c. 1997 Religion News Service
(Rebekah Miles is assistant professor of Christian ethics in the Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. E-mail her at r.miles(AT)tcu.edu.)
UNDATED _ Imagine you can clone humans and other animals. Would you clone a cow that gives more milk? What about birds nearing extinction? Would you clone a brilliant person for a couple wanting an “exceptional” child? What would you say if a mother asked you to clone her dying toddler so she could have a spare?
These hypothetical questions are not so hypothetical anymore. What was once science fiction is becoming scientific reality. Not only will human cloning soon be possible, it will likely be pretty simple.
Cloning won’t require a $10 million lab and raw materials like plutonium. Cloning suffers no shortage of raw materials. Where there is DNA, there is life.
Human cloning is near. All the great laws of all the great nations will not stop it.
Don’t look now, but we humans just had a head-on collision with the toughest questions of human life. Better yet, do look now. Look and question for we are living in one of those astounding, astonishing times when we must ask again who we are as humans.
President Clinton called for a national panel of experts to address cloning. It held its first meetings last week. But cloning demands responses not only from”experts”but from all of us, including Christians. Here are some questions to consider in our churches, homes, and coffee shops:
What makes us distinctive and valuable as children of God? Does cloning threaten that? Once cloned, would the individuals have the same worth as any person? Does our creativity reflect God’s creativity? Is cloning co-creation with God? Is it a good expression of our God-given creativity? Or does cloning go against God’s creation?
We grieve for the mother who wants to clone her dying child. But can we replace that child with a clone?
Does a desire for spare children or body parts deny the fragility of life and the value of each person? How do we weigh benefits and misuses? Can we trust humans to clone wisely? Why does cloning evoke a strong, gut reaction? What is at stake?
I’ve been asking myself these same questions. Many Christians oppose cloning because humans shouldn’t “play God.” Others say, “We aren’t playing God. We are playing the devil.”
Perhaps we are playing not God or the devil, but the human. We humans have a long track record of reaching beyond our grasp, denying our limits, and making ourselves the center of the world. It’s called sin. We shouldn’t be surprised when we come upon it.
Dr. Ian Wilmut, the scientist who cloned the sheep, is fairly confident humans will use the technology wisely. He told reporters, “We are a pretty moral species.”
We are a pretty moral species? Where is this man from? What century is he living in? What history books does he read? Human history is run through with immorality. For every grand achievement we see an equal horror. Indeed, our greatest achievements are often the occasions of horror.
But this isn’t the whole story. Human technology also brings blessed gifts _ better health, longer life, and more food. We rejoice in the bounty and wonder what cloning might bring. As creatures with limited vision, we cannot know with certainty that all cloning is evil or good. We can only struggle together, trying to discern the good and praying for God’s guidance.
Through it all, whether right or wrong, we trust in God’s unfailing mercy for us and for all creation.
MJP END MILES