Are we ready to open pandora's box?

Posted: Jan 07, 2003 12:00 AM
The spaced out Rael cult, which believes that humans derived from saucer flying aliens, recently announced that it has successfully cloned the first human being. According to Bridgitte Bosselier, the geneticist who heads the cult's cloning lab, the clone, named "Eve" is a genetic copy of a 31-year-old woman. And four more clones are on the way, two of which are carbon copies of dead babies. Other groups have also claimed to harvest human clones inside of female wombs. The Raelians reportedly used the same techniques that birthed the world's first animal clone, a sheep named Dolly, in 1996. More recently, a group of scientists from the international Human Genome Project and Celera Genomics announced that they had unraveled the genome map: a genetic diagram of human existence. "We have caught a glimpse of an instruction book previously known only to God," proclaimed the project's leader, Dr. Francis Collins, at the time. With these words, genetic scientists took their place alongside God. No doubt they regarded this as progress. After all, man has always defined himself by his ability to assert his will upon nature. From the oracles of ancient Greece to Freud's attempt to interpret our dreams, man has always attempted to gain control over his destiny. Now groups of Dr. Frankenstein wannabe's are taking this hubris to its logical conclusion - the harvesting of humans. According to the Rael cult's press conference, the genetic cloning occurred at a secret lab at an undisclosed location. They say proof will be forthcoming. Perhaps they are lying. Hundreds of women volunteered to rent out their wombs when the cult first announced their intention to clone humans. One midwestern couple paid $500,000 to the cult's cloning company, Connaid, for the chance to recreate their deceased daughter. Connaid had previously announced its intention to clone babies for homosexual couples. It could be that the cult is taking advantage of these people's desperate desire to duplicate their loved ones in order to bilk them out of millions of dollars. On the other hand, the cloning technology already exists. And the Raelian cult, which has 50,000 members in 85 countries, has enough money to corral some of the world's top geneticists. If not the Raelians, then someone else will inevitably be making human clones soon. The implications are frightening. Attempts to clone the world's first animal were fraught with error. Most of the test subjects died. Others developed chronic diseases and disorders, some of which did not become apparent until months or years after they were created. Subjecting humans to the same cloning procedure would amount to using babies as guinea pigs. That is appalling. But in man's quest to control his destiny, he continues to act out his will to be God. Such impulses tend to bring out the worst in people. Exhibit A: the Nazi's, who routinely experimented with human subjects. In strictly pragmatic terms, their results were a triumph of science. In terms of moral consequences, their experiments formed this century's most frightful travesty of human dignity. On such maters, there should be no room for compromise. Science can never be allowed to supercede the sanctity of human life. The practice of human cloning also opens the Pandora's box of genetic engineering. Would one's worth be determined before birth, based on the combination of one's genes? Would this in turn give rise to genetic discrimination, from individuals as well as insurance companies? How would it affect a clone's sense of self to know that he was created simply to gratify a parent's memory of their deceased child? Could such a person ever truly feel a part of the family? Of society? In such a manner, human cloning could outpace our social policy and rip traditional familial bonds to shreds. These are tough questions. Yet the geneticists don't mind burrowing straight into them. The result is to advance science well beyond our ability to keep pace morally, and to invite disaster.