On Saturday night, I hunkered down in a recliner in my living room with a bowl of Cheetos in order to watch the third season premiere of “Orphan Black.” For those of you who have not seen it, the show originally started with the character of Sarah Manning witnessing the suicide of a woman who looked just like her. Over time, Sarah comes to realize she is one of many clones, created by a private science institute as part of an experiment.
Side note: I highly recommend you go watch this show. Put the newspaper down. Find the program on Amazon Prime or some other outlet and watch it. Resume reading the newspaper later.
The show is in its third season, so naturally I have spent a fair amount of time wondering about the implications of human cloning.
Scientists first achieved animal cloning in 1979 by splitting mice embryos. This method was later used to clone chickens, sheep and cows. After 276 attempts to do so, scientists were finally able to clone a mature body cell taken from a sheep and clone it in its entirety without modification in 1996.
The sheep, commonly known as Dolly, lived until she was six years old, when she was infected with a common lung disease seemingly unrelated to the cloning process.
The successful cloning of Dolly sparked an urge in the scientific community to attempt to save endangered species using this technology. Several trials led to successful clones of pigs, deer, horses and bulls. However, all of the clones died in a matter of months as a result of abnormal development. So far, Dolly has been the only cloned mammal to reach adulthood.
Of course, scientists did not just stop at animal cloning. Indeed, there have been movements made into the field of human cloning.
The Human Genome Project began in 1990 as an attempt to sequence the three billion nucleotides that compose the genetic material of the human race. It was not undertaken as a pathway into cloning, but rather so scientists could better understand complex genetic diseases.
As science advanced after Dolly’s cloning, President Bill Clinton signed a five-year moratorium against using federal money to pursue human cloning research in 1997. However, this did not stop the private sector from continuing their work. Several corporations around the world have made claims to have successfully produced clones of human embryos, although there is very little evidence to support these claims. However, research and experiments are still underway.
I pose the question, just because scientists are able to do this research and undertake these experiments, should they?
Take the movie “The Island,” for instance. The film, released in 2005, stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson, and is one of the most significantly underrated movies I have ever seen.
The film depicts the lives of a group of people living in a private facility until they are “randomly” selected to travel to “the island.” McGregor’s character discovers that this is all a lie; they are actually clones that have been created for a service—one with a sky-high price tag. “The island” actually means the death of the clones, as they are used for organ transplants, surrogate motherhood and a whole slew of morally bankrupt concepts.
Realistically, why do we need to pursue human cloning? Simple answer: we don’t.There is no practical use for it. While the idea of having copies of ourselves in case we need any “spare parts,” to put it crudely, there are so many ethical problems. Is it okay to artificially create a human life, just to kill it for an organ or another reason? The last time I checked, that is still considered murder.
For the time being, scientists should refocus its efforts, leaving human cloning behind as a mere subject of science fiction.