I learned about the first successful human cloning last Monday, but couldn’t write about it until Wednesday because of a news embargo. The peer reviewed paper in Cell was rushed to print because is a huge deal. But, much to my surprise, it only made mild news. There were two reasons for that I think. First, we just went through a very busy news week. But I think the primary reason is that the scientists and media pretended that this wasn’t really human cloning for political reasons; just a step in that general direction.

But human cloning it was, and that is a huge deal, opening up the possibility of genetic engineering of embryos, creating custom made fetuses as organ farms, and the birth of a cloned baby. News stories often acted as if the experiment merely turned “unfertilized eggs” and skin cells into embryonic stem cells. Not true: The act of cloning creates an embryo. After that, the cloning is over.

Just like Dolly the cloned sheep was a cloned sheep embryo before she was a born lamb, these human embryos were nascent human beings created through asexual means. They were not implanted into a uterus, as Dolly’s embryo was, but destroyed for their stem cells. Indeed, they were created precisely to be destroyed. That is a very big moral deal.

Even though it is off to a slow start due to advocacy obfuscation, the reality of human cloning will soon create white-hot public controversies, a few of which I discuss elsewhere. These include:

  • Whether Human SCNT Cloning should be outlawed;
  • Whether the federal government should fund human cloning research;
  • How — and whether — to protect women from being exploited for their eggs — the essential ingredient in human cloning, one egg per try — since egg extraction can cause significant harm and even death to suppliers.

I conclude with a warning. From, “The Arrival of Human Cloning:”

The fact that human beings can be cloned is a scientific triumph, but it is also an ethical earthquake. Because these experiments offer the potential to advance scientific knowledge, they will tempt us — always for “the best” reasons — to set aside our convictions about the intrinsic dignity of all human life.

The next decade may well decide if Huxley was right about the coming of Brave New World.

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