MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: What Are Your Views On Cloning?

Area: Genetics
Posted By: Christopher Carlson, Grad student Genetics
Date: Fri May 30 16:02:49 1997
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 865006442.Ge

Wow. Matt, you have a vivid imagination, and asked a very interesting question. I will try to start with a little scientific detail regarding the cloning process.

Cloning in the real world is significantly different from cloning in comic books and movies. We can't just put a human being in some sort of Xerox and presto out comes a perfect copy ready and willing to do the bidding of the original. In the real world, any clone has to grow from a single cell, just like you grew from a single fertilized egg. While the clone is growing up, they are just like a time delayed identical twin of the person cloned. So even though you can create a genetic clone of a human being, the clone will grow up in a different world, and the clone's personality will be just as different from the original as the personality of a parent is from her child.

Given that the clones will be independent people, do you think that they would be any more inclined to go die in a war than you are? I think not. So the notion of armies of clones battling across the world will thankfully always remain in the comic books.

As for the notion of overpopulation, that's a different matter entirely. Whether we can clone humans or not is irrelevant: it will always remain much easier, faster and cheaper to make more human beings the old fashioned way. If we want to avoid world overpopulation we should worry about birth control, not clones.

There really aren't many good arguments for cloning human beings. The main reason the research is being pursued is for breeding of domestic animals (like sheep, cows, and pigs). If we could clone particularly valuable animals, we could quickly produce cows which yield more milk, sheep with better wool, and possibly even genetically engineered pigs to provide organs for human transplantation. However, there is no call for breeding "better" humans, so there's just no good reason to clone people.

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