Dolly The Sheep
Sufficient information concerning the techniques and practices involved in cloning is required for forming a worthy argument of whether or not cloning entire organisms should be commonplace. Because ethics and morals are often jumbled in this popular debate, it is fair to firstly understand the procedure.
In the article, “Should We Clone Humans?” in the textbook, the two known methods for cloning whole organisms are discussed. Embryo splitting is one way, where undifferentiated cells in a fertilized egg are separated and implanted into a different mother. The result of this placement is eight identical clones of the offspring that would have been the outcome of the original egg, had it fertilized naturally. This method of cloning, however, does not produce an exact replica of either parent, as in the case of Dolly, the Scottish white-faced sheep, because the splitting is done after the union of sperm and egg.
Dolly’s birth, explained in detail in the article “Cloning: Will There Ever Be Another Ewe?”, was the result of cloning using a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. As defined in the text, a somatic cell is “any cell in the body except a germ cell,” and contains the same entire set of DNA. Dolly’s story is revolutionary, in that, before her birth, it was deemed unfeasible to make a somatic cell differentiate as if it were a fertilized egg. Dolly, conversely, changed that notion. She was created by taking a somatic cell from the udder of a white-faced sheep and depleting it of all nutrients so that it ceases to develop. It is then electrically fused with an egg taken from a black-faced sheep. The egg, having had its nucleus removed, is stripped of its DNA and therefore all genetic characteristics. Another electrical pulse incites the fused cell to begin dividing repeatedly like a normal embryo. Six days later, the one surviving embryo of 29, was implanted in the uterus of another black-faced sheep, who eventually gave birth to Dolly, an exact clone of the white-faced sheep, that provided the somatic udder cell.
Cloning an entire animal, if one considers this ethical, could be useful for generating animals for the purpose of using them as protein pumps for the benefit of humans, who might need these proteins for drugs or hormones. Cloning an entire human could provide organs, of matching tissue type, for individuals requiring a transplant. The ethical questions raised in the matter of cloning humans are numerous and heavily debated. Dolly, is a sole survivor, from a total of 29 embryos. The same probability could be present itself when cloning humans. 28 dead human embryos, for the shot at one surviving. Not so ethical, some would argue. Also, human individualism could be lost at the expense of genetic distinctiveness. Our personalities and identities are distinct partly because our genetic make ups are exclusive to us, specifically. Additionally, the birth of Dolly had political ramifications. Because, politicians and the public alike, were caught off guard by Dolly’s birth, the immediate response was to ban the use of federal funds for such research and experimentation. A moratorium is now in place on the cloning of humans until its consequences are better understood, and an agreement on its ethics is reached.
J Goodenough poses this question, “ What do the Dalai Lama and a lamb named Dolly have in common?” I answer, nothing. The Dalai Lama was born a spiritual leader. Somatic cells from say, Buddha, if you will, were not implanted in the uterus of the Dalai Lama’s mother, so that he may be genetically engineered, with spiritual DNA. Dolly, on the other hand, was a product of tampered natural selection; unnatural selection, rather. Nature, evolution, life, as it has come to be through time, should remain an act of God, Mother Nature, the stars, whatever one chooses to believe it all comes from. Cloning humans and cloning animals is, in my opinion, the same issue. We are not above animals, not above anything, we all evolved in a similar fashion, we have no reason to believe that we can play masters of the world, puppeteers in this show known as life. Let life take its course, animals, humans alike. We are not meant to change the direction of cellular life because we can. It is ludicrous to even think that we have that right. Clone some cells if you need to, but please, an entire living, breathing individual, for the sole purpose of remedying some defect, or producing a more efficient cow for milk, no way. This is not ethical, not moral.