To clone or not to clone

To Clone or Not to Clone
by Michael Spencer

The first point I want to make is someone tell this Italian doctor to please not clone himself, because he looks like a casting mistake in a Peter Sellers movie. Or a Dr. Evil wannabe. Or a guy who always wanted to be the villain in a Bond Movie. Oh, just call MST3K and I’ll move on.

After all the clone jokes the last twenty years, and the sweet pictures of Dolly the sheep and her friends, it seems a shame to actually have to think seriously about this subject. But it gives a great excuse for using all those cool “clone” headlines journalists have been saving up. “Send in the Clones.” “Cloning Around.” “Revenge of the Clones.” (Psssst. George Lucas??? Really? You’re kidding?)

Ok. Seriously. I am not a fan of the anti-scientific bent of Christian fundamentalism, of which I am still a reluctant and honorary member. The Scopes trial still bothers me. Heck, the Galileo thing really bothers me. People who think the internet is the anti-Christ bother me. Young earthers don’t bother me until they start saying the age of the universe in light years is just an illusion arranged by God to make it all look old. Then that bothers me.

Of course, science bothers me a lot worse than religion. Oh, I know Carl Sagan and others wrote lots of scary stuff about how religion and superstition were going to take us back to the dark ages and deprive our children of great scientific and technological achievements, but I think they were smoking way too much (experimental) weed with that point of view. You want the dark ages? Let scientists have their way. Once they get rolling, these guys make the inquisition look like a company picnic. And humility, a nice quality to have when you are playing God, seems sadly lacking.

Here’s my case in a sentence: Scientific knowledge is way out ahead of our knowledge of what is moral, good and best. Way out. Waaaaaay out. Out of sight out. We can do all kinds of things that we do not have the morality, wisdom or decency to handle right now. So you know what? I don’t trust scientists to take over the direction of the human species. They are smart, but they are not good or wise, and cloning needs wisdom, not knowldege. A simple case in point.

Science cannot tell us what is a human being. The anthropologists don’t know. The biologists don’t know. The experts in language and thinking don’t know. Are we animals? Are we just accidental arrangements of molecules? Are we different from bugs and dogs? Are we primates? Alien creations? Psychologists, who are the high priests of science, cannot define what the “mind” is. That’s right. They can’t decide if the mind is matter or energy or both or neither. They can’t decide if the mind and the brain are the same thing. They will fix yours, of course, if you let them. Ha!

Science has medicated a generation of seventh graders because they don’t like sitting in school for hours. Science has convinced thousands of young people that milk causes mental illness. Science has experimented with black people and Jewish people and women and children like lab animals, and apologized later, of course. Science has told us the universe is steady, expanding, both, neither. Science has said O.J. was innocent and the Menendez boys were defending themselves. Science has lied about the environment, pollution and population population. Science has concluded everything causes cancer if shot into mice in massive does. Science has concluded Bill Clinton’s behavior is because two strong women argued over him. Science has said there is a gay gene. Science has found life on Mars in rocks on earth and then said whoops. Unshakable, unchallengeable, scientific conclusions are overturned everyday.

Science is, to be blunt, much less of a princess and much more of a, (ahemmm) prostitute than you might think. Science is for rent. Science is political, ideological and highly biased. Science is out to make a profit and enrich scientists. Science is about universities getting money and reputation. Science is, like the rest of us, fallen, broken and imperfect. Does it bother you that President Bush might not be the smartest cookie in the jar? Well, what would be happening if we had a smart guy like Al Gore letting scientists run this cloning thing? Two hundred Al Gores!!

So, please, don’t let these guys start cloning. Not yet. Not just to see if 200 Italian women can do it like some sort of Olympic event. (“The Gold medal in cloning goes to…Italy!!!)

I know all the great stuff science has done. Yes, I know that science is self-correcting. I know that science works for the best interests of everyone in the long-term, even if it has trouble in the short term. I do not doubt that there will be a time and a place when some kind of cloning may be appropriate and even good. But for now, No. Not now.

We have not reached the Golden Age where our knowledge and our goodness are one and the same. No, we have the knowledge to put little musical tones on cel phones, but we aren’t moral enough to abstain from using them in public. We have the knowledge to make cheap and easy to use computers so we can all play minesweeper at our jobs all day. We have the knowledge to create the internet so every nursery can have porn on demand. We have the knowledge to go to Mars, but we aren’t wise enough to get all the Democrats on the space ship.

Look. All these cloning related issues come down to this: we need to go very, very, very slowly. Science hates to wait for us to catch up, but now is the time to do exactly that. We need to work slowly at this technology so that everyone understands the value, the rewards, the risks and the opportunities. We shouldn’t be knee jerk prohibitionists on research that could cure major human problems. But we cannot afford to cross the line into areas of technology where human greed and arrogance can cause such havoc. (“Honey, let’s go get one of them clones.)

Sci-fi writers have been telling us for years that the advent of a new kind of human being would create enormous social and personal problems for our human culture. They were right, but we are reluctant to abstain from doing what we can do if we simply want to. This is the time to say “We can, but we won’t. At least, not now.”

And if that saves the world from Dr. Evil and his army of Italian clones, it will be a good thing.

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