Biblical Ethics, Biotechnology, And Human Cloning -- By: Robert Myrant

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 03:2 (Fall 1999)
Article: Biblical Ethics, Biotechnology, And Human Cloning
Author: Robert Myrant

Biblical Ethics, Biotechnology, And Human Cloning

Robert Myrant

Adjunct Professor, Baptist Bible Seminary
Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

Keith Campbell wasn’t thinking about rooms full of human clones silently growing spare parts for the person from whom they had been copied. Nor was he thinking about giving lesbians a way to bear a biological descendent without visiting the sperm bank. And he certainly wasn’t aiming to give professional ball team owners a tool to copy their greatest players, hospitals their best doctors, or parents their dying child. Campbell, a cell biologist at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, was thinking…sheep; lots of sheep, hills filled with sheep, enough sheep to put all the insomniacs in Scotland to sleep and all produced from a single cell of a single ewe. The birth of Dolly was heard around the world. The first mammal ever cloned from a single adult cell, she was living proof that scientists had solved one of the most challenging problems of cell biology. Her existence raises a troubling question: can humans, too, be cloned?

From the perspective of biblical ethics, as well as in practical matters, cloning has much in common with artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization. Genetic engineering is also rather closely related.

Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering deals with genes. The Reader’s Digest Greater Encyclopedic Dictionary defines a gene as one of the complex protein molecules associated with the chromosomes of reproductive cells and acting, as a unit, or in various biochemically determined combinations, in the transmission of specific hereditary characteristics from parents to offspring.

Genetic engineering refers to a wide range of procedures for changing the genetic material in the DNA code of a living organism. This code contains all the information, stored in a long

chain chemical molecule, which determines the nature of the organism whether it is an amoeba, a pine tree, a robin, an octopus, a cow, or a human being—and which characterizes the particular individual. Individual genes are particular sections of this chain, spaced out along it, which determine the characteristics and functions of our body.

Lester and Bohlin, in their book The Natural Limits of Biological Change, have additional technical descriptions of the state of DNA research as of 1989 for those desiring greater detail. ‘Gene splicing’ is a colloquialism for genetic engineering. It has also been called ‘gene therapy’ in respect to possible use for therapeutic purposes. Genetic changes in somatic cells die with the individual. Genetic ch...

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