A Clone by Any Other Name, Part 2

A Clone by Any Other Name, Part 2

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Now, what is the purpose behind eugenics? It is the preserving and perpetuation of the status quo. That may seem somewhat counterintuitive since the purported goal of eugenics is a “perfection” of the human state. Yes, but whose human state? And whose perfection? Who benefits from the perfection of anybody’s human state? For eugenics means true breeding in two senses: (1) consistent and (2) even better or purer. In other words, it does not simply mean that people like plants or animals ought to breed true, such that workers produce the best workers, that intellectuals produce the best intellectuals, and that class is passed on to class as misery is handed onto man. No, eugenics does not simply mean that will one be as good a smith or glazier as one’s father; rather, one will be genetically designed to be even better or even truer. One will be bred to be a better specimen. Furthermore, in what is probably the one country in the world where there is some possibility of social mobility in virtue of something called democracy, the introduction of eugenics provides a (pseudo-)scientific (non-)reason for stymieing, in the name of progress, social change. And, if nothing else, the example of Nazi Germany should have shown us that, given the right kind of government support, eugenics–from the selective breeding of the Lebensborn program to the selective elimination of certain populations as in the “final solution”–is really rather effective.

It works because whenever we can be persuaded to see the other as wholly other, we fall prey to our inherent feelings of superiority and thus render the other inherently lesser. We create this category of the lesser human: the category of sub-human. And one of the primary illusory criteria brought forth at this juncture is the notion that this subhuman group is somehow more animal, less truly human. Consider once again our view of those who engage in ethnic cleansing: we hate them because they are acting like animals. But, alas, this is untrue. Ethnic cleansers are not acting like animals; no animal engages in concerted intraspecific predation. Rather, these ethnic cleansers are acting humanly, like humans, perchance not humanely, but that is a different issue. And what interests me is the fact that we declare that we hate such humans in virtue of their animality when, in fact, we rarely do hate the animals that we kill for our various human needs and desires. In fact, it is the good hunter who admires the animal he or she is pursuing.[3]  But regardless of whether it is predator or prey that we consider animal, the fact is that we can achieve a sense of moral justification in considering any human animal-like and hence sub-human. And there is no moral justification for this slide. Eo ipso, there can also be any moral justification for this move. And there will be.

It ought to go without saying that human cloning will eventually give rise to the mass cloning of human beings as either subclasses with particular specialties or simply as a class of subhumans. Of course, the flip side to this is that a class of superhumans-uebermenschen or ueberklonern-will no doubt also be created. What inIndia exists as a caste system in virtue of religion will come to the Western world as a pragmatic venture in virtue of scientific advances and pseudo-scientific justifications. In other words, my contention is that this desire to clone by class will happen for reasons completely independent of technology. It will happen because it is human nature to make it happen. It will happen because humans operate under the delusion that progress in technology is somehow an indicator of a similar progress in human evolution. And this is not the case.

To be post-modernly philosophical and adapt an outdated observation from biology to the development of the human psyche, it would seem that it is in the realm of spiritual development, and not in that of physical development, that Von Baer’s law holds true: namely, that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. In other words, not merely every individual but also every generation has to discover the nature of human existence for itself. And note that I say discover, not re-discover, for the obvious salient fact about history is that it is always repeated regardless of whether one studies it or not. To make matters even more complex, technology persists, since its evolution is time-specific and its development timeless, and so each generation must discover the value of a particular technology for itself.

Moreover, history shows us that the dehumanization of our fellow human beings is an ever-present pastime. And if we dehumanize our “equally created”, naturally produced fellows, the slope need not even be lubricated in order to lead to the dehumanization of our “differently created” cloned fellows. And since this will to dehumanization seems to be either inherent or inevitable in human life, let us look at three possible outcomes of this will: namely, cloning and slavery, cloning and designer humans, and cloning and organ harvesting.

Cloning and slavery

The practice of slavery is as old, if not older, than the practice of genocide. (The defeated enemy being more useful as a source of labor than as a source of putrefaction). Despite the efforts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the business of slavery still exists in the world. Not merely the slavery of humans bought and sold as property or the slavery that results when one people group is defeated in war by another, there is also the slavery resulting from social injustice. Whether we are talking of young girls sold by their families to brothels or illegal aliens selling themselves in virtue of “brazos, brazos”, we are still talking about people whose human value in the market is nothing more than their bodies or their body parts. In other words, their human worth is established as a bodily one in and through the marketplace, and their personal freedom is diminished in virtue of their being nothing more than warm bodies, for their worth has been determined through what would traditionally be considered the most animal or animal-like aspect of human nature: the body. And it is the body that is cloned in human cloning, not the other more esoteric aspects of human existence.

Thus, where cloned human beings are viewed as nothing more than replicated bodies, their creation to slavery would almost be redundant. It would certainly be readily justified. Unless, of course, what Leibniz says holds true: namely, that even two absolutely identical things, if they exist in different times and/or in different spaces are essentially different things. In other words, one might advance the interesting notion that while a human being might be cloned, there is no such thing as a human clone. This would be analogous to the notion that while identical twins may be genetically indistinguishable, they are not experientially interchangeable; nor are they two exemplars of the same person, but rather two persons, each in his or her own right.

Cloning and Designer Humans

Will the technology of cloning result in the attempt to create designer human beings? Indeed, it will. Will some parents take advantage of this new technology to design and improve and “tweak with” their children? Absolutely. And will this be a terrible infringement on the rights of the child? No, of course not.

Again, it is basal human nature to want to ensure or to create the best possible opportunities for one’s child as one as a parent understands these opportunities qua advantages. But I can also assure you that how the parent understands the nature of these advantages will not be the same as the child’s understanding of said “advantages”.  I suspect that in the end, there is no advantage of technology that a parent can bestow upon a child that cannot be undermined by a healthy dose of teenage rebellion. Just as perfect orthodontics can be destroyed in one split second of a hockey game, the advantages of perfect genetics can be lost forever in one torrid embrace in the backseat of a car or with one well-placed tattoo. The best planned lays of mice and men oft do gang a-glee! And in this we should take hope. And I do not say this flippantly. I say this quite seriously.

Will planned parenting in its strongest sense lead to the production of many individuals who are all alike? Yes, for a while.  But fashions change. And a new generation of look-alikes will replace a previous genetic fashion. For example, the aquiline nose so popular in 2080 might not be that popular in 2130. Hence, in several hundred years, maybe our great-great-great grandchildren may well be able to guess the age of someone by merely describing their physiognomy just as we can hazard the same guess given someone’s name, for there are not many women under the age of fifty named Vera or over the age of fifty named Heather. Thus, technology will only enhance the creative power of parents to determine who and what their children are; it will, however, remain impossible to control completely with whom those children share an perhaps expensively purchased and technologically crafted genetic heritage.

Cloning and Organ Harvesting

This is probably the most curious of the problems with cloning because to function most effectively as an organ donor it really would be necessary to clone a human being as a body only and not as a person. In other words, the creation of a perfect genetic clone with maximal bodily health and minimal brain function would be the most desired organ donor, for one can only harvest from the non-conscious.

The most effective method would be, I believe, the cloning of an embryo shortly after conception. To this secondary or cloned embryo, neural suppressors would be administered in order to promote vegetative function but diminish or eliminate entirely cortical function. That is to say, the goal would be to create human life without human consciousness.

Does such an undertaking have any precedents in human history? Alas, yes. The brainwashing of the religious fanatic, the indoctrination of the suicide bomber, and the drug-induced haze of the original assassins are all examples of a deliberate diminishment of consciousness in virtue of a higher and self-destructive goal. However, the cloned human being mentioned above has no choice in the matter. And here is where the rubber meets the road philosophically.

But I suspect that technology will solve this problem before philosophy has had time to phrase the question properly. The ability to return a somatic cell to totipotency will no doubt be eventually honed to the point of being able to return a cell to something like pluripotency and even hemipotency-where the partial expression of the cell’s genes will allow the cloning or reproduction of an organ without the need to clone the rest of the body as a form of advanced tissue culture. Perhaps at birth, an organ bank for the individual will be created against the day when the organs might be needed, just as people pre-donate blood for a surgery.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a profound philosophical dictum concerning the nature of nature:

“Nature has no rules, it has no rules at all. Every time you think there’s a rule for nature, it goes, ‘No, no, I’m outta here’. If we take the planet out, if we blow this earth to death, we’re gone, nothing. Nature will go, ‘I’m back!'”[4]

And, yes, after we are dead and buried, returned to dust like the relics of the dinosaurs, nature will go on.

And this is the fact that scares us the most.


3 One of the best examples of this honoring of the hunted by the hunter is found in the film “JurassicPark” where the African game hunter, when confronted by the duplicity of the velociraptor triadic hunting technique and thus facing his own demise, has the wherewithal to utter “Clever girl” before succumbing to that lovely, razor-sharp foreclaw.

4 Robin Williams, “A Night at the Met”, Columbia Records, CBS Inc.,NewYork,NY, 1986.