The first occasion of animal cloning was in the late 1800s and involved a sea urchin. In 1902, an embryonic salamander was cloned. Both used cell division—manual twinning. It wasn't until late 1951 that the more modern version of cloning—nuclear transplantation—was used to clone a frog. In 1986, the first mammals (sheep and cow embryos) were cloned. A decade later Dolly the sheep became the first born cloned mammal. The development of a human embryo via nuclear transplantation has proved more difficult.
The process currently being developed for cloning is called somatic-cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT. It involves taking an unfertilized egg and replacing the nucleus (including all the genetic code) with a nucleus from a cell elsewhere in the body. The now-functionally fertilized egg is allowed to grow through several splits into a blastocyst, which contains cells for both a body and the placenta. At that point, the cells could be used for reproductive cloning or therapeutic cloning.
The goal of human reproductive cloning is to implant the cells into a human uterus and result in the birth of a live baby. There are several reasons given for human reproductive cloning: to replace a deceased child; to enable a single parent or a couple with a single fertile parent to have a genetically related child; to provide medical aid, such as blood marrow, for an ill original; or to reintroduce a talented historical personality. There are many other reasons for cloning, but they all suffer from abundant self-absorption.
Therapeutic cloning is a little different in technique. It's basically the first step in a process to harvest stem cells. Stem cells are the cells made in the earliest stages of human development, and they have the potential to turn into any part of the human body. When the clone reaches the blastocyst stage, the stem cells are harvested and induced to grow into the desired tissue: skin for a burn victim, a kidney for someone with kidney failure, or bone marrow for a cancer victim. The touted advantage is that, since the genetic information was taken directly from the patient, there is no chance of organ rejection.
Regarding a Christian perspective on cloning, there are a couple of issues to consider. First, there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that developing a fertilized egg with the same genetic material as an adult is wrong. Twins have the same genetic material. Also, there is nothing unbiblical about fertilization performed outside of the body—in vitro fertilization and cloning are both accomplished this way. And there is nothing patently unscriptural about the mechanical development of a clone blastocyst. From that point onward, however, problems abound.
One of the main issues with reproductive cloning has to do with motivation. Most justifications given for cloning are purely selfish. Mourning parents need God's healing, not a replica of the child they lost. Creating a clone of oneself is pure hubris. Cloning for medical reasons is a little more ambiguous, and parents have had children with the hope the newborn would be a genetic match for a sick sibling. But, as with IVF, several blastocysts would probably need to be developed for a single live birth. Destroying a remaining, unneeded blastocyst would be killing a child. Other considerations are the high likelihood of the non-viability of the embryo and the presence of birth defects. The research required to get to the point of a live birth would require the destruction of countless embryos. And although manipulated nature might be able to create another Einstein, there's no guarantee that nurture wouldn't turn him into a despotic evil genius.
Therapeutic cloning is fraught with ethical problems. The entire point of therapeutic cloning is the death of the clone so that tissue can be harvested to benefit someone else. In therapeutic cloning, birth is never the goal. Instead, the stem cells are harvested about the fourteen-day mark. There is no difference in potential between a clone blastocyst and a blastocyst developed through normal fertilization—as reproductive cloning shows. If life begins at conception in normal fertilization, then life begins at nucleus transplantation in a clone. And the destruction of the blastocyst at any point after that is not only killing a human, it's against the Nuremberg Code which prohibits human experimentation if death is the inevitable outcome.
The birth of a viable human clone would not change the truth. Every human is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and clones are no more of an exception than twins. Humans can start the physical process of developing a new life—as both natural conception and IVF show—but only God truly gives life (Genesis 2:7). And a clone is not a copy; it is a new individual person (Psalm 139:13-16). The problem with cloning isn't the clone; it's the processes, the motivations, and the carelessness with which embryos are treated. Therapeutic cloning is murder. Reproductive cloning will not be successful without many cases of murder. Those killings, combined with the selfish motivations which inspire cloning, make the process of cloning unbiblical.
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