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As soon as Scottish scientists announced that they had successfully cloned a sheep from cells of another sheep, people began to be alarmed at the prospect of cloning human beings. Editorial after editorial warned that we'd be "playing God", that we'd be creating Frankenstein-like soul-less creatures, and that we'd be encouraging people's tendency towards egoism to reach its ultimate expression by enabling human beings to clone themselves. President Clinton banned all federal funding for research leading to the cloning of human beings and called for a voluntary moratorium on private research. Pope John Paul II denounced "dangerous experiments" that harm human dignity.

I, too, have some concerns about cloning human beings; but I think that most of the fears people have are misplaced. As a philosopher who has worked on issues concerning personal identity and, more recently, medical ethics, I have a different perspective on the issue of human cloning from most commentators. Perhaps I can make a useful contribution to the discussion of this topic.

I would, first, like to examine five concerns the general population seems to have about cloning human beings and argue that they show either a misunderstanding about the process and/or result of cloning, or else an ignorance of what it is that we already do. I shall argue that there is nothing in principle more questionable about the cloning of human beings than practices we currently engage in. However, I do have two serious concerns about how the new technology is likely to be used; and, since I am not convinced that that there are any really good reasons at the present time for cloning human beings, I too would vote against permitting it.


1. It has been claimed that if we cloned human beings that we'd be "playing God." What does this mean? Presumably it does not mean that we would be, through our actions, creating a (human) life because that has been going on since Adam and Eve. Is it, rather, the idea that scientists would be involved in the process of creating life, rather than life resulting through the "natural" means of sexual intercourse? But this is nothing new. Artificial insemination, the use of fertility drugs, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques have been used to create children who would not have existed without the help or interference (depending upon whether you approve of the practices or not) of modern science. So anyone who argues that the cloning of human beings is wrong because scientists are involved in the process of creating a human life should not be objecting to the cloning of human beings in particular. They should also be opposed to other medical techniques which have been used to help childless couples and single women have children who would not have been able to otherwise.

Furthermore, those who object to cloning simply on the grounds that it's "unnatural" (rather than the more specific "unnatural creation of human life") should also be objecting to the use of antibiotics, surgery, vaccinations, etc., which prolong life unnaturally. They should similarly object to hair-coloring,



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