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Cloning Debate Multiplies

From Catholic bishops to a UFO-related organization to dedicated scientists and concerned ethicists, the debate on cloning has many players.

As a congressional subcommittee heard testimony this week on whether America is ready to enter the controversial world of human cloning, various proponents and opponents of the widely criticized scientific procedure have elbowed their way into the national spotlight.

Panos Zavos, an in vitro fertilization specialist, has teamed with Italian doctor Severino Antinori to provide infertile couples with children who are clones of either parent, according to a March 28 New York Times article.

Another frontrunner in the human cloning race is a religious group called the Rael movement and their company, CLONAID. Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist and leader of the self-proclaimed largest UFO-related organization, wants to offer infertile couples and others a way to have children.

In a March 28 CNN.com article, Boisselier, whose religious group believes life on Earth was genetically engineered by extraterrestrial beings, said 50 members of the movement have already volunteered to carry the clone of a dead 10-month-old boy.

Both Zavos and Boisselier testified before the congressional committee on Wednesday.

The human cloning question has also garnered opposition from other scientists and religious leaders.

"It is not responsible at this stage to even consider the cloning of humans," Rudolf Jaenisch, a biologist at MIT who has cloned mice, told CNN.com. Jaenisch was one of many scientists who testified before the House committee, arguing that human cloning is not safe at this time.

Since Scottish researchers cloned a sheep named Dolly in 1997, scientists have managed to clone worms, mice and cattle using the same methods. However, the failure rate has been alarmingly high at 98 percent, according to ABCNEWS.com.

In cloning, the genetic material from an unfertilized egg is removed and replaced with the DNA of the animal to be cloned. The egg is stimulated to begin cell division through electric shock and is then implanted into a surrogate who carries it to term.

Ron Green, an ethicist and religion professor at Dartmouth, told ABCNEWS.com "cloning is a hit-or-miss affair right now."

The Catholic Church has also taken a firm stand against human cloning.

CNN.com quoted Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the John Paul II Institute for Bioethics, who said human cloning raised profoundly disturbing ethical issues. Human cloning has also been labeled "grotesque" by the Vatican.

On Jan. 22, Britain became the first country to legalize the cloning of human embryos, and the United States could follow suit in the coming years as the issue becomes the topic of further discussion.

The United States does not have an outright ban on human cloning, although four states have banned it.

USA TODAY reported in a March 29 article that the congressional committee will push a bill to ban human cloning within weeks.

President Bush expressed his support for a law that would ban human cloning, according to a March 29 Washington Post article.

"The president believes that no research--no research--to create a human being should take place in the United States," White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, told the Post.

Jodi Mathews is the communications director for the BCE.

 

Moral Arguments on Cloning

Ethics and science are at ground zero of human cloning.

Earlier this year, an ethicist and scientist examined three moral arguments related to human cloning in a column on the MSNBC Web site.

The ethicist is Glenn McGee, editor of The Human Cloning Debate. He is also the Breaking Bioethics columnist for MSNBC.com. He serves on the staff of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and has written for BCE.

The scientist is Ian Wilmut, the Scottish biologist who in 1997 successfully cloned Dolly the sheep.

McGee and Wilmut explored human cloning through three different human reproduction models: the reproductive freedom model; the pediatric model; and the adoption model.

The reproductive model relates to "the right to choose one’s progeny." It is the right to reproductive freedom without state interference.

"The central tenet of reproductive freedom is the fairly obvious fact that the reproductive life is central to self-identity, flourishing, and free expression more generally for individuals and families," they wrote.

Advocates of this model hold that it would be discriminatory and inappropriate for the government to restrict human cloning for individuals and families who are infertile.

Unlike the reproductive model, the pediatric model focuses on society’s responsibility to care for children, not the rights of procreators.

"Parents ought not expose future children to the sorts of hazards experienced by the first offspring in animal human cloning experiments," McGee and Wilmut wrote.

"The litmus test for human cloning, from the pediatric perspective, is the interest of the clone," they wrote. "If it can be argued that the human child born through a new reproductive technology will be significant[ly] imperiled in a preventive way, those who argue for the interest of the clone will hold that the procedure was unwarranted."

McGee and Wilmut argued that "neither the pediatric nor reproductive rights model speaks to the question of how to regulate or debate human reproductive technology."

The adoption model recognizes the reproductive rights of parents and the responsibility to protect children, even future children. This model "can move the debate about cloning and new reproductive technologies from its present, highly politicized rancor into a more constructive arena in which interdisciplinary and bipartisan consensus may be possible."

Since the process of adoption is a unique way to enter a family (as cloning would be), McGee and Wilmut maintain that this model "gives communal imprimatur to the creation of a family."

While McGee and Wilmut support a "short-term ban on clinical human cloning," their concern in the article was "to argue for a way in which human cloning restrictions might take shape."

Robert Parham is BCE’s executive director.

Welcome to the Raelian Revolution

Religious folk of nearly every stripe have something to say about cloning.

The Raelian Movement is no exception.

Founded by a Frenchman named Claude Vorilhon, the Raelian Movement is "the world’s largest UFO related, non-profit organisation," according to rael.org.

Raelians believe "life on earth was created scientifically in laboratories by extraterrestrials whose name (ELOHIM) is found in the Hebrew Bible and was mistranslated by the word ‘God.’"

Vorilhon claims an alien life form visited him in 1973. The alien gave him a new name, "Rael," and explained how the human race originated with the ELOHIM in a process that may be termed "scientific creationism."

"We were the ones who made all life on earth, [but] you mistook us for gods," the alien allegedly told Rael. "We were at the origin of your main religions, [and] now that you are mature enough to understand this, we would like to enter official contact through an embassy."

So Raelians are working to establish an embassy so the ELOHIM can return.

Rael’s alleged message from the alien is dramatized at rael.org through an introductory animation. The world, as seen from outer space, is visited by an alien craft. From this slick pod the signs of the world’s major religions are jettisoned--the cross, the Star of David, the yin-yang and the crescent moon.

Raelians also believe the resurrection of Christ was an ambitious cloning experiment performed by the ELOHIM.

The Raelian site currently includes a link to the "Declaration in Defence of Cloning and the Integrity of Scientific Research," a document signed by the world’s top scientists.

Rael and a group of investors launched a service called CLONAID in 1997, "the first company in the world to offer a human cloning service," according to clonaid.com.

"CLONAID’s funding--reportedly $200,000--comes from an American couple who wish to clone their dead 10-month-old son, who died during a botched hospital surgery," reported ABCNEWS.com. "Some of his genes were frozen before he died."

Brigitte Boisselier, CLONAID’s scientific director, told CNN.com that 50 Raelians have already volunteered to carry the clone of the dead boy.

Boisselier said in a March 29 USA TODAY article that CLONAID plans to perform its first implantation experiment by mid-April.

"Who, today, would be scandalized to the idea of bringing back to life a 10-month old child who died accidentally?" said Boisselier at clonaid.com. "The technology allows it, the parents desire it, and I don’t see any ethical problems."

Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.

;-) Visit the Raelian Revolution at http://www.rael.org/

 


 

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