Philosophy with Attitude


On the flip side

TNH Columnist

Do you remember the scene in Stephen King's Pet Semetery where Louis's son Gage, who'd been run over by a Mac truck days before, comes back from the dead and kills his next door neighbor with a scalpel? Here's a more recent example: Remember that X-Files episode a couple of weeks ago when a man whom Mulder and Scully though was dead was actually alive (sort of) and avenging his own death by killing the teenagers who murdered him? Or, for you older folks: Remember the Stepford Wives?

At the news that a lamb - appropriately named Dolly - had been cloned by a group of scientists in Scotland seven months ago, my mind fitted to these and other such horrific images. True, Dolly is not a creature who has been brought back from the dead. What each of the above examples has in common, however, is the presence of a duplicate, a match, a Doppelganger of another - an original. They are clones. Dolly is a clone. Therefore, forgive me if I cannot help but imagine a Boston Globe headline three months from now that reads, "Cloned Lamb revealed to be Evil Incarnation Of Parent." If you think I am overreacting, do not come knocking at my door when you are running for your life from a wild-eyed lamb brandishing a machete and baa-ing like a mad sheep. I will not open it.

I probably would not be so paranoid about this new cloning technology if Big Brother were not acting to paranoid himself. It has been recently revealed that two cloned monkeys were "born" last summer in Washington State; yet we are just finding out this now. Coincidence? I think not. I can understand if the cloners wanted to be sure that their monkey-cloning experiment was successful before making it public knowledge. But what if they intended to keep their cloned monkeys a secret, all the while attempting to clone human beings in the wee hours of the morning, long after everyone had gone home? Smuggling unsuspecting men and women (thinking they were going to get a flu shot) into the cloning lab through an untraceable underground tunnel? Can anyone be sure they are not doing precisely that this very moment?

All right. So "they" may not yet be trying to clone humans (though I'd tie myself to the bed before falling asleep if I were you). What if they successfully did clone a human? We have no laws protecting the rights of clones, or even for creating guidelines for those who clone. Would clones be second-class citizens? Would humans be able to store them in their linen closets, waiting for the opportunity to trade livers, or eyes, or individual fingers with their clones? Would we be able send them into work when we felt like sitting in front of the television all day watching reruns of Three's Company? Would there be commercials for the radio selling the opportunity to create a clone of oneself ("Need a fourth for poker? Want to get away from your loved ones for awhile without his knowing?") Would we have Clone Rights Marches in Washington?

Some clone enthusiasts argue that by cloning, we can save the world through creating cures for disease and manufacturing food such as beef or pork or chicken. That sounds nice, but who would want to eat cloned meat? Sure, it's technically the same, but I would bet $1000 we'd want to keep the real food for ourselves and save the cloned stuff for "everyone else." Furthermore, what clone, with all the intelligence and emotional capacity of a human, would want to be a guinea pig for drug experiments?

And, we must not forget, there is always the possibility of creating a mutant clone - a monster. As has been proven many times over, medical technology is not infallible. There exists very real potential for our lives to turn into a Stephen King novel or an X-Files episode. Are we ready to deal with the likelihood of such a nightmare? A murderous lamb is one thing; a gaggle of ballistic human freaks is another. I, for one, am not yet up for the challenge - at least, not until I change the locks on my doors.

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