we forget the argument against abortion, "but what if he/she
had been a Beethoven?" Well we can put that all behind us
now because soon we should be able to clone the modern day Beethoven's,
the Einsteins and any other of the very small fraction of our
population that contributes to the arts or sciences. Mayr has
estimated that only 1% of the population has the intelligence
and the motivation to make contributions for advancing science,
culture and the arts. The other 99% of the population only apply
what others have created. But if we want to expand that 1%, what
better way than cloning those who have proven they have the right
genes for advancing culture for the rest of us. Now that a Riverside,
Illinois scientist Richard G. Seed has announced plans to clone
a human, the reactionaries are really clamping down and trying
to defeat science. Do they really think they can halt progress?
One of the couples that have volunteered for the cloning project
are both sterile, neither can produce a sperm or an egg. Are
they to be denied the chance to reproduce? That is the only pertinent
question and one that is personal, autonomous, and not subject
to societies condemnation or restrictions.
A discussion on cloning (Larry King 6/24/97) between Dr. Ian Wilmut, biologist at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, and the venerable Dr. Jerry Falwell, religious cultist, summed up the concerns that I have been reading about why we should not clone humans. First, they both agreed that it was to human's advantage to clone animals because it would advance research, benefiting humans. Jerry seems to be enamored with wanting to live a very long time, something of a mystery for me since he claims he is going to a very fine place indeed after he dies (heaven). Why is it those who should not fear death seem to shun it the most? A puzzle of faith I guess. But the old anthropomorphic argument arises that what is good for the goose (all other species) is not good for the gander (Homo sapiens). I wonder if all the animals have a sense of how much we appreciate their sacrifices? The arguments against cloning humans were the same ones I have been hearing since this debate began.
First, it would destabilize the human condition, disrupting our faith in the sanctity of life and the high and separate positions we humans hold over all other species. As one who would like to see humans "get over themselves," the need to clone at least one human seems essential. I realize that exposing Jesus Christ's writings as mostly myth, proving the world is not flat and we are not the center of the universe, and that we evolved from apes several million years ago has done little to dissuade the humans from believing in their own beneficence. But every little insult to their egos that advances science over mythology seems worth the effort.
Second, cloning humans will allow additional research into human behavior, education, crime prevention, and the overall condition of mankind. The recent Minnesota Twin Studies have shown conclusively that such human traits such as intelligence, religiosity, and conscientiousness have a predominantly genetic basis and any one human is limited by this genetic potentiality. Knowing this we need to further define how malleable humans are. Cloning is the next step in environmental experimentation, where donors can have themselves duplicated genetically and their clones placed in alternative environments to see how they develop. One clone can be raised in environment X and another in environment Y and the results compared a generation later. This type of controlled experimentation can lead to the final resolution of what makes us what we are, our genes or something else.
Third, and probably the most exciting, is the possibility of greatly expanding the number of geniuses we have in this country to make us number one again. With China's 1 billion population, and with their average IQ's about 5 points higher than the average American's IQ, cloning may be the only way we can stay competitive aside from encouraging the very smartest Asians to emigrate to the West. Dr. Wilmut claims that we should not clone because genes are only 'part' of what makes one a genius. But that is precisely why we should clone. By knowing in advance that a person has all of the genetic components to advance science or culture, we can invest heavily in their cloned duplicates to make sure they get the very best training and opportunities to surpass their originator. What a perfectly sensible and productive way of channeling our educational resources into those few who can benefit the nation. Wasting money on the retarded, the disabled, and the genetically disadvantaged is just sucking the lifeblood out of the nation's resources. Why play dice with genes when you can get the genuine articles in the perfect combinations.
Finally, cloning is the only way to preserve the genetic capital of truly remarkable individuals. Why not preserve the genes into perpetuity of the very best. This is equivalent to preserving those rare works of art or historic buildings, except they can never be reproduced by normal breeding methods. The most elegant cathedral could be duplicated again and again, but not the perfect combination of genes. Breeding can improve the odds, but when the genuine article shows up it should be preserved for as long as possible through cloning (how about The Genotype Preservation Project?). Keep replicating those members of society that have the genes that we all admire. We can never have enough of the gifted. Giftedness is a trait that is emergent, that is it is more than just the combination of the parents' genes, it is a unique combination of those genes. Sulloway, in Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives(1997), explains it best, "Just as with a scrambled telephone number and its resulting connection, genes that have been scrambled express themselves disparately. For this reason, many genetic influences are unique to the individual and cannot be passed on through inheritance. Such traits are said to be 'emergent.'
The famous race horse Secretariat is thought to have possessed such emergent abilities. Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. To say that Secretariat 'broke' course records is an understatement: he smashed them. Most of Secretariat's racing achievements, such as winning the Belmont stakes by 31 lengths, have never been approached to this day. Of Secretariat's 400-odd foals, only one (Risen Star) came close to matching Secretariat's racing abilities. Risen Star won two of the three contests that make up the Triple Crown, but even in these victories he was several seconds behind his sire's record-setting paces. For horse owners who paid handsomely for Secretariat's stud services, the problem was simple: once genetically scrambled, half of Secretariat was never really half. One reason why identical twins have such similar personalities is their possession of the same emergent traits. This circumstance explains why identical twins reared apart often exhibit strikingly similar behavioral quirks, including unusual habits and hobbies. Even though some of these similarities would be expected by chance, they are significantly more common when twins are identical than when they are fraternal.
There has been considerable debate over whether the genetic variability underlying most personality traits is adaptive. A good case can be made in the affirmative. Nonvarying traits, such as the number of chambers in the human heart, represent evolutionary battles that were fought and resolved long ago. Traits that vary represent the playing field for evolutionary battles that are still being contested. These battles are unresolved because no single genetic solution has proved optimal. Sensation seeking, which is heritable, provides a good example." Because of emergent traits, truly unique individuals must be preserved for the future.
Cloning is the only way to do this, to enhance and expand the number of people that were lucky enough to receive that unique combination of genes that make up what we all recognize and geniuses, those who can push the envelope of knowledge and understanding through discovery beyond what most people can barely come understand. Cloning is the only way of increasing the number of gifted geniuses aside from rigorous breeding programs that still cannot guarantee the results desired. Cloning can increase 100 or 1000 fold the number of scientists who are truly exceptional, into the future, for as long as we want. In the cloning debate, you will hear over and over again how people are more than their genes, that environment is equally important. The problem is this is no longer true.
The Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA) of the American Psychological Association released a report titled, Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns, in 1995, in response to the highly controversial 1994 book by Herrnstein and Murray, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life . In the report the BSA concludes, "Across the ordinary range of environments in modern Western societies, a sizable part of the variation in intelligence test scores is associated with genetic differences among individuals. We now know that the heritability of IQ changes with age: heritability goes up and between-family variance goes down from infancy to adulthood. In childhood heritability and between-family variance for IQ are of the order of .45 and .35; by late adolescence heritability is around .75 and between-family variance is quite low (zero in some studies). Substantial environmental variance remains, but it primarily reflects within-family rather than between-family differences.
Why should individual differences in intelligence (as measured by test scores) reflect genetic differences more strongly in adults than they do in children's? One possibility is that as individuals grow older their transactions with their environments are increasingly influenced by the characteristics that they bring to those environments themselves, decreasingly by the conditions imposed by family life and social origins. Older persons are in a better position to select their own effective environments, a form of genotype-environment correlation."
So now, when the educators and the media tell you that environment, not genes are primarily responsible for who grows up to be a genius, you can set them straight. Their dogma is about 30 years behind the science and is meant to cover up the realities of good breeding and the enduring contribution that genes make. They want you to think they can make you smart, through education, when in fact your own genes will guide you to realize your own unique potential. If this wasn't true we could make chimpanzees into scientists.
The final argument against cloning humans is that it is not ethical or moral to do so. Of course, this is always the fall-back defense when people want to turn back scientific progress and have no other means to do so. The reason why so many people are afraid of cloning is simple, it is one more blow against vitalism, the belief that there is more to humans than there is to other primates or mammals. We are in some unique way above all the other species, we have a soul.
But of course they can't really say that, especially other scientists that have given up the superstition of religion, but can't give up the hope and aspiration that we are more than just the latest permutation of a very different species, one that can selectively breed itself in a conscious manner. Several billion years ago, the early species did in fact reproduce asexually, the same process genetically as cloning. There are many higher species today that still breed asexually and some that can switch, depending on the circumstances, between asexual and sexual reproduction. Are the offspring of these asexual reproductions any more or less real than any other?
The only reason nature has chosen sexual reproduction over asexual cloning is because it had certain benefits with regards to evolution, that is, it was the only way using trial and error that evolution could find the most viable genetic traits for survival. But that has all changed now, especially with regards to many traits that are desired in humans and animals alike. Once humans started selectively breeding cows, chickens, horses, sheep and dogs for specific characteristics we replaced the "Blind Watchmaker" of evolution with consciously directed breeding.
Unless you can prove that humans are not just another variation of the primate line of species that have learned to use their intellect and language for survival, unless you can prove without a doubt that somewhere lurking inside of us is a soul that no other species harbors, then there is no logical reason why cloning a sheep is any different than cloning a human. Cloning, in fact, is just another step in our evolutionary journey where randomness has been supplanted by the collective will of culture and has changed the way we are.
About 10,000 years ago, we left the hunter gatherer tribalism for an agrarian way of life leading to larger social units. Soon, reproductive sex was being influenced by Judaism and Catholicism in the West (primogeniture and celibacy), concubines in the East, and numerous other deviations from the tribal unit. Today, many people consciously select a mate with forethought for traits they want to enhance in their children (beauty, intelligence, athleticism, etc.). Assortative mating is just another form of selective breeding, as is cloning.
So any arguments against cloning have already been obviated by the facts of the evolutionary march from the single-cell to the multi-cell organisms and now is entering a new phase of intelligent, directed, evolutionary progress. The only question with regards to cloning is do I want to be cloned and can it be accomplished. It is as are all reproductive decisions, up to the reproducer. And for the first time that decision lies in the hands of one person, and the well-being of the cloned offspring rests on the parent, pure and simple.
Just as the state should not step in and make a couple abort a child with a genetic disease, they should not step in and prevent someone from cloning themselves on the pretense that they are concerned with the cloned child. That is not what the moral/ethical debate is about.
It is the same fear of the unknown that has always stood in the way of science. And it is just another good reason why we must breed a more intelligent voting populace that has a better grip on reality, and not so reactionary about every change they encounter that seems out of the ordinary. If science is moving too fast for the masses we must improve their intelligence or slide back into ignorance, suspicion, and fear. The future is what we make it. Cloning will help give us the cognitive capital to carry out programs of advanced science.