By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

Dolly the sheep has been cloned. There are now four “Dollies.” From the story:

Named after country and western singer Dolly Parton, Dolly was created from a cell taken from a mammary gland. The rest of the sample of tissue has lain in a freezer since, until it was defrosted to make the Dollies. This means the quads are genetically identical to each other, as well as to Dolly, and to the ewe that donated the udder tissue. Professor Keith Campbell, who keeps the Dollies as pets on land at Nottingham University, said: ‘Dolly is alive and well. Genetically these are Dolly.’

No. Dolly is dead. The four new Dolly-sheep are not “Dolly,” just as she wasn’t the original ewe whose mammary cell nucleus was used in her manufacture. They aren’t even 100% alike since Dolly came from a different egg than her clones — meaning the donor and clones have different mitochondrial DNA.

But that’s not the point of this post. I don’t care much about animal cloning except as it relates to animal welfare issues. However, people cloning — that is important. And this is the point I want to make: Although this doesn’t matter a whit in sheep — clones are different individuals, just as identical twins are unique individuals. (This is true even at a physical level. Even though identical twins came from the same original embryo, they have different fingerprints.)

Hence, if Hitler were cloned as in the old horror movies — his clone wouldn’t be Hitler. He would probably look a lot like the original — it would be wise not to grow the Charlie Chaplain mustache — but he wouldn’t be him. For example, while he might have artistic talent, the anti-Semitism would be absent. Ditto the megalomania. He might not even be a good speaker. Our personality characteristics and talents almost surely are a combination of environment and heritage, not just naked genetics.

In other words, we are not just our genes — even from the womb. So, while this story is about sheep, if we ever clone people — which should be outlawed — it will be important to remember that should cloned children ever be born, each would be fully human beings of equal moral worth and individuals in their own right — regardless of the fame or infamy of the source of their nuclear DNA.