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Send In The Clones?

Looks like they've figured out how to clone primates.

There's long been some sort of quasi-religious belief for some that there is something more fundamentally difficult about cloning humans that means it will never happen, or not for decades. ("OK, you can clone a mouse, but you can't clone a larger animal. OK, you can clone a sheep, but not a monkey.") Well, it seems to me that the cloning of humans is inevitable, and now not very far off.

Of course, unlike conservatives (and one of the many ways in which I'm not one, "neo" or otherwise, despite confusion on the part of some apparent simpletons who comment here), I don't have any intrinsic problems with cloning. It's just a technology, and one (like all technologies) that can be used for good or ill. I in particular have no problem with cloning that provides directed organ generation, such as a liver, and think that the notion that such a growth would be a human being in its own right, and entitled to personhood status, nonsensical.

I also don't have any intrinsic problem with cloning people and raising them to adulthood (despite the "yuck factor" issue that many seem to have with it). It just seems to me that it's taking gene selection (something that we've been doing with offspring, consciously or otherwise, since the beginning of the race) to a new level. I don't think that so many are going to do it that we become a monoculture, and that there will remain plenty of genetic mixing, as long as we consider it necessary as humans.

In any event, I welcome the development, and if it causes problems, then we'll deal with them as they arise, but I certainly don't want opposition to it to prevent the beneficial effects. If I have to go to Thailand or South Korea to grow myself a new liver, I'll certainly have no moral compunction restraining me from doing so.

[Update in the afternoon]

Here's a Reuters story that's kind of a mess.

I wish that we could come up with some other word for growing stem cells and organs from your own cells than "cloning" because it creates the kind of confusion expressed in both the UN resolution and in the article. It strikes me that this is mainly a "feel good" resolution, since it's non-binding, and everyone realizes that there's no enforcement mechanism even if there were. This technology is going to happen, regardless of debates in Turtle Bay.

And this sentence makes no sense to me at all:

The authors said laws should grant clones full human rights to protect from discrimination.

Otherwise, opponents of clones in an inheritance dispute, for instance, might say that a clone and the person from whom their cells were grown should only get a half share each.

Huh? What is the legal scenario here? Who was cloned here, and what is their purported relationship with the person from whose cells they were cloned? If a couple, after reading my blog, and despite my physical appearance (or vice versa) decided that they wanted to create and raise a clone of me, there would be no legal relationship between me and him (or her). I'd like to think that they would need my permission, but as far as I know, there's no clear law against stealing a lock of my hair and doing so. That person would be a legal child of that couple, with nothing to do with me, unless some prior arrangement were made for it. We are completely separate legal persons. If I were to inherit something from someone, that clone would have no claim on the inheritance simply because (s)he shared my genome.

On the other hand, if I were to create and raise such a clone, it would be my legal child, and no more or less entitled to my inheritance from (say) my father than any other child of mine would be.

But granting (assuming that this is the line of thinking here) that a clone is somehow a second instantiation of the same person, with the same legal rights, it makes no sense to complain about both being entitled to only a "half share each" of an inheritance. How much more could it, or should they get? If there is a whole inheritance that must be split evenly (and thus "fairly") between two inheritors, how could each get any more than half? Do these people want to defy the laws of mathematics, or did they go to the Leo Blum school of accounting, in which he sold several thousand percent of a Broadway musical? Did the Reuters reporter give this statement any thought at all when writing it?

Expect a lot more confused argumentation, and reporting, as these technologies get closer to fruition. I think that it also points up the fact that people who were raised reading a lot of science fiction are both more familiar, and more comfortable with these concepts.

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 12, 2007 08:48 AM
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Blade Runner

Posted by Bill Maron at November 12, 2007 09:05 AM

Can't you just see it: thousands of clones bred for one purpose - to steal an election!

Posted by Andy Clark at November 12, 2007 09:11 AM

My primary concern about cloning human beings (whole ones, not individual parts) deal with the potential health problems. Perhaps they've made progress in the area but I recall reading that many of the earlier clones (like Dolly the sheep) had health problems such as premature aging. Until we can resolve that, we shouldn't be trying these experiments on humans, IMO.

When (not if) it happens, I hope there's no widespread opinion that clones are somehow "less than fully human". Humanity race doesn't have a very good track record of dealing with races that are deemed inferior for whatever absurd reason.

Posted by Larry J at November 12, 2007 09:57 AM

("OK, you can clone a mouse, but you can't clone a larger animal. OK, you can clone a sheep, but not a monkey.")

Since sheep were cloned before mice, I doubt anyone ever made the former claim.

When (not if) it happens, I hope there's no widespread opinion that clones are somehow "less than fully human".

I am absolutely certain such opinion will not be widespread in the US -- in part because Larry's concern about it IS extremely widespread, and often IMO is prematurely alarmist. As to how first cloned (South Korean? Japanese?) human will be perceived in places like Pakistan, or even Russia...

Posted by Ilya at November 12, 2007 11:08 AM

nice, if naive story on cloning and organ growing especially

Posted by kert at November 12, 2007 12:11 PM

Did the Reuters reporter give this statement any thought when writing it?

Obviously, no.

Posted by Ilya at November 12, 2007 12:33 PM

Your discussion of stealing hair and cloning it creates a rather unnerving scenario: Steal a lock of hair from Bill Gates' kid, or some other rich person's child; create a clone, and demand that the 'father' support 'my' child.

Posted by Aric at November 12, 2007 01:24 PM

Naaah, let's get some DNA from Temujin instead ...

Posted by Jay Manifold at November 12, 2007 03:44 PM

A clone is just an identical twin with a different birthday, and an identical twin is a clone born at the same time. One of my sisters is a clone of the other, although I've never been able to tell which was which.

It's not surprising that being born a few decades after the egg was fertilized - rather than 9 months - may result in genetic problems.

Posted by David D at November 12, 2007 06:44 PM

Could we create and grow clones specifically for purposes of fetal farming?

If personhood doesn't attach until birth, there's a variety of ghoulish systems that could be created to harvest organs and other yummies. And this Congress would likely be on board with all of it.

And as to the last point, Family Law is going to get a lot more interesting.

Posted by Joe Baby at November 12, 2007 06:49 PM

If and when humans are first cloned, the first question governments will ask is "can we clone exceptional intellegence". If the anwser turns out to be yes, then all bets are off re trying to outlaw cloning ... and we enter into a race to avoid a "brain gap". It is difficult to see where this would lead.

Posted by Paul P at November 12, 2007 09:17 PM

But granting (assuming that this is the line of thinking here) that a clone is somehow a second instantiation of the same person, with the same legal rights, it makes no sense to complain about both being entitled to only a "half share each" of an inheritance. How much more could it, or should they get? If there is a whole inheritance that must be split evenly (and thus "fairly") between two inheritors, how could each get any more than half? Do these people want to defy the laws of mathematics, or did they go to the Leo Blum school of accounting, in which he sold several thousand percent of a Broadway musical? Did the Reuters reporter give this statement any thought at all when writing it?

I'm a CPA with a fair amount of experience with estate taxes (and,consequently) estates. While I agree with you that the idea that inheritance law will become confused by cloning is pretty silly, I think you're missing the point of their concern.

You speak of an inheritance as if, before the clone came along, there was a single inheritance that amounted to 100%. Unless the clone was an only child,that's simply not the case.

Take my family,for instance. There is me and my two sisters. If my parents write a standard will they will probably give a few items to each child that they expect will have sentimental value to each of us and then distribute the remainder per stirpes. Basically this means that each child gets an equal share. Further, if one child is dead, we'd still divide the estate into thirds. The two living kids get their third and the remaining third is evenly divided between the children of the deceased child.

The scary scenario, I take it, that they're taking up is this, "What if my parents clone me and raise that child as their own?" If you accept the flawed reasoning that the clone has to be treated as if it were me, then how is the estate divided? Would we still divide the estate into thirds with my sisters each getting a third while my clone and I have to split our third? Or would we divide the estate into fourths?

As I said, I think the whole things pretty silly because the idea that the law will treat a person and their clone as each half a person for property law reasons is pretty silly. We already have people with identical DNA running around; we call them identical twins, triplets, etc. (I've never heard of more than 3 in a multiple birth being identical, but what do I know.)

The answer is pretty simple. Every state has laws on the books for determining who the legal parents of a child are. Typically, a child born to a married woman carries the presumption that the woman's husband is the father. The laws don't seem to have had much trouble figuring these things out with artificial insemination from sperm donors so I really don't see what the problem is.

If my parents have me cloned and the law treats the clone as their child at birth, that clone will have all the same rights that I have. That means, in my family, the right to share in the estate per stirpes and get 1/4th of the remainder.

If I had myself cloned and raised as my legal child, my clone would be entitled to nothing apart from specific bequests from my parents.

To make a long story short, while I agree the whole thing is pretty silly, if you accept the flawed concept that the clone might be treated as half of me, than the concern about how to divide inheritance actually makes a good deal of sense.

Posted by Jeffrey Collins at November 12, 2007 09:18 PM

Stealing a lock of your hair and making a clone? Would you be responsible for child support? If they stole semen from a man (ie raped him) he would be responsible for child support.

Posted by 3htgv8t712 at November 13, 2007 01:58 AM

Obviously when the first human is cloned, the first question asked will be from the person they were cloned from, and that question will be "Is the liver ready for transplant?"

Some people may be into the rights of clones and all that, but people like me will be laughing so hard our (transplanted from our clone) kidneys ache. No rights for clones, we brought them into this world and we can darn well take them out, piece by piece as needed.

/humour off/

Do people own thier genetic template? Some legal decisions have indicated that they do, so clones would belong to the person they were cloned from? Or perhaps the clones owe them a royalty for use of the template? Would the senior clone "inheirit" the template when the original died, or would it go into the public domain? Who owns dead peoples' genetic templates? Who do I have to pay a royalty to for a Ted Willams clone if I'm looking to start a baseball team? If I steal your DNA and make a clone of you, can you sue me for the clone, or do I just owe you a royalty?

What if the telomere? based rapid aging process observed in clones ( see Dolly) holds to be the case for human clones? Who has to take care of the clone with the body of a 76 year old Albert Einstein and the mind of a 2 year old?

In a similar vein, if the clones age real fast, what does one do if the brain develops too fast for the clone to go through the human mental development process as non-cloned humans do? They might be genetically human but they won't think like us born humans. Can we cisider them less than human because of this, or other than human?

From a legal perspective however, people are not identified as individuals on the basis of genetics. DNA might be used to identify (point towards) which individual you are looking for but it is not the defining charecteristic of individuals, else identical twins would be considered one person person. I am almost positive clones would be determined to be the legal 'child' of the person who perfomed/bought the cloning, although there might possibly be some claim on the person cloned advanced similar to that of an unacknowledged bastard it is unlikely to get anywhere in most jurisdictions.

Posted by one of many at November 13, 2007 02:30 AM

Although we don't like to think of it as such, the cross-cultural conception of family and especially the closeness of relation, derives from our degree of genetic relatedness. If I had to bet I would say that the law will eventually recognize clones as being the identical sibling of the original even if the clones was created in the role of a child.

I do remember the great flurry of ethical hand ringing back in early 80's when the first test tube babies were born. A lot of the debate had the same tenor as the cloning debate today. I suspect that people will freak out about the first human clone until they see it and then their response will be, "oh, its a baby."

I would support a ban on full fledged cloning (as opposed to cloning cells, tissues or organs) until all the bugs are worked out in primates. The risk of genetic damage in cloning is very high. It would be very irresponsible and cruel, on the level of intentionally exposing a fetus to teratogens, to create a clone using our current level of skill.

Posted by Shannon Love at November 13, 2007 06:16 AM

My concern about clones being considered somehow less than fully human originated in some on-line discussion several years ago. Some were arguing that clones wouldn't have a soul so they wouldn't be fully human. You could do whatever you wanted to with them. Setting aside the issue of whether anyone has a soul (I'll pay $1000 for scientific proof of the soul's existance), this line of "reasoning" has been used in the past as the basis for all sorts of evils (e.g. slavery and genocide). Like I wrote above, humanity doesn't have a good track record when it comes to dealing with races that are considered inferior or less than fully human. I don't want to see us making those mistakes again.

Posted by Larry J at November 13, 2007 07:14 AM

A simple solution to any ethical qualms about cloning for organs or other purposes, is the organism capable of thinking or live independently? If it's not "born" with a brain, then that settles the question, it's not nor can it be human, hence, we do not need to make ethical considerations on its behalf.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at November 13, 2007 09:10 AM

There seem to be a number of scenarios under which cloning will occur, and they all present difficult problems.

First, an adult couple may clone a son or daughter and raise the clone as a sibling of the existing child. This raises questions about the "reproductive" rights of the existing child. Is he/she in some sense the "parent" of the clone?

Second, an adult will clone him/herself. In this case, and in opposition to the first, now the person being cloned is deemed a parent rather than a sibling. But the only difference between this scenario and the first scenario is the age (or legal status) of the person being cloned. Should parentage depend on the age of the progenitor? And is it wise to bring children into the world who have only one biological "parent"?

Third, there's the possibility of acquiring a stranger's DNA -- perhaps a celebrity, for example -- and using it to create a clone. In this situation, people would be reproducing strangers who quite possibly do not wish to reproduce. This strikes me as something of a nightmare. Shouldn't Tiger Woods have the right to travel the world for the next 50 years without constantly encountering mini-Tigers everywhere he goes? And what about little Sam Woods, Tiger's daughter? Does she not have some psychological and social stake in the creation of an army of mini-Tigers?

Take it further: What if celebrities, athletes, genuises, models, etc., start making their DNA available for cloning on a commercial basis? What if this becomes a widespread phenomenon? Eventually decisions regarding reproduction would revolve less around "when?" and more around "who?" "We already have a Michael Jordan. This time, we're thinking about having a Natalie Portman." And if the real Ms. Portman should eventually turn into a nut job or a criminal, what might become of the hundreds or thousands of Natalie clones already out there? Would they be shunned as genetically defective? Should they? The prospect of creating "brands" of human beings, brands that may grow or wane in appeal in the way clothing fashions change from year to year, should be repugnant to a society that honors the uniqueness of every person.

People need to think through these kinds of scenarios before blithely proclaiming they have "no problem" with human cloning. This is truly a Pandora's Box.

Posted by Bob O at November 13, 2007 09:26 AM

A lot of this ethical confusion can be resolved fairly simply if you concentrate on who the 'parents' are.

A workable definition of parents might be: 'those who cause the child to be born and thus are responsible for it'.

Thus we see that the original person is not a parent in the legal sense, no more than a sperm bank donor is a parent of the children formed from his semen. No rights or responsibilities attach in respect to the legal status of the clone. He is also not automatically legally a brother to the clone unless the two people share legal parents.

As for the issue of possessing your own DNA: There should probably be an automatic copyright on your own DNA, using intellectual property rules. Thus creating a clone without your consent would be treated much like any other intangible property theft. But you don't get any legal rights with respect to the clone himself.

Just focus clearly on who the parents are to clear up most legal issues.

Posted by Ryan Waxx at November 13, 2007 10:29 AM

Ryan, why not make all the problems go away by defining human cloning as a crime against humanity? Why should we go down this road in the first place?

Posted by Bob O at November 13, 2007 11:21 AM

Wow, I'm half expecting some "Boys from Brazil" silliness.

I, for one, am in complete support of human cloning. I support this on two fronts; reproduction and healthcare.

It is my opinion that the right to reproduce is God given and no entity of man can deny my right. And I believe it is my right to utilize any technology that allows for my reproduction, provided it does not infringe the rights of others.

As a single man who's genuinely not interested in a relationship at this time in my life, but who is finacially, physically and mentally capable of caring for a child, cloning may be the only avenue I have availible to myself to reproduce without the strings and attachments of a partner.

From a healthcare perspective, cloning is a Godsend. We are quickly approaching the point where we can use cloning techniques to selectively regrow organs from a patient's own DNA, thus eliminating almost ever problem associated with organ transplant... organ rejection.

Yes, we do need to further research into the problems of the telomere and cloning, but that doesn't mean we should try.

Posted by Kevin at November 13, 2007 12:13 PM

Kevin: Insisting on reproduction without the "strings and attachments of a partner" is another way of saying you want to bring children into the world without a mother. You may consider it a convenience for you to experience child-rearing without the involvement of a mother, but it's rather inconvenient for the child, don't you think?

Posted by Bob O at November 13, 2007 02:47 PM

I tend to agree with David D.

The first thing I hope everyone can probably agree on is that a clone would be for all important "personhood" considerations the same as an identical twin.

The ramifications I see of that are currently as follows:

-If a clone is created and implanted in a woman's womb, and the woman brings the baby to full term and the baby is born, it's simply a baby with all normal rights (you can't kill after it's born; that would be murder). If, horror of horrors, infanticide becomes legal, it will be equally legal for clones or nonclones

-Issues of what is allowable to do with a clone before we have a born baby are the same issues that we have of what is allowable to do with all babies/embryos before birth. This is a contentious topic, but not a new one.

-Parenting is as Mr. Collins the CPA suggests and Ryan Waxx suggests. If you are the cause of the child, you are responsible for it. Naturally this will open occasional legal battles--"but I didn't cause the birth of this child! They made it when I told them not to!"--but we already have things like paternity suits, and ways for people to put children they can't or don't want to care for up for adoption.

-Additional technology may change things: What if we can start a clone, but get it to grow only as an organ--or grow without a brain. Is this moral to do? Does this allow us to grow replacement organs without

-Genetic modification is, in my opinion, scarier than cloning, but that's somewhat separate and, again, we've at least encountered some of those issues before in all the debate about eugenics.

Posted by Jeff Mauldin at November 13, 2007 03:11 PM

I'm cynical enough to believe that human clones have but one use: body parts.
Only a nine month wait and there's your new and identical, (as in a perfect match), liver/kidney/pancreas/spleen, whatever.
What's not to like?
And seeing as partial-birth abortions are now "old tech", it wouldn't even be considered murder.
Boy oh boy does this train of thought suck!

Posted by Pixelkiller at November 13, 2007 07:35 PM

Bob O: It could go the other way, a woman may have a child without the "strings and attachments of a partner". Would the equiv. question be fair in your mind? Would it be inconvenient to the child not to have a father?

That question aside, your logic actually is specious. You present the question as though it's a proven fact that a child with one parent IS automatically starting off with a handicap. That is not true. A single parent without the means to provide for that child aren't going to do the child any favors bringing them into the world, but a married couple without those means is just as bad.

And actually, from a financial stand point, Americans cannot afford to have a decreasing population. Our Social Security system is heavily dependent on each person having one or more people in the workforce to provide the tax revenue to sustain the system.

Posted by Kevin at November 13, 2007 09:49 PM

Clarification: I said, "Our Social Security system is heavily dependent on each person having one or more people in the workforce to provide the tax revenue to sustain the system."

I should have made that clearer, by saying, "Our Social Security system is heavily dependent on each RETIREE having one or more people in the workforce to provide the tax revenue to sustain the system."

Posted by Kevin at November 14, 2007 07:21 AM

Kevin: Yes, children who are born without one or both parents are certainly at a disadvantage in comparison to those born into a two-parent family. (This is of course speaking in general. I'm sure there are loads of examples of where a child would have been better off without a particular parent.)

And I wasn't referring so much to the economic pressures facing single parents, although that is an important practical consideration as well. Primarily I was referring to the psychological, nurturing, role-modeling benefits of a two-parent household.

I don't think as a society we should be looking for new ways to facilitate single-parent homes.

Posted by Bob O at November 14, 2007 09:31 AM

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