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February 12, 2004

Human Clones

I'm sure many of us have already seen the news reports which detail advances in Human Cloning. Just to be clear, this is the story I'm referring to, not this one.

I'm looking forward to reading what Godless makes of this, but in the interim here's what caught my interest.

South Korean scientists described on Thursday how they cloned several human embryos and extracted valuable stem cells from one, and said their achievement showed an immediate need for a global ban on cloning to make babies.

The scientists are successful in advancing the art, but then play politics and call for a ban. Do they really believe there is a need for a ban or are they pandering to the concerned parties? It seems that they're playing the game of seeking contrition rather than asking for permission.

"Cloning research is impossible to do without exploiting women. It should be banned immediately," said Daniel McConchie, a spokesman for the Chicago-based Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

Run that by me one more time. A claim of exploiting women is sure to get you press, but how about making a case for it. How about claiming that men will be exploited.

I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is really about. I can't really see all that many people actually wanting to have a clone made. Those that do may have a valid medical reason, or be very egotistical, but considering the dynamics of family life, why would a husband or wife not want to pass on their genes? Why would a single mother want a clone of herself when the possibilities and surprises of a normal child are so much greater.

When genetic engineering comes on-line is when I think the average soccer mom is going to get on board. The choice of attributes in children will drive acceptance of the technology, despite the ethical prognosticators objections.

Hopefully, I've been able to tee this story up for Godless.

Comment from Razib: When this sort of stuff breaks, I tend to keep an eye on Virginia Postrel's weblog. She's already got an entry on it. Virginia would probably say that this is a dynamist vs. stasist issue, the "trads" are on the Right & the Left, while the "progressives" are on the Right and the Left.

Some of the Right view this specifically as a subset of the abortion issue, and generally a step toward some sort of "unnatural" human society. The Greeny Neo-Luddites on the Left would concur. The feminist quoted above is just terrified about the future I suspect-the idea that this is an issue related to women's rights to me smacks of pretending to be proactive when you are really reactive.

All sorts of biotechnologies are not created equal. Therapeutic cloning = good, I think there is a consensus majority on this issue. The problem happens with the trad minority on the Left & the Right conflates that with reproductive cloning-which is a marginal issue at best, but tends to elicit atavistic fears in the majority. H. L. Mencken said: ""Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Traditionalism on this issue to me entails the terror of the idea that someone somewhere is exploring ways to live a human life that isn't conventionally nasty, short and brutish (those who believe that the zygote is a human being have axiomatic disagreemants).

OK, I exaggerate, but you get the gist....

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