J. W. Jamieson
Institute for the Study of Man
With advances in medical research it would now seem possible to apply cloning techniques to human beings, and C. Richard Seed of Chicago has announced his intention of proceeding with a pilot scheme to implant embryos containing the genes of donor adults into the wombs of surrogate mothers. Because human reproduction has in the past involved a constant intergenerational reassortment of genes, public opinion has been encouraged to react against voluntary reproduction by means of cloning on the ground that this would produce exact replicas of living individuals. The validity of this and other objections is discussed in this article, and it is pointed out that such objections also constitute an affront against the dignity of identical twins. A more serious consideration involves the possible reduction of necessary diversity in the gene pool of a population, but this is rejected as irrelevant considering the size of most contemporary human breeding populations, compared with the very small size of hominid demes throughout the major part of human evolutionary history.
KEY WORDS: Cloning, bioethics, identical twins, birth control, positive eugenics, intelligence.
Following the successful British cloning of Dolly, the sheep, and further achievements in that direction, an agreement was signed by a substantial number of member nations of the Council of Europe in January 1998 which prohibited the cloning of human beings. This followed a call from the French President Jacques Chirac for an international ban on such procedures.
In order to "protect the dignity and identity of all human beings," the protocol legally bound the nineteen signatories to ban "any intervention seeking to create a human being genetically identical to another human being, whether living or dead", Daniel Tarschys, the Council's General Secretary, declared that "[I]t is important for Europe solemnly to declare its determination to defend human dignity against the abuse of scientific techniques."
The protocol stipulated that the signatory nations must enact laws that would punish those who violate its terms. The 40-member council, established in 1949 "to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law," is not a constituent institution of the European Union, although most of the Union's members are included amongst its 40 member states. The text of the Convention is produced below: ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine, on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings The member States of the Council of Europe, the other States and the European Community Signatories to this Additional Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine, Noting scientific developments in the field of mammal cloning, particularly through embryo splitting and nuclear transfer; Mindful of the progress that some cloning techniques themselves may bring to scientific knowledge and its medical application; Considering that the cloning of human beings may become a technical possibility; Having noted that embryo splitting may occur naturally and sometimes result in the birth of genetically identical twins; Considering however that the instrumentalisation of human beings through the deliberate creation of genetically identical human beings is contrary to human dignity and thus constitutes a misuse of biology and medicine; Considering also the serious difficulties of a medical, psychological and social nature that such a deliberate biomedical practice might imply for all the individuals involved; Considering the purpose of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, in particular the principle mentioned in Article 1 aiming to protect the dignity and identity of all human beings, Have agreed as follows:
1 Any intervention seeking to create a human being genetically identical to another human being, whether living or dead, is prohibited.
2 For the purpose of this article, the term human being "genetically identical" to another human being means a human being sharing with another the same nuclear gene set.
No derogation from the provisions of this Protocol shall be made under Article 26, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
As between the Parties, the provisions of Articles 1 and 2 of this Protocol shall be regarded as additional articles to the Convention and all the provisions of the Convention shall apply accordingly.
This Protocol shall be open for signature by Signatories to the Convention. It is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. A Signatory may not ratify, accept or approve this Protocol unless it has previously or simultaneously ratified, accepted or approved the Convention. Instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Article 5
1 This Protocol shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date on which five States, including at least four member States of the Council of Europe, have expressed their consent to be bound by the Protocol in accordance with the provisions of Article 4.
2 In respect of any Signatory which subsequently expresses its consent to be bound by it, the Protocol shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of the deposit of the instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval.
1 After the entry into force of this Protocol, any State which has acceded to the Convention may also accede to this Protocol.
2 Accession shall be effected by the deposit with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe of an instrument of accession which shall take effect on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of its deposit.
1 Any Party may at any time denounce this Protocol by means of a notification addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
2 Such denunciation shall become effective on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date of receipt of such notification by the Secretary General.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall notify the member States of the Council of Europe, the European Community, any Signatory, any Party and any other State which has been invited to accede to the Convention of:
a any signature;
b the deposit of any instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession;
c any date of entry into force of this Protocol in accordance with Articles 5 and 6;
d any other act, notification or communication relating to this Protocol.
In witness whereof the undersigned, being duly authorized thereto, have signed this Protocol.
Done at Paris, this twelfth day of January 1998, in English and in French, both texts being equally authentic, in a single copy which shall be deposited in the archives of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall transmit certified copies to each member State of the Council of Europe, to the non-member States which have participated in the elaboration of this Protocol, to any State invited to accede to the Convention and to the European Community.
The countries that signed in 1998 were Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. Britain refrained from signing only because it considered the restriction on research to be too severe, while Germany already had more severe restrictions in place. Both, however, have banned the cloning of human beings.
Citing a "national consensus" that human cloning is "morally unacceptable," President Clinton also expressed his support for a recommendation of the National Bioethics Commission (created in 1995) favoring legislation to effectively outlaw introduction of the new technique. But consensus does not necessarily signify unanimity, and the reason the Bioethics Commission deemed such a law necessary is that many scientists are anxious to work in the area. If they were not, there would be no need for legislation. If a country decides to restrict scientific activity in this area, there are in fact several legislative options: to ban all research into human cloning, to try to regulate future research, or third, to ban the actual production of human babies by cloning.
The Arguments Against Human Cloning
If cloning research continues, it has been estimated that human cloning could become a practical reality within the next one to two decades at most. Some of the arguments in favor of banning cloning were listed in various articles published in the July 1997 issue of the American Bar Association Journal. These included the following:
1. The implication that nobody is entitled to do anything that they are not specifically entitled to do by law: "Nobody can claim that the right to clone is constitutionally protected as a fundamental liberty or privacy right" - Lori B. Andrews, professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
2. "Once we start down the path of research into human cloning, how do we limit how far we should go - it is a small step from genetic enhancement to eugenics, a pseudo-science aimed at improving the human race through selective reproduction. The nazis seized on these theories of racial superiority and extended them to the most fiendish ends" - Mark A. Rothstein, professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
3. "In the clone age there could be other physical replicas of myself running around" - R. Alto Charo, professor of law at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. A member of Clinton's National Bioethics Advisory Commission.
Other objections are parallel to those raised by Jeremy Rifkind against genetic manipulation of the human reproductive process in his 1998 book The Biotech Century. Although cloning in no way involves any human interference with the human germ line, these include:
4. The possible rise of genetic "discrimination" and the development of a moral attitude which favored the eugenic goal of directed-evolution aimed at producing a superior breed of human beings - seen by many as an ipso facto evil.
5. The possibility that the cloning of healthy individuals might de-stabilize the insurance business by causing individuals who are cloned from individuals with a good medical record to resent having to pay higher premiums to help cover the medical expenses likely to be incurred by natural-born children whose medical future will be less predicable - especially where the latter were born to parents with disadvantaged medical histories.
6. The affront to religion by what some will perceive as human interference with God's monopolistic right to determine who should "give birth." This is a view shared by many Christian authorities of diverse persuasions. Thus Joel Shuman, speaking at Duke University Divinity School, declared that "engaging in cloning involves a kind of hubris that says humans are capable of determining their own destiny." For seemingly similar reasons, professor Ted Peters of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary believes that "it is better to have a child born the old-fashioned way, with the genetic code out of control of the parents."
On the other hand, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, reports that Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews all agree that "cloning is a technology and as such is morally neutral," sagely observing that "[T]he question is what use you put it to."
7. If private individuals are permitted the right to have themselves cloned this could potentially lead to an imbalance in numbers between males and females - just as the ability to determine the sex of a fetus threatens to do in some societies. [This, and similar imbalances of demographic significance, is a rather remote but potentially real possibility.]
8. Mass cloning could theoretically reduce the genetic variability in a population to the point that the survival of that population could be threatened by new diseases or other adverse conditions. Against this last objection consideration should be given to the fact that cloning is already under consideration as a means of replenishing certain species that are threatened with extinction, and research in this direction will help us to assess the validity of this argument in respect of the human species. The importance of maintaining a degree of genetic variability within any species has been considered in this respect, but it has been pointed out that cheetahs have gone through such a narrow genetic bottleneck in the past that at one point there may have been only one or two breeding pairs alive. It is also observed that, on a less dramatic scale, genetic bottlenecks are a crucial component in evolution, and that our ancestral hominids constituted a very small population that lived under conditions of extremely close inbreeding - a condition that actually facilitated rapid selective evolution. Thus, in light of the enormous size of the world's current population, the magnitude of any reduction in genetic variability due to cloning would be in any conceivable circumstances not only insignificant, but if the clones were derived from essentially talented and healthy individuals, the effect on the human gene pool could only be beneficial.
Obviously, the most significant question which haunts us in respect of cloning is: who would decide who would be cloned? I do not intend to investigate this all-important issue here, since it is impossible to do anything more than speculate. One thing we may be sure about. Somebody somewhere will eventually start cloning human beings, whether this is done commercially in Third World countries on behalf of the very rich, or by the governments of totalitarian countries such as China. Whether or not its impact will benefit the human gene pool will depend on the genetic qualities of the individuals who are cloned.
The Arguments For Cloning
If, as President Clinton claims, there is a "consensus" on the subject in favor of banning reproduction by cloning, there is still a minority opinion. What are the minority's arguments? On the ideational front, human ecology is a topic which refuses simply to "go away," and half a century after the suppression of eugenic ideals throughout the Western world (but not in China), medical genetics is pushing questions of eugenics to the forefront once again and new treatises of eugenic interest are appearing with increasing frequency. It is a simple fact that human evolution (in the sense of genetic change, either eugenic or dysgenic) has not only not come to a halt, but is actually proceeding at a speed heretofore unknown. Birth control methods and modern social conditions have created an evolutionary mechanism which will have altered the genetic makeup of humankind in the time it takes to read this brief article - and it is irrational to believe that thinking individuals are unaware of this, no matter how studiously they may seek to avoid open discussion of the facts in the current intellectual climate.
The nature/nurture argument has basically been a holding tactic pursued, very effectively, by extreme egalitarians. There are only three possible positions which could be taken on the topic: is human behavior controlled by genes, environment, or both? All serious scientists now agree that human behavior is a product of both genes and environment. As for total genetic predisposition, this view has never been seriously argued, but the extreme environmentalists have managed to successfully maintain the opposite: that human individuals are a tabula rasa, a "clean slate" capable of accepting any text that the environment, cultural as well as physical, imprints on them.
During the first three quarters of this century, the deterministic worldview of nineteenth-century positivism ran into enormous emotional resistance, and our recent history has been dominated by a view of human nature that emphasized the software of the human brain (the environmental programming) over its hardware (its genetically determined structure). Freudianism, Marxism, radical feminism, Skinner's behaviorism, the anthropology of Franz Boas and Margaret Mead, and the theories advanced by academic criminologists all explained human behavior primarily in terms of environmental influences - while inherited traits were rejected as invidious and offensive. Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe documents the vilification and harassment experienced by even highly reputed scholars who challenged egalitarian shibboleths. While genetic research is now forcing additional scholars to acknowledge the importance of heredity in human affairs, anti-hereditarian doctrines won such a secure hold over the public mind during the last five decades that "eugenics" and "dysgenics" are still regarded as four letter words by the editors of most publications. Accordingly, the idea of cloning healthy individuals, as compared with random breeding from even the most "genetically-challenged" members of society, has consequently likewise been met with predictably strong emotional resistance.
In the 19th century, Darwin's cousin, Sir Francis Galton, the founder of eugenics as well as of statistical method, noted differential fertility patterns in the British population. Young people of ability were failing to reproduce at the same rate as the lesser achievers. His gloomy demographic projections are proving to be frighteningly accurate. As readers of the Wall Street Journal already know, 40% of births in today's America are now financed by Medicaid while the members of America's intellectual elite devote their fertile years to graduate training, professional development and global junketing. Economists even explain fertility on the basis of a cost curve: one baby costs the equivalent of X-number of televisions, sports cars, condos, etc. Society suffers from a cruel contradiction: the more accurately it selects its future leaders for training and careers, the more effectively it deflects them from the essential task of species reproduction. Now it is the welfare population that serves as our breeding stock. This is a problem encountered across races, economic systems, and continents. Galton's eugenics distinguished between negative and positive eugenics. Negative eugenics called for a reduction in the fertility of persons suffering from low intelligence and physical defects that can be passed on to future generations. Cloning could operate as a form of positive eugenics, increasing the number of births of persons favored with good health and high intelligence. As such it could be used to compensate for the heavily dysgenic impact of present-day Western reproductive trends, especially the adverse selective impact of modern warfare which tends to eliminate a high percentage of combatants such as pilots and aircrew before they have had the opportunity to pass on their genes.
Here we might respond to the objection that it would demean humanity to have more than one copy of an individual living at the same time (though cloning does not necessarily imply that the clones should live contemporaneously). Clones are essentially the same as identical twins, except for their entering the world at different dates, and although in some primitive societies identical twins were regarded with such superstitious fear that the second was customarily killed, in our modern enlightened age we surely cannot say that identical twins are in some way less desirable than fraternal twins or other siblings. A certain amount of cloning would minimally increase the number of identical twins in society - hardly the horror it is made out to be by the sensation-hungry popular press. Humanity evolved as a result of thousands of generations of close inbreeding by very thinly-spread hominid populations; the threat posed by the multiplication which would result from cloning pales into comparison with the genetic history of humankind. As of mid-1998, the global population had risen to 5.9 billion people. By simply glancing into any textbook on intelligence statistics, we can see that only one person in 10,000 has an IQ exceeding the mean by 3.7 standard deviations (which corresponds to an IQ of 155 in European populations). If we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that intelligence is equally distributed around the globe, this would mean that only 590,000 persons are in the range of 3.7 standard deviations above the global mean, whatever that may be. Consider also the dysgenic implications of the selective murder in World War II of pilots, aircrew, and similar talented front line combatants, usually while still too young to have fathered offspring, and the need to help replicate the more beneficial genes in the European/global gene pool should be obvious. It is arguably to the more talented people that we owe the great breakthroughs in science, out of all proportion to their percentage in the global population. William Shockley, who helped make the modern computer possible, was one such individual - who was nevertheless castigated for interesting himself in the link between heredity and human intellectual achievement.
Assuming for the purposes of demonstration, once again, that intelligence is evenly distributed around the globe, this year some 15,100 persons will be born with an IQ exceeding their national mean by 3.7 standard deviations. This is an insignificant figure in global terms, yet continued advances in science will demand an ongoing supply of persons of high intelligence in future generations. By way of comparison, the overall world population is increasing (births over deaths) by 1.6% per annum, or more than 9 million per year; and this increase is not necessarily occurring amongst the peoples of higher intelligence.
There is a long-standing discussion about the exact nature of intelligence involving such questions as whether there is a general g factor, or whether high IQ is a combination of exceptional talents in a number of areas. But the pro-cloning argument does not hinge on such questions. Even if IQ is simply a statistical mean score of unrelated talents which are individually heritable, then this statistical mean will itself be heritable in subsequent generations, and clones could be made of persons who possess the requisite qualities in their genotype.
Also, many would correctly argue that it is desirable to select not only for high IQ, but for a number of other characteristics. There are many largely heritable aspects of personality that are vital for the maintenance of civilization and the promotion of further scientific progress. These include the ability to focus on long-term goals and to suppress the temptation to be constantly diverted by irrelevant stimuli or by the call for "instant gratification". In addition to mental ability we need to cultivate health and a broad sense of altruism that embraces the well-being of future generations, not only of those alive today. Although personality qualities are to a varying extent the product of culture as well as of heredity, to the extent that heritability is a factor we are left dealing with the fact that many who exhibit the qualities we desire fail to have children, and on a statistical basis it is probable the better-endowed members of Western societies have failed to reproduce themselves at even replacement level over the past few generations. Modern society has largely blunted the pruning process of natural selection, but every generation still remains a genetic bottleneck. Only the genes that are passed on to the next generation can have any hope to being passed on to more distant generations. With the declining importance of natural selection in our contemporary socio-cultural environment the future of Homo sapiens today hinges on the fact that we can no longer rely on the more capable segments of the world community to shape the genetic quality of posterity; they can only do so if they are suitably prolific. To the extent that cloning might help maintain, or possibly even increase, the percentage of highly favorable genes in the gene pool of the next generation, it could help to prevent the reservoir of human talents from declining to the point at which humanity might eventually disappear - as T.S. Eliot would have put it - "not with a bang, but a whimper."