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Cloning: Has Science Gone Too Far?

by John Edmiston

With the cloning of "Dolly", an adult sheep , the possibility of cloning mammals -including humans has opened up. (For a good article on the technology behind this go to the New Scientist website at http://www.newscientist.com). Scientists have also recently begun the process of storing human memories on silicon chips so they can be implanted in the brain and experienced by others.(BBC--TV "Future Fantastic Series - Brainstorm") In the not too distant future it is envisaged that we will be able to replicate a person's. body, mind and memories. In many countries this would currently be perfectly legal..This article will explore the biblical ethics of cloning human beings and why it just can't be God's will.

(Genesis 2:20-25 NKJV)

So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. {21} And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. {22} Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. {23} And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." {24} Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. {25} And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

The Quandary

The argument for cloning....

Cloning human beings has many advantages and could solve infertility problems, help with the scarcity of suitable organ transplants, and give rise to society of physically perfect individuals. Combined with accurate genetic testing and a culling of defective humans through abortions we could produce a physically excellent society with far lower health costs, more productive workers, more compatible and less stressed marriages , and a longer overall life span. Utopia through genetic engineering. Wouldn't God want this? After all He did the first bit of genetic engineering didn't He?

The argument against cloning....

Cloning human beings is almost the ultimate act of human arrogance other than openly declaring to be God. We do not need or want a society of physically perfect but morally insensate people. To move toward such a world is to denigrate the value of the not so beautiful people. As Mark Twain said "God must like ordinary looking folk considering how he made so many of them". This is a genie that will not go back in the bottle,it is a mess so complex, that if we ever permit it, it will be our nightmare forever.

Was Eve the first human clone?

God took a rib from Adam and formed Eve from it to produce a being that was "bone of his (Adam's) bone and flesh of his flesh" but of the opposite gender. I believe that each human cell has the possibility of being any other cell. For instance a foot could be an eye. A complex system of "gene expression and repression" determines which cells are "turned on" or "turned off" and whether a cell has male or female characteristics. What God did with Adam was not cloning.. Cloning would have made Adam and Adam not Adam and Eve. Also current cloning techniques produce babies of identical genetic composition to the gene donor - not instant mature adults which is what happened with Eve. We still need a uterus and the process of gestation to take a single cell and turn it into a viable cloned mammal.

Theologically speaking God is a great genetic engineer who is not so dull as to make the first two human beings absolutely identical in all respects. He made people that were complementary and brought them into perfect spiritual and emotional oneness. The marriage of Adam and Eve was the closest ever experienced. Eve was beloved as "bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh", there was total openness , not even the presence of shame, and a deep and a fulfilling creative commission to be carried out in a beautiful and perfectly romantic environment and a personal intimate and daily communion with God. This was marred not by physical compatibility but by disobedience. Their genetic closeness would have survived their expulsion from Eden but of itself it was not an adequate basis for their marriage.

Being genetically related did not prevent shame and guilt from taking their toll and causing them to blame each other and hide from God. The attempt to genetically engineer your perfect partner would be futile without the learning of corresponding spiritual and relational skills. Does God's genetic engineering of Eve give us a mandate to do like wise? To state the obvious, different mandates exist for the Creator and the creature. The Creator is allowed to choose His methods for, after all, He is All-Wise. We are not. We are quite unable to predict , let alone control, the future of our technology. This alone should move us to caution in such a dangerous area as cloning humans.

Why God does not "genetically engineer" people any more.

God stopped making people from ribs after He made Eve. His intent is for people to reproduce after their own kind via natural means. He wants children to be raised in families not nurseries. He wants love, not calculation, to be behind their conception, and He wants children to be unique. For each to grow up with their own hard won identity and sense of self. The reproduction of humans, who are the image of God, is to be sexual, intimate and loving. The upbringing of these images of divinity is to be in a committed, caring, heterosexual family setting. The cloning of humans is unnatural, sterile, pragmatic and outside of the intended purposes of God.

There is also a theological reason why God did not clone anyone after Eve. Sin dwells in the flesh. (Romans 7) Sin passes from generation to generation via our bodies. When I majored in psychology at University I was taught that criminality has a proven family history beyond the influence of environment. Time is the great healer of the worst of these traits which seem to run through three or at most four generations before petering out. This is confirmed by Scripture which sees gross sins and their consequent judgment passing to the "third and fourth generation"(Exodus 34:6,7) but no further.

The mercy of time is not available to clones. Cloning passes these negative traits on unchanged and undiminished by time. God does not "clone people" because He is merciful to families and does not want to see the perpetuation of their iniquity. Unfortunately evil but powerful people would be among the most likely to clone themselves and their refined ambition and treachery would be undiminished, unchanged and finely perfected through the centuries.

Technology is never evil its the people who misuse it...

This is a good sounding argument that in reality is completely void of meaning. Technology does not exist "by itself'. Technology automatically goes with people, hammers with carpenters, guns with soldiers. And these people are primarily motivated by self-interest and greed. We do not live in a logical or altruistic world. We live in a commercial and political world where the main driving forces are money , sex, and power . These elemental forces inevitably win out often turning the technology into a comical caricature of what it originally intended to be. Cranio-facial (plastic) surgery started out as a wonderful way to help burns victims and those with birth defects. Now it is primarily used to enhance the sex appeal of the dissatisfied. Vain people with money have hijacked a wonderful technology. . As nobly as cloning human beings may begin it is money, sex and power that will ultimately control the long-term future of the technology. Nuclear power has been completely subjugated to commercial and military interests with token applications to public health. The "Green Revolution' is turning into a nightmare. The dash for cash for genes may yet create massive (and massively profitable for a few) world-wide hunger. These grand failures of good but powerful technologies should warn us that it will most likely happen again. The cloning of humans, if allowed, will be misused, commercialized and corrupted.

You have no right to put a cap on human progress... its too early for ethics...let Science be free.

This assumes a very rosy and optimistic view of human progress. This optimistic view held sway in the Humanist movement that dominated Western thought from the mid to late 1800's until the end of World War 2. However Humanism is now a spent philosophical force. Two World Wars and countless atrocities displayed on television have muted the optimism of earlier years. The sheer responsibility for what we have done to the environment and to ourselves has forced a rethink that I see as beginning with Hiroshima and the reported comment of the pilot of "Enola Gay" "My God, what have we done?". That question is still echoing in the halls of science , government and industry. While no-one has found a way to stop progress there is a general consensus that it needs to be subjected to ethical constraint.

Numerous scientific, government and industry bodies have been set up to examine ethical issues associated with technology. They nearly all say that ethical issues should be addressed right at the start of the development of any technology especially those technologies that have the power to fundamentally change us as a race or extinguish us forever. When the progress of a technology such as the cloning of humans has these sort of planet-changing potentials there are greater things at stake than the freedom of science. We need to check whether we want it before we endorse it. And we must do so knowing ourselves.

The difference between a clone and an identical twin

A clone would be younger than the person, artificial and deliberately conceived. A clone does not come into a family setting as a result of love but into a social setting as an expedient way of providing organ transplants or eternal youth. Identical twins have separate personalities and develop their own closely interwoven identities, marry and raise separate families and pursue life as true individuals. However in reality clones will exist to satisfy someone else. They will probably be replicas of someone raised for a role. Clones will be deliberately the same physically as the "master copy" and the wonderful sense of serendipity that comes with identical twins is, of course, lost. Clones will probably be slaves -who would clone themselves with the view to the clone leading an independent existence? The clone may never be expected to raise families, live a normal life or develop a separate and complete identity from their "parent". In these ways and many others identical twins and clones would be different.

Shall we be like God?

(Genesis 3:1-7 NKJV) Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" {2} And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; {3} "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" {4} Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. {5} "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." {6} So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her,and he ate. {7} Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

There is an obvious analogy between eating the "fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.." and eating the fruit of genetic engineering. It seems that we shall "be like God" on the day we head in this direction. It appears that it will "make us wise" and be good for us. But this is an illusion born of strong temptation. In fact it will leave us naked and desolate and under the judgment of God. We are being tempted to defy God more and more. This can only result in our destruction. The path to being like God is not technological progress but personal holiness. (Romans 8:28-29 NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. {29} For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (1 John 3:2 NKJV) Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

A Sickening Society

When a particular evil has an economic basis it can remain entrenched for centuries e.g. slave-trading, usury, drugs, gambling and prostitution. Cloning has the potential to go wrong and stay wrong for a long time. The private cloning of the powerful to perpetuate their dynasties. The government and military cloning of "perfect soldiers". The fashion industry paying big money for a stable of perfect , genetically sound models. The pornography industry paying a fortune to clone bodies for its "high class" films. Some sections of the pharmaceutical industry could secretly clone people for drug testing. Football and baseball teams might clone top players and own the genetic rights to their stars. The possible permutations that self-interest, secrecy and big money could bring to human cloning are too frightening to mention. If it starts we will be forever diminished. We will be a sickening society.

Babel Revisited

(Genesis 11:1-9 NIV) Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. {2} As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. {3} They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. {4} Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." {5} But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. {6} The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. {7} Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." {8} So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. {9} That is why it was called Babel --because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Babel was the first society wide technological rebellion against God. It was the discovery of building technology that sparked the rebellion. They used the latest (though inferior) building technology as they substituted bricks for stone in their effort to supplant nature and build a tower that would reach to heaven. It was a primitive affair compared to genetic engineering but contains the same essential ingredients. There was a desire for self-exaltation (so that we may make a name for ourselves), a wish to transcend the limits of the human condition (a tower that reaches the heavens) , a use of artificial materials (they used brick instead of stone and tar for mortar), and a perceived social benefit (not being scattered over the face of the whole earth). The perceived social benefit was in fact contrary to the will of God (Genesis 9:1 NIV) " Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth." God considered this first feeble technological rebellion to be a sufficient threat to godliness for Him to act to disperse the people. Their single-minded, society-wide self-exaltation and rebellion did not bode well. God's comment that "nothing they plan to do will be impossible to them.." is not a compliment! It is a warning that if left to itself the human race would have gone from arrogant to unthinkable in its pursuit of evil. Cloning has all the above hallmarks of a society-wide technological rebellion against God similar to the tower of Babel. God's comment that "nothing they plan to do will be impossible to them.." seems on the verge of fulfillment as we toy with our genetic future. This leads us to the obvious question - will God step in (as he did at Babel) to prevent the fulfillment of human cloning?

Will God intervene?

If God intervenes it will probably be through His church and the intercession of His saints. Believing prayer has the power to prevent the cloning of human beings. This may seem a trite answer. After all God has not intervened to stop abortion ,genocide, rape and murder. He has not stopped the production of atomic or biological weapons. He has not stopped economic injustice, unfair trade and ruthless exploitation of the poor. Human cloning will probably go ahead. Unless.... There is only one force that can stop an economically and politically powerful technology being implemented and that is God's people. The church is might when it acts according to His will in prevailing prayer and prophetic action based on the word of God. Some evils such as slavery, child-labor and the rampant alcoholism of 19th century England have been stopped by God's people working and praying appropriately. Some such as abortion have been pegged back or restricted in many countries. Ground can be won for good providing we do not sit helplessly by accepting it all as a part of the decay of society as the world comes to an inglorious end. No matter where we are in God's calendar we must be righteous and righteous people have always boldly resisted evil. Human cloning is evil. You and I - the educated, informed computer literate believers can bring moral pressure to bear through our words and spiritual pressure to bear through our prayers. Please act now.

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.