A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLONING?
Monash Bioethics Review 18.1 (1999), 59-62.
Cloning scares the hell out of people, because the idea of cloning people scares the hell out of
people. Some of this fear is well-founded. Like any new reproductive technology, the cloning
of entire human organisms can be put to good or bad effect, for good or bad reasons. But much
of the fear is not well-founded. Before you could say “Hello, Dolly,” the U.S. administration
moved to ban federal funding of human cloning research; and there is considerable support in
Congress for an outright ban on the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer technology for the
purpose of human cloning. Why? Here is part of Clinton’s statement announcing the funding
Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science. I
believe we must respect this profound gift and resist the temptation to replicate
This powerful rhetoric captures two very common intuitions concerning the putative wrongness
of human cloning. First is the idea that something of ethical importance, present in normal
procreation, must be missing in the cloning procedure or its product. Second is the description
of cloning as “replication” rather than “reproduction,” with the implication that cloning is a
threat to uniqueness. I think both of these common intuitions are entirely groundless, no matter
what one’s metaphysical starting point.
I. In search of the missing ingredient
Clinton makes an implicit appeal to God. So it might be thought that God’s approval is the
missing ingredient: He gave us the gift of sexual reproduction, and does not approve of
alternatives. This claim is interesting if it is true, but (as is always the case where God’s
approval is concerned), the best way for God-fearers to discover whether it is true is by seeking
independent grounds for whether or not human cloning is unethical. We certainly have no
evidence that God generally disapproves of alternatives (e.g. bicy