Op-Ed from the Ayn Rand Institute
CLONING IS MORAL
By Alex Epstein
In a huge breakthrough for medical progress, scientists from South
Korea have finally created a cloned human embryo and extracted its
stem cells--a feat that makes life-saving embryonic stem-cell
treatments that much closer to reality. Instead of taking this
thrilling news as an opportunity to celebrate cloning, politicians and
intellectuals are once again calling for bans. Some seek to ban all
cloning, while others oppose "only" reproductive cloning. Although
each group claims the moral high ground, both positions are profoundly
*immoral*. Any attempt to ban human cloning technology should be
rejected permanently, because cloning--therapeutic *and*
reproductive--is morally good.
Consider first therapeutic cloning, which opponents perversely condemn
as "anti-life." Senator Sam Brownback, who has sponsored a
Congressional ban on all cloning, says therapeutic cloning is
"creating human life to destroy [it]." President Bush calls it
"growing human beings for spare body parts."
In fact, therapeutic cloning is a highly *pro*-life technology, since
cloned embryos can be used to extract medically potent embryonic stem
cells. A cloned embryo is created by inserting the nucleus of a human
body cell into a denucleated egg, which is then induced to divide
until it reaches the embryo stage. These embryos are not human beings,
but microscopic bits of protoplasm the width of a human hair. They
have the *potential* to grow into human beings, but *actual* human
are the ones dying for lack of this technology. The embryonic stem
extracted from a cloned embryo can become any other type of human
the future, they may be used to develop pancreatic cells for curing
diabetes, cardiac muscle cells for curing heart disease, brain cells
curing Alzheimer's--or even entire new organs for transplantation.
not an area of medicine that this technology will not potentially
says Nobel laureate Harold Varmus.
Opponents of therapeutic cloning know all this, but are unmoved. This
is because their fundamental objection is not that therapeutic cloning
is antilife, but that it entails "playing God"--i.e., remaking nature
to serve human purposes. "[Human cloning] would be taking a major step
into making man himself simply another one of the man-made things,"
says Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics.
"Human nature becomes merely the last part of nature to succumb to the
technological project, which turns all of nature into raw material at
human disposal." Columnist Armstrong Williams condemns all cloning as
"human egotism, or the desire to exert our will over every aspect of
our surroundings," and cautions: "We're not God."
The one truth in the anticloning position is that cloning does
represent "the desire to exert our will over every aspect of our
surroundings." But such a desire is not immoral--it is a mark of
virtue. Using technology to alter nature is a requirement of human
life. It is what brought man from the cave to civilization. Where
would we be without the men who "exerted their will" over their
surroundings and constructed the first hut, cottage, and skyscraper?
Every advance in human history is part of "the technological project,"
and has made man's life longer, healthier, and happier. These advances
are produced by those who hold the premise that suffering and disease
are a curse, not to be humbly accepted as "God's will," but to be
fought proudly with all the power of man's rational mind.
The same virtue applies to reproductive cloning--which, despite the
ridiculous, horror-movie scenarios conjured up by its opponents, would
simply result in time-separated twins just as human as anyone else.
Once it becomes safe, reproductive cloning will have legitimate uses
for infertile couples and for preventing the transmission of genetic
diseases. Even more important, it is significant as an early form of a
tremendous value: *genetic engineering*, which most anticloners object
to because as such it entails "playing God" with the genetic makeup of
one's child. At stake with reproductive cloning is not only whether
you can conceive a child who shares your genetic makeup, but whether
you have the right to improve the genetic makeup of your children: to
prevent them from getting genetic diseases, to prolong their lifespan
or to improve their physical appearance. You should have such rights
just as you have the right to vaccinate your children or to fit them
The mentalities that denounce cloning and "playing God" have
consistently opposed technological progress, especially in medicine.
They objected to anesthesia, smallpox inoculations, contraception,
heart transplants, in vitro fertilization--on the grounds that these
innovations were "unnatural" and contrary to God's will. To let them
cripple biotechnological progress by banning cloning would be a moral