three tries to get the desired results simply because there are so many variables. The first two tries are *healthy* but take completely different life paths.

And wouldn't that be true? Cloning NFL players would likely result in a whole lot of large men who don't care a wit for football.

As for what a clone would be... simply an identical twin displaced in time. It's not *complicated*. Legally my clone might be my child but biologically my clone is my identical twin and will be just as much *not me* as an identical twin would be. And, IIRC, that includes distinct finger prints.

The moral issues raised from cloning, other than the "why bother" and "what sin is it, Vanity or Pride?" is that whatever status the baby has it *must* be considered human... not a test subject, not a source of spare parts, *not* a physical extension of the older twin. And SF has been dealing with *that* too, for a very long time.

What would be immoral to do to a normally conceived fetus would be equally immoral to do with the zygote, fetus, or infant, that was produced through cloning.

Same as if the "mass of cells" is a cut-and-paste genetic construct with more than two parents.

The cautionary tails are *older than I am*. And YES, Heinlein, for all his perversions, took on a lot of those questions and his answers are still the right ones.

It doesn't matter how you get here.

I happen to believe in D... (Below threshold)

I happen to believe in Darwin's "survival of the fittest," and my genes most certainly do NOT qualify.

Uh...Darwin's "fitness" was meant in terms of reproductive success, not in some kind of superior genetic fitness, as some people perceive of it.

So all you gotta do is pump out some kids Jay, and you're a success in CD's book...

Hmmm.There is a bi... (Below threshold)


There is a bit of a conjunction in this topic and with reference to Terri Schivao. Basically I hold the proposition that humanity is determined by genetics. If a being has the human genome, then that being is a person regardless of physical or mental state. In the Schivao case however another meme came out where a the definition of a person also required a mental test. I.e. you could be physically a human being, but a lack of mental faculty meant that you were no longer a person.

I think what we're going to see in the future is a combined definition applied to clones. That they are genetically human but not a person because their cerebral cortex was destroyed.

It is in this way that cloning for commerical purposes will be made ethical.

Eeek! I just went to a scar... (Below threshold)

Eeek! I just went to a scary visual place. Don't do that again.

Certainly puts the phrase "... (Below threshold)

Certainly puts the phrase "Go #### yourself!" into a whole new light... The other issue with cloning is that at the end of the process, you've got a newborn, and not an adult. Unless you know for a fact that you won't need your army of genetically tweaked super-soldiers for the 20 or so years it'll take to grow and train them, you may be SOL. Using the clones for body doubles is also problematic. Not so much of an issue if you just want spare parts or a kid who absolutely does NOT look like the milkman.

There was a short story in ... (Below threshold)
Sabba Hillel:

There was a short story in Analog some years ago called The Ten Percenter in which an aspiring writer became curious as to how Dr. Asimov could be so prolific in so many areas. He found that Dr. Asimov as a biochemistry student had become interested in cloning and had made 9 clones of himself (hence the title). The ten of them were all authors in various subjects, explaining how he could be so prolific.

And, ed, that's one of the ... (Below threshold)

And, ed, that's one of the reasons that cases like Terry Shiavo's is important. She *personally* may have been quite "dead" already but it's not just about *her*. Anyone who thinks that we aren't prone to defining who is human and who is *not* human however we like is sadly unaware of history, past and present.

Not to Godwinize the thread since euthinasia was a cause championed by both England and the US at one time, but I recently heard someone say that Nazi Germany didn't kill it's own people and it *did*. Not counting German citizens who were Jews or Gypsies but pureblooded Aryan genetic stock, the handicapped and mentally infirm were slaughtered. And we're not, at all, talking about people in persistant vegitative states. And if a fetus is simply a mass of cells with unique human DNA at *some point* the definition of "is this a human being or isn't it" becomes an arbitrary one.

What if babies could be brought to term invitro? That's a common enough SF idea as well. Hatch the chickies out of canisters, artificial wombs. Since the mother's physical burden is *never* an issue, is it ever okay to abort the (baby, fetus, proto-human, mass of cells?) There is no competing human right over one's self involved, so is it ever okay to flush the canister of a potentially viable human and start over?

And deliberately keeping the brain from developing? So you're some hugely rich, famous, celebrity who needs various spare parts for your medical treatment... you take *your* genetic material, plant it in a human ova that has had the nucleus removed, and implant the ova in a host mother. Left to develop normally you would have a time removed identical twin sibling, but you're a rich, famous, celebrity so you... 1) abort it early and harvest stem cells from the fetus. 2) do in-vivo surgery to destroy the fetus' brain and continue to "grow it" until it is "born" and then hook it up to life support and "grow it" until the organs are big enough to transplant.

The problem, though, is that a vegetable isn't likely to grow healthy parts... so maybe we don't want to end up with a vegetable that can't move. So we want *walking* dead, for some value of dead. Ambulatory meat.

I'd say that such a thing isn't even possible. We've grown beyond deciding that some group of savages doesn't have a soul so it's okay to hunt them like animals to a place where the life of an animal is held more important than the life of a human. Argh... flipped past some news commentary last night about the use of dogs in the UK to deliver phones to someone holding hostages or to wear a camera to scout positions and the guys says, "I'm so glad this isn't happening in the US. This is just cowardace" as if a person should be ashamed of letting a dog get shot by the bad guy instead of going himself and getting shot. I couldn't watch.

Perhaps instead of disecting frogs and fetal pigs (which are, after all, fetuses) we should disect human fetuses in school... and if it's okay to kill those human fetuses and not pig fetuses, why? And if human fetuses deserve some measure of respect, why?

There are no ethical and moral delimmas involved with cloning if the clone is immediately defined as human. The ethical and moral problems aren't with cloning but with what we do *now*.

"Hey, he didn't actually ha... (Below threshold)

"Hey, he didn't actually have sex with his mother, he just tried to."

He most certainly did complete the act, right before he went off to WWI France and got himself killed. (Or rather, got himself rescued just in the nick of time, according to To Sail Beyond the Sunset, which centers on the life story and exploits of Lazarus's Ma. Quite the horndog, she was...)

The weird thing is that the back flap of the book says that he "became his own ancestor"... but in the actual story, he does the deed while his mom is already pregnant with his younger sibling, and had an earlier attempt interrupted by his six-year-old self.

"And if a fetus is simply a mass of cells with unique human DNA at *some point* the definition of "is this a human being or isn't it" becomes an arbitrary one. "

Not really. The real essence of personhood is somewhere in the brain. If it hasn't got a human-like brain, it can't be a person. Really, when you get down to it, the brain is the person. Anyway, there are loads of things with human DNA that don't have brains and thus aren't people, and somewhere in the universe there may be people without a speck of human DNA but who do posess the sort of brains that make them undeniably people.

So an embryo, without a brain, isn't a person. A brainless clone, if one manages to construct such a thing, is an excellent source of spare parts (or even a whole new body... discard the old body and have your brain transplanted into the new one. Might be a workable anti-aging treatment.) But a fetus, with a brain, is probably a person and shouldn't be messed with except in self-defense.

The "at some point" was mea... (Below threshold)

The "at some point" was meant to reference the development of "clearly not a person" to "now it's a person" since a fetus is in constant growth and transition.

We probably will be able to clone individual organs at some point the way that we can grow skin for skin grafts now (which is cloning skin, afterall). Those parts are not even potentially individual people. Growing brainless clones, OTOH, is probably talking about starting with what could be a person and killing or otherwise stunting the brain... not the whole brain because the body would die, just the part used to think with. And, quite frankly, why do that surgically if it can be done with drugs?

would sex with your clone b... (Below threshold)

would sex with your clone be masturbation?






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