Dolly the sheep brought the realities of cloning into the mainstream society. Today the effects of cloning on a society are at the center of many ethical debates. Yet what is cloning?
Cloning is the process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. It is the procedure in which the nucleus which contains the DNA is removed from a human egg and replace with the nucleus (DNA) from the donor's somatic (body) cell. An electric charge stimulates the new human embryo, and the cloning process is complete. Thus, it creates an exact duplicate copy of the donor.
With this in mind, two terms have been given to human cloning even though there is really only one type.The term reproductive cloning has been used to describe when a human clone is implanted and delivered as a full term pregnancy. This type of cloning was used to create Dolly the sheep. Research, experimental or therapeutic cloning have been the terms used for the other "type". In this, the procedure is identical to the above except that this new cloned human is experimented upon in his or her first few weeks of life and then killed. Essentially, the clone is created to destroy the embryo and harvest its stem cells for research.
Why is Cloning a problem?
From a biblical worldview, the first reality is that God is the creator of life. Therefore, it is God's job to create life, not man. Thus when we take the act of creating life away from God, it is not only dehumanizing for the individual, but it threatens human dignity as a society. Beyond that, cloning gives individuals the opportunity to create life and then treat it any way deemed acceptable. Cloning does not value each human being as unique and individual.
According to Rev. Dr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Director of Education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center:
Cloning participates in the basic evil of moving human procreation out of the setting of committed marital intimacy and into the laboratory. Human procreation should not take place in the laboratory because it is inherently dehumanizing to bring a new human being into the world through means which replace the marital act. Each of us has a right to be brought into the world as the fruit and expression of marital love, rather than as the product of technical domination and manufacturing protocols. Procreation is not meant to be replaced by production. There is a dignity both to the process of procreation as established by God through sexual self-giving, and the dignity of the life itself which is engendered by that process. Cloning threatens human dignity on both of those levels.Cloning also represents a sort of genetic engineering. Instead of choosing just a few of the features you’d like your offspring to have, like greater height or greater intelligence, cloning could allow you to choose all of the features, so it represents an extremely serious form of domination and manipulation by parents over their own children. It represents a type of parental power that parents are not intended to have. Ultimately, cloning is a type of human breeding, a despotic attempt by some individuals to dominate and pre-determine the make-up of others. With cloning you also distort the relationships between individuals and generations. If a woman were to clone herself, using her own egg, her own somatic cell, and her own womb, she wouldn’t need to have a man involved at all.Oddly, she would end up giving birth to her own identical twin—a twin sister who would also be her daughter.
In reference to Human Therapeutic Cloning Rev. Dr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk notes:
If human reproductive cloning—the bringing to birth of a new child who is an identical twin to somebody else—is wrong, then therapeutic cloning is worse. Therapeutic cloning is the creation of that same identical twin for the premeditated purpose of ending her life in order to harvest her tissues. In sum, there is a grave evil involved in therapeutic cloning because life is created for the explicit purpose of destroying it. With a cloned birth, at least we would end up with a baby that is alive. Human therapeutic cloning, the artificial creation of a human life for the sole purpose of her exploitation and destruction will always be gravely unethical, even if the desired end is a very good one, namely the curing of diseases. Therapeutic cloning sanctions the direct and explicit exploitation of one human being by another, in this case, the exploitation of the weak by the powerful.The danger of therapeutic cloning lies in the intentional creation of a subclass of human beings, made up of those still in their embryonic or fetal stages, who can be freely exploited and discriminated against by those fortunate enough to have already passed beyond those early embryonic stages.Therapeutic cloning raises further serious slippery-slope concerns. The temptation to make embryos that can be exploited for their stem cells offers the further temptation to grow those cloned embryos within a uterus to the point of a fetus. Such a fetus can then be aborted and conveniently harvested for needed organs, avoiding the trouble of having to start from scratch with undifferentiated stem cells.
(Source: Family Research Council: Stem Cell Research, Cloning & Embryos )