It is reasonable to be suspicious when charges are made that scientific progress is in some sense blasphemy, or humanity’s unjust attempt to assume the role of a divine creator. For long centuries, such views dangerously halted genuine advances in knowledge, as when Galileo was persecuted for asserting that the sun, and not “God’s earth,” was the center of the solar system. Adherence to faith should never be allowed to automatically interfere with scientific inquiry, for there can be nothing profane in mankind’s using its talents to better the world and/or investigate all aspects of life. At the same time, there are efforts which go beyond even perceived violations of faith, because they defy, not religious beliefs, but reason. This is true of cloning, or the means of reproducing life through genetic science. In cloning, mankind is “playing God” simply because mankind’s history reveals no evidence of its being adequately responsible for life as it is naturally created, so the ambition is grossly and dangerously arrogant.
As noted, even the most objective assessment of human behavior, both throughout history and current, may not uncover any real appreciation for life demonstrated by mankind. It is true that cultures frequently express ideologies and practices going to a correct understanding of how life is valuable. Moreover, these expressions are by no means necessarily religious; life is a scientific wonder in that its creation remains mysterious, as modern knowledge affirms how exceptional its presence is. Life as known by humans is absent as far as mankind has been able to observe beyond earth. It is accepted, then, and again apart from religious feelings, that there is an inherently inestimable quality to life. It is “sacred” because it is so extraordinary and rare, no matter the source of creation. The ongoing debates regarding euthanasia affirm this conviction, particularly in regard to life endowed with consciousness, and opponents do not allow even great suffering to justify the termination of such life: “The following truth applies to everyone: when it is no longer possible to live without suffering, one will suffer in order to live” (Fenigsen 244).
It is then all the more striking to note how humanity has so consistently debased life in all forms, and from the earliest recorded history to today’s headlines. On one level, humanity is notoriously oblivious to life of lower orders, with a rich and international history of abusing animals and the living components of natural environments. On another, there is no evidence of greater care exercised in regard to fellow humans. Historically and currently, economic, social, and political causes are employed to justify killing, which then clearly indicates mankind as not adhering to its professed appreciation of life as the most valuable commodity known.
There is as well the important consideration of ignorance. Only a few years ago, and even as science congratulated itself on its greater understanding of DNA as the “blueprint” of all life, it was widely believed that nearly 98 percent of each DNA strand was “junk,” or non-coding RNA serving no discernible purpose. Thinking is different today: “Recent evidence indicates that the complexity of transcripts produced by the human genome and the underlying transcriptional architecture is striking” (Willingham, Gingeras 1216). What this indicates is the nature of knowledge as perpetually evolving and, as this knowledge is of so critical a nature, humanity is obligated to accept that there must remain immense realities about it yet unknown.
Lastly, it is essential to examine human motivations for cloning. The question of why is by no means irrelevant, because any answer relying on only the ability is intrinsically specious. We can kill with weapons of mass destruction, but the power to do so blatantly does not provide justification. With cloning, there is clearly the ambition to take it to the human level, which translates to human desires as dictating the efforts. Ostensibly, these are ethical, as when a woman seeks to have a baby cloned from the cells of a dying husband. All, however, go to a consistent drive among humans to perpetuate themselves as nearly as possible, a drive as old as cultural emphasis on lineage by blood (MacKinnon 37). This may not be wrong, but it is critical to note that it is self-aggrandizing, no matter how subjectively people may address it. In simple terms, cloning represents the consistent human desire to exalt itself through perpetuation. This cannot be a valid reason for the generating of new life scientifically because it has no value part from the human motive attached to it.
“God-given” or otherwise, human beings have brains that evolve and develop in power and ability, and there can be no more natural progression than the expansion of these forces. Cloning is reasonable because it is nothing more than an extension of science, and any wrongness can only arise through misuse. Mankind is in fact obligated to pursue science to such extremes, because the nature of science is the comprehension of the unknown. In cloning, mankind is not “playing God”; it is only “being mankind,” and utilizing the talents and interests which have always moved humanity further. For those opposed to cloning for religious reasons, it is necessary to question then why God gave man a curious mind. For those opposed for other reasons, it is unreasonable to blame science for whatever inappropriate uses are made of it.
Refutation and Conclusion
It is irrational to assert the power of the human brain and simultaneously relieve it of obligations not specifically intellectual. The argument that cloning is only scientific brilliance moving forward is untenable, because science is inextricably linked to humanity. Science enables and, as has been so amply demonstrated by history, obligations are attached to the empowering. The wrongness of cloning is then reinforced all the more when even science must acknowledge how consistently it must revise former, “certain” knowledge, because here is an ethical responsibility directly attached to it. Then, even the most objective analysis must affirm how irresponsible humanity has been with what it purports to value above all else: life. Humanity and science both will only truly advance when weaknesses, and not capabilities, are honestly addressed. Until then, the creation of life is beyond mankind. Humanity’s entire history reveals no evidence of its being even marginally responsible for life as it is naturally created, so the ambition to create it is grossly and dangerously arrogant, and to an extent that may only be compared to “playing God.”
Fenigsen, Richard. “Other People’s Lives: Reflections on Medicine, Ethics, and Euthanasia.” Issues in Law & Medicine 26 (2010): 239-279 <http://www.fchs.ac.ae/fchs/uploads/Files/Semester%201%20(2012-2013)/2972NRS/philosphy%20of%20euthenanasia.pdf>
MacKinnon, B. Human Cloning: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2001. Print.
Willingham, Aarron T., & Gingeras, Thomas R. “TUF Love for ‘Junk’ DNA.” Cell 125.7 (2006): 1215-1220. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867406007677>