Summary: It is no longer science fiction! What does the Bible have to say about cloning?
WHAT SHOULD WE THINK ABOUT CLONING?
I know what you all might think about the topic that we would discuss this morning. You may think that everything I’m about to say sounds like science fiction. You know what, it does! It does sound like science fiction, but what we will talk about today becomes more and more a reality as time passes. The topic this morning is cloning. I realize this may seem like a far out subject, but our world is face paced and our technology grows by leaps and bounds daily. Cloning is the copying of an organism (plant, animal, person) by taking a cell and growing an exact duplicate. It can be done. It has been done. People are treading cautiously because of all the moral problems attached to this scientific process. What are we to think, as Christians, about cloning? Is it ok? Is it wrong? Is it somewhere in the middle? Can we decide?
ILLUSTRATION… news article from Reuters
Government plans to permit further research on human embryos are due to be debated in the House of Commons on Friday, to the dismay of pro-life campaigners and the head of Scotland’s Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Thomas Winning. Scientists are urging the government to extend the scope of research that can be carried out on embryos and even permit cloning in the hope of finding cures for a range of serious diseases. These include leukemia, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. "We need to grasp the opportunity now," said one of Britain’s leading genetic researchers. "The technology gives us the potential to address some of the most severe diseases that we suffer from," Dr. Harry Griffin of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh told Newsroom. "That potential would be difficult to realize if the research opportunities were limited by law." The Roslin Institute produced the first cloned sheep, Dolly, in 1996.
But other experts in the fields of medicine and the law are equally adamant in their opposition. A leading commentator in the United Kingdom and the United States warned delegates at a conference on cloning in London this week that the issue touched "the salvation or damnation" of mankind. "These technologies could end up destroying those they are intended to serve," argued Professor Nigel M. de S. Cameron, executive chairman of London’s Center for Bioethics and Public Policy, which hosted the conference. He cited the outbreak of mad cow disease and the marketing of the thalidomide drug in the 1970s that resulted in the birth of deformed babies as examples of the results of "technology and venture capitalism driving the agenda. Unless we proceed with caution as we progress up this experimental curve, disaster awaits us," he contended. "Those who argue the inevitability of reproductive cloning are, sadly, probably right." A leading judge in the field of medical ethics also urged caution over proceeding with human cloning. "It is the end of homo sapiens, and a new type of man—perhaps another übermensch (superman)," warned Christian Byk, who is from France and is a member of the International Association of Law.
But the full-blown cloning of adult human beings is not on the House of Commons’ agenda. There is no lobby in the United Kingdom to allow the cloning of children or adults. What is being debated is whether to permit the cloning of human embryos up to five days old and whether to allow further research on embryos to develop new therapies. Scientists say their intention is to find new ways of treating diseased or damaged tissues and organs as well as mitochondrial disease, where defective genes are inherited from the mother leading to possible blindness, epilepsy, or death. Scientists are pressing for the legalization of stem cell therapy, which requires certain "master" cells to be taken from human embryos at their earliest stages of growth. The prospect is that these could be transplanted into a patient and that they would then grow and repair damaged and diseased body parts, reducing the need for invasive surgery. The process always results in the death of the embryo.
Scientists are seeking permission to use existing human embryos for this purpose, possibly taken with permission from abortion or fertility clinics. But they want to go a significant step further—to clone human embryos in the lab and allow them to develop to up to five days old. The aim is to provide a ready supply of stem cells for therapeutic purposes, though as Griffin acknowledged, "it’s clearly not therapeutic for the embryo." Similar cells can be found in mature human beings, which would avoid killing an embryo. But these are available in far smaller quantities and could treat only a limited range of body parts, researchers contend. No adult stem cell has yet been found that could treat heart disease, for example, so scientists would rather cultivate embryos to harvest their stem cells.