But before we get to the "not" part, I want to give Mr. Easterbrook his props, because he makes several good points, including often overlooked ones, and he attempts to respond to those with an opposing view by attempting to address their arguments in a fair and evenhanded manner.
So let's take a look at what he has to say and try to sort the wheat from the chaff . . .
Human clones, it is widely assumed, would be monstrous perversions of nature. Yet chances are, you already know one. Indeed, you may know several and even have dated a clone. They walk among us in the form of identical twins: people who share exact sets of DNA.
Yes! This is a point people often overlook. Human clones already exist, and the answer to many of the things people wonder about clones (e.g., would they have souls, can you baptize them, etc.) can be answered just by asking the same question about identical twins. "Clone" just means "genetically identical individual." Clones are not mysterious, alien, science-fictiony creatures. In fact, the thing that makes a clone a clone is its sameness, not its differentness. And for whatever reason (reasons we don't have a good grasp on), human pregnancies sometimes result in two or more genetically identical individuals.
Such twins almost always look alike and often have similar quirks. But their minds, experiences, and personalities are different, and no one supposes they are less than fully human. And if identical twins are fully human, wouldn't cloned people be as well?
Suppose scientists could create a clone from an adult human: It would probably be more distinct from its predecessor than most identical twins are from each other. A clone from a grown-up would have the same DNA but would come into the world as a gurgling baby, not an instant adult, as in sci-fi. The clone would go through childhood and adolescence with the same life-shaping unpredictability as any kid.
Yah, though I'm not quite sure what is meant by "more distinct from its predecessor than most identical twins." I suppose what is meant is that a clone would have a life history that is more different from the life history of the original than the life histories of two identical twins. While I agree that that much may be true, I don't see how that results in "more distinct" individuals. Indeed, any time in the near future reproductive cloning will be used by very rich people who want "Mini-Me"s that they can creepily raise to inherit the corporation, and the clones will be steered down paths that nudge them in the direction of being "just like Dad."
The eminent University of Chicago ethicist Leon Kass has argued that human cloning would be offensive in part because the clone would "not be fully a surprise to the world." True, but what child is? Almost all share physical traits and mannerisms with their parents. By having different experiences than their parents (er, parent) and developing their own personalities, clones would become distinct individuals with the same originality and dignity as identical twins—or anyone else.
I'm not familiar with Leon Kass's work, and despite the conjunction of the words "university" and "ethicist"–which is a high-reliability marker for "rationalizer of dehumanization"–it's heartening to hear of a university ethicist objecting to human cloning.
Nevertheless, I don't find Kass's argument–at least in the micro-form in which Easterbrook presents it–to be persuasive.
On the other hand, while I agree that a normal child is not a total surprise to the world, and that total surprise is not a sine qua non of human reproduction, I don't buy at all the idea that developing one's own personality is needed for one to have human dignity (like "identical twins–or anyone else"). Dignity is something you have by virtue of being human. You don't have to grow or develop to have it. It's one of the standard features we come with from the factory, and mor
al principle requires it to be respected rather than disrespected.
Cloning does the latter by imposing on a child the disordered genetic will to power of a particular individual.
Others argue that cloning is "unnatural."
It is unnatural, but we have to be careful here what we mean by "nature." We've already seen that nature (meaning, the natural world) produces human clones in the form of twins. That's as may be, but the kind of nature we are concerned about in moral discussions is not the physical or empirical world but the moral principles that can be discerned by reflection on human nature. That's what natural law reasoning is all about (cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor).
Unfortunately, Easterbrook takes a serious misstep here, and his argument thus goes off track due to an inaccurate or inapplicable conception of nature.
But nature wants us to pass on our genes; if cloning assists in that effort, nature would not be offended.
"Nature" as the physical world doesn't care about anything at all because it's not a person. Easterbrook is certainly aware of this and is presumably speaking of nature "wanting" or being "offended" as a form of literary expression (i.e., personification), but that doesn't mean that the conclusion "nature would not be offended" (translated: "It is not immoral") follows from his premise that "nature wants us to pass on our genes."
The fact that we have a hereditary impulse to pass on our genes doesn't justify any and all means toward that end.
Take rape as an example. Rape occurs sometimes in the human population and very often in some animal populations. But would we countenance the argument that "nature wants us to pass on our genes; if rape assists in that effort, nature would not be offended"?
Nature as the blind, physical world would indeed not be offended, but that doesn't change the fact that for one human to rape another is hideously immoral–precisely because it is contrary to the moral principles embedded in human nature.
In fact, rape is in some ways a good analog for cloning, because in both situations a single individual fully imposes himself (or herself) on another–in one case sexually, in the other case genetically. They both represent, in different ways, the total imposition of Me.
Moreover, cloning itself isn't new; there have been many species that reproduced clonally and a few that still do.
This is quite true! But these species aren't human beings. The fact that ducks rape ducks does not constitute an argument that humans should rape humans. Think in terms of human nature and what is says about a human who would want a genetic copy of himself.
And there's nothing intrinsically unnatural about human inventions that improve reproductive odds—does anyone think nature is offended by hospital delivery made safe by banks of machines?
This does not necessarily make human cloning desirable; there are complicated issues to consider.
Good point! Props to Easterbrook for being willing to explore this aspect of the subject.
Initial mammalian cloning experiments, with sheep and other species, have produced many sickly offspring that die quickly.
A very important point, though a subsidiary one since it doesn't go to the core reason why human cloning is wrong.
"font-size: 14px; font-family: Arial; ">Could it ever be ethical to conduct research that produces sick babies in the hope of figuring out how to make healthy clones?
No! No, it could not! This treats human beings as objects, as medical experiments (cf. Nazis, Jews). The only legitimate reason to produce babies is to have babies. Human beings are ends in themselves. You cannot produce babies in order to "conduct research." That dehumanizes human beings (the babies in question), and it is thus contrary to human nature and thus immoral.
And clones might be treated as inferiors, rendering them unhappy.
I'm not sure if "rendering them unhappy" is meant to be humorous, but there's a lot of issues in this sentence. As to whether clones would be treated as inferiors in their post-birth lives, who can say? That depends on a variety of factors, though it is a possibility. Merely by being created they were mistreated since they had someone else's genetic will to power imposed on them at the moment of conception, and all those sick baby clones who got killed while the process was being perfected–they sure were treated as inferiors.
Still, human cloning should not be out of the question. In vitro fertilization was once seen as depraved God-playing and is now embraced, even by many of the devoutly religious.
There are devoutly religious people who will endorse any horror you want (and devoutly irreligious ones who will do exactly the same thing).
The fact that in vitro fertilization–which similarly subverts human nature and the reproductive process appropriate to it (and which also results in numerous abortions due to too many kids surviving the implantation process, and millions more kids kept indefinitely "on ice," contrary to their human dignity)–only shows how accustomed we have become to treating human beings like objects.
Cloning could be a blessing for the infertile, who otherwise could not experience biological parenthood.
As we've seen, this is one of those "ends don't justify the means" things. Experiencing biological parenthood is a good thing, but you can't use any means you want to achieve it, as we saw in our discussion of rape (and, contrary to the claims of some feminists, rape is not simply about power; it is often about pleasure and also about reproduction; this was illustrated by the Bosnian ethnic cleansing rapes of the 1990s in which militants of one ethnic group raped women of another specifically to produce children that would have their own ethnic group's blood),
And . . . anyone having a clone is not really experiencing biological parenthood. Being a biological parent among humans means having your genes intertwined with those of another of the opposite sex. Even identical twins–the human clones that do exist at present–have genes from two biological parents.
And it isn't just biological parenthood that the infertile want. They want the experience of raising a child that is biologically their own–both of theirs.
Cloning doesn't do that, as can be seen if you imagine cloning the context of an infertile couple. If the couple creates a clone of one of them then the other doesn't get the experience of biological parenthood. Instead, they're living in a marriage with a creepy Mini-You running around the house, changing the Mini-You's diapers, making sure that the Mini-You does its homework, etc.
At least IVF, as bad as it is, lets both spouses be biological parents!
And, of course, it would be a blessing for the clone itself.
No. Life is a blessing to the clone. Cloning was not. Cloning was the immoral means used to create life. One could not rephrase this and say, "of course, rape would be a blessing for the child of a rape." Children born of rape are blessed by being alive, but that doesn't in any way justify the method by which they were conceived.
Suppose a clone is later asked, "Are you glad you exist even though you are physically quite similar to someone else, or do you wish you had never existed?" We all know what the answer would be.
Yes, we do, because the gift of life is so good. Except for the suicidal, nobody who is alive would rather not have been born. That's the survival drive that is also part of human nature, and just as with the other fundamental human drives–the drive to reproduce, the drive to eat, the drive to socialize with other humans, etc.–it represents a good end that cannot be pursued by evil means.
The children of rape also would rather exist than not exist but that isn't an argument for rape. In fact, though the act of rape gave these children life, it also gave them a broken life situation in which they must either be shielded from knowledge of their true origin or they must live under the shadow of the immoral act that led to their conception and that makes their origin different than everyone else's.
The act of reproductive cloning would put the resulting children in an analogous situation.
Let's not put them there.
Beyond what Mr. Easterbrook covers in his piece,
there are other problems with cloning, such as all of the kids who would be created, experimented upon, and then killed as part of "therapeutic cloning."
The bottom line is that you either have to respect the way human nature is set up or decide that we are just walking bags of chemicals that possess no intrinsic dignity or rights–"ugly bags of mostly water"–and that humans therefore can be subject to any form of technological manipulation imaginable.
I'm not dissing the idea of using technology to assist human reproduction (rather than replacing it with something else) or the idea of using technology to help people genetically (gene therapy! woo-hoo!!) or even the idea of technologically augmenting human nature (super powers! bring 'em on!!!).
I am rejecting the idea of treating people as objects which can be manipulated and exploited with no regard for human nature and human dignity.
If that's okay then find the right candidate, trick him out with whatever augments you want, program him to love his work and not be able to conceive any other, and then . . .