Cloning bodies is not cloning personalities, no matter what Hollywood says.
Fear is a very powerful motivator. It can and does, very often, very easily, motivate people to think along strange, exaggerated, paranoid lines – if they’re not careful.
For some reason, it seems people are beginning to fear the possibility of human cloning. I can’t imagine why – clones are already everywhere. Hundreds of new clones are born every week. I’m even friends with a couple of them.
Moral wisdom does not come from a soul, or a deep internal state, or the bottom-line gut of the passions. It comes, instead, from our simple, innate understanding of suffering, and from our ability to think and learn. One must know the facts before one can know what the right thing to do with them is.
The most important fact about cloning a human being is that it would create a delayed identical twin. In other words: I could have myself cloned, have that clone implanted in my uterus, and give birth to my genetic twin. Not to myself (a popular science-fictional idea), but to my twin. I could raise my twin as my child.
My twin would likely be very, very different from me – even more different from me than natural twins, born at the same time, are from one another (identical twins have a habit of being near opposites in personality). If it’s sameness we fear in duplication, we should be aware that natural twins are more dangerous than cloned ones, as they’re much more easily mistakable as one another.
Admittedly, this is a little weird. Raising my twin as a child? It defies some of our intuitions about family, relationships, and roles initially. Realistically, it wouldn’t be much more weird in practice than a mother raising a child who looked a lot like her – and I already looked a lot like my mother growing up.
It’s slightly strange, but it certainly doesn’t present any moral dilemmas, especially since the rate of cloning would be so astronomically small in comparison to the world population’s birth and death rate as to be barely a minute ripple influencing the human gene pool.
The fear that a political figure, upon death, would be cloned and replaced as ruler, is completely preposterous. It ignores the vastly varied and irreproducible array of human experience in development. We learn who to be who we are, and no one can completely control a child’s development. Not only that, but this idea ignores the fact that this figure-clone would have to grow. If the figure died at forty, the clone would have to live forty years to get to the same place, and would by then have an entirely different personality.
We do not have the power to replace or stamp out human individuality – not even close. Cloning is not to be feared for this reason. It’s but a small development in the sciences, only blown up to such scary proportions by the influences of science fiction novels and the entertainment industry.
So, let’s explore and learn. Keep the ethics boards posted, avoid creating suffering in experimentation, and learn to stamp out what we CAN stamp out, like debilitating genetic diseases, so that more people can live happily and freely.