An Ethical Perspective on Human Cloning: Reproduction, Therapy, and Idolatry -- By: Mark D. Liederbach

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 24:1 (Fall 2006)
Article: An Ethical Perspective on Human Cloning: Reproduction, Therapy, and Idolatry
Author: Mark D. Liederbach

An Ethical Perspective on Human Cloning:
Reproduction, Therapy, and Idolatry

Mark D. Liederbach

Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

The Issue

Ian Wilmut and the Roslin Institute’s 1997 announcement that they had cloned the first large mammal (Dolly the sheep) pushed the topic of cloning to the forefront of ethical discussion around the world. The reason for this was, of course, because the cloning of a sheep demonstrated that basic techniques for cloning other large mammals (i.e., humans) were now demonstrably in place. Logistical questions regarding cloning shifted away from whether humans could be cloned to when it would be done and who would be the first to accomplish it. The moral question, however, did not change, it simply became more urgent. Is it or is it not morally justifiable to clone a human being? The answers given are many and varied.

For example, Severino Antinori, a reproductive technology specialist who plans on producing the first human (baby) clone, places the pragmatic possibilities foremost in his ethical evaluation when he comments: “Cloning may be considered as the last frontier to overcome male sterility and give the possibility to infertile males to pass on their genetic pattern.”1 Ann Northrop, previously a writer for the now-defunct LGNY (a lesbian-and-gay newspaper in New York), argues the issue in terms of communal protection and reproductive “rights” when she comments:

In a time when we’re afraid that discovery of a genetic basis [for homosexuality] would lead to people aborting us, cloning would be a way of surviving….This has the potential of giving women complete control over reproduction ... a stunning possibility that could, carried to its logical extreme, eliminate men altogether.2

She later went on to comment: “If cloning is, in fact, true, men are going to have a hard time justifying their existence on the planet... . Essentially, this is sort of the final nail in men’s coffins.”3

On the other side of the spectrum, Pope John Paul IPs perspective places emphasis not on potential results but on the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the person that is the embryo in question.

Methods [of artificial reproduction—such as cloning] that fail to respect the dignity and value of the person must always be avoided. I am thinking in particular of attempts at human cloning with a vie...

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