Louder Fenn

Saturday, March 02, 2002

Continuing my response to an article about cloning...

Reynolds answers some more objections:

2. Cloning will work too well. It will produce so many successful clones that it will replace sexual reproduction, leading to a loss of genetic diversity.

The inconsistency with the argument above is obvious. Also, widespread cloning won't lead to a loss of diversity: at least, if everyone alive cloned him or herself once, we'd have exactly as much diversity as we have now. I suppose if someone produced six billion copies of Bill Gates we'd have a problem. But, really, how likely is that?

To be honest, I don't see any "obvious inconsistency." If cloning does become the preferred method of reproduction, of course diversity will diminish: My clone clones himself; the clone of my clone clones himself; the clone of my clone of my clone clones himself... And every one is genetically me, right down the line. The point is, we wouldn't have just one iteration, as Reynolds puts it ("if everyone clones himself once"). One could argue that diversity is already in place; but cloning would surely halt an increase in diversity. Even with random mutations and the persistence of some sexual reproduction, we would stagnate, surely.

3. Cloning will produce soulless zombie tools of the corporate power structure.

No, it won't. Lucas aside, clones won't be any more soulless than identical twins, who are simply natural clones. And they won't be zombies unless something else is done to make them that way — like, perhaps, making them sit through The Phantom Menace a few hundred times. And that would be the crime against humanity, not the cloning that preceded it.

I'd almost think Reynolds is deliberately picking the weakest arguments, just so he can make the easy kill. I'm not saying this argument isn't made. But let's look at this without cute references to Star Wars: If we, as a society, decide that it is okay to manufacture human beings, do you really think that the Corporate Power Structure won't find a way to make soulless zombies? Precisely because they would be "soulless" -- meat machines, as it were -- people like Reynolds probably wouldn't even object: Many people today have already decided that some humans are not persons and may therefore be aborted in the womb -- and those are humans who aren't manufactured. How would a Mark-VII Biodroid fare any better in Reynolds's moral universe?

P.S. Do I think that because cloning will likely lead to soulless zombies, that therefore cloning is wrong? No. But I would say this: Take it as a warning. Back in the day, one of the things said against the legalization of abortion was: "If you legalize abortion, euthanasia will inevitably follow." Those who said this were scoffed at. But guess what? Grandma's getting afraid to go to the hospital... The point is, once you make the choice of a certain "morality," certain other things logically follow. So be warned.
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