In 1996, Dolly the sheep made genetic history.
Dolly was born as a result of years of genetic research, and unlike every other lamb born that year Dolly was a clone, which finally brought the controversial issue of cloning straight into the spotlight of the world’s media. So what are the pros and cons of cloning and is cloning a viable scientific technique for the continuation of the species, or is it a case of man playing God?
Cloning is where an identical copy of a biological entity is made. This can be something as small as a cell, or as large as an animal.
Although cloning occurs naturally in nature—many species of plants and bacteria replicate themselves—artificial cloning of biological life forms (and even humans) is a whole new ballgame, and one that has been dogged by controversy since Dolly the sheep first came into the world. So what are the pros and cons of cloning and is it even ethical?
What are the pros of cloning?
- Cloning research is essential in the fields of agriculture, medicine and science, and cloning animals allows for scientific research into diseases and other conditions that can affect humans.
- Having the ability to clone different species could help to protect against the extinction of endangered animals in the future and provide subjects for repopulation.
- Cloning of stem cells can help to provide replacement organs and tissue to replace those damaged by disease or accident.
- Cloning represents a potential solution to the problems faced by childless couples—infertility can be solved by the cloning of children.
- Undesirable traits in animals and humans can be removed by selectively cloning species based on only the desirable traits.
- Cloning can be used to replicate animals for the purposes of medical research.
What are the cons of cloning?
- Cloning research is fraught with problems and it took many years and a great deal of failure before one lamb was successfully cloned.
- The process of cloning involves the identical reproduction of genes. Since normal reproduction leads to diversification, genetic cloning will inevitably weaken our ability to adapt and strengthen our species against disease and ill health.
- Research evidence has shown that cloned animals have much shorter life spans compared to those born the natural way, which is cause for concern should cloning ever extend to humans.
- Cloning of humans is a highly emotive subject and the issue of cloning goes against the religion and moral values of a large number of people. Indeed, many pro life groups are fiercely opposed to the cloning of human embryos for research purposes since the embryos are subsequently destroyed.
- Allowing physicians to legally clone human organs might lead to illegal organ cloning activities.
- Opening the door on the cloning of humans could lead to all kinds of barbaric Frankenstein type experiments.
- The human species is built on the foundations of diversity—if we were all alike, life would soon become extremely tedious and predictable.