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"And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him." (Gen.22:2-3)
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Br. Samuel Babu, Believers Brethren Assembly, (BBA), Majlis - Bahrain For the last few days, we have been relentlessly praying for Br. Samuel Babu, who suffered Cardiac Problems and was admitted in Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain. It was well pleasing for our Lord to call HIS child to the Eternal Home, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no tears, no sickness and no death. He went to be with the LORD around 10:30 PM Bahrain Time today (Friday 23rd 2015). Let us uphold the grieving family members to the Throne of Grace. May the Lord bestow upon them heavenly Grace, Peace and strength and console them with the word of God.
 
 
 
BIBLE & SCIENCE

IMPLICATIONS OF CLONING 

  Dr. Johnson C. Philip

 

Chapter: 5

Implications of Cloning (II) 

(Spiritual, Ethical, Eschatological Consequences)

Though cloning of humans has not succeeded so far, people knowledgeable in this field predict that human clones would be here in AD 2000s . There is no reason to doubt this optimism.  

In the past also science has done many things that were once supposed to be impossible. Thus, man from his limited experience should not try to predict the boundaries of what science would be able to do in the human realm. Though a lot of people predicted to the contrary, heart and kidney transplants worked. Test-tube babies (actually, test-tube fertilization) worked. Many other things are also now possible that were once supposed to be impossible.  

Thus instead of hastily declaring human cloning as impossible, it would be far better to spend time discussing the implications of cloning -- if and when it becomes available. This can be done because though not every consequence of cloning can be predicted, a lot of prediction can still be done on the basis of facts already available. These facts and their implications would have quite a sobering effect upon any thoughtful person.  

 

1. Spiritual Implications: Since cloning is not the normal method of reproduction for humans, the cloned person would have a peculiar standing in front of the spiritual community of believers. For example, already people are proclaiming from pulpits that cloned humans would be only living human-like bodies, having no soul at all. Thus, in their opinion, the clones have no spiritual status other than that of animals.  

The actual question of whether a cloned human would have a soul or not is discussed in the Appendix, but for the time being let us assume that he or she does have a human soul. If that is so, this person is going to face a tough spiritual situation when many leaders in the Christian community are not willing to accept this fact. Further, by the time human clones become common, these preachers are going to influence tens of thousands of people into believing that clones are only animals. The consequent predicament of the cloned person is beyond imagination.  

Once a person is considered soul-less and animal-like, the question of whether he/she needs the gospel arises. When there is confusion in the minds of those who have to share he gospel, the evangelization of the cloned persons would suffer. What's more, it is possible that many churches, led by men who think that clones are soulless, would boycott the clones. These clones would have no scientific or logical method to prove that they have a soul and that they are fully human. After all there is no scientific test for the existence of a soul or a spirit.  

Since the cloned person does not have a normal father or mother, this would affect their standing in many places in society where it is necessary for a person to establish his descent. A person who has no father or mother is going to have a difficult situation convincing the bureaucracy that he is a normal part of the society.  

Far more serious problems would come up when the clone reaches marriageable age. In most parts of the world people enter into matrimony only after thorough investigation into family background. What would then happen to a cloned person can easily be imagined. Further a cloned person might get the consent for marriage only from another cloned person. But here arises the problem of whether two clones can give birth to normal children through their union. Such experiments have not yet been carried upon animals, so even in cloned animals there is a shortage of information. In such a cases, information about cloned humans becomes much more difficult to assess.  

Since cloned humans cannot easily be classified into the conventional relationships like son, daughter, brother, or sister, this poses, great problems for marriage and other such alliances. Further, since it is very difficult for cloned people to keep track of their ancestry, it is difficult to decide whether the marriage partner is related by blood to oneself. Even among normal people a marriage alliance between closely related people is supposed to be harmful. In fact very harmful genetic diseases manifest soon in families that intermarry for generations. Such genetic problems would only get magnified in clonal marriages.  

Since cloning histories of people would be kept confidential, checking for such blood relationship would become very difficult. Further even if two clones come from two separate lines, it is possible for them to be borne and delivered by the same woman. Thus it would be difficult to decide whether the marriage of such clones having the same surrogate mother would be harmful or not.  

The church would also face grave problems with the marriage of clones. For example, children brought up in the same family usually do not fall into love with each other. But it is possible that two clones produced from the same grandparent (father or mother) might be brought up in entirely different families, and thus might be brought up not as siblings but as strangers. Eventually if they meet and fall in love, the situation becomes grave. Further, if their ancestry becomes known but if they insist upon marrying each other in spite of this information, the church faces a very difficult situation. It is somewhat like non-identical twins from the same father desiring to marry each other. Unusual are the problems that the church would face once human cloning succeeds and becomes common.

 

2. Ethical Implications: With test-tube babies (test-tube fertilization) itself the number of ethical problems have jumped up beyond imagination or beyond human ability to solve. While this does not pose very serious problem for those who do not follow any kind of ethics, God-fearing people would not be able to overlook such problems easily.  

While even the introduction of test-tube fertilization and related techniques are giving such difficult situation to pastors and ethicists, the problems posed by cloning humans would be a thousand times more difficult than these. Let us begin with the "value" placed on life (with the assumption that a cloned human is fully human, having a soul, and a person in the image of God.  

If the clone is a real human, having a soul, and a person in the image of God, the question arises as to how much liberty can scientists and reproductive technicians take with this life. To make the question clearer one should know some statistics related to reproductive technologies. While in theory they talk about cloning as "taking a cell and growing it into a person", the practical aspects are not all that easy or straightforward. Sometimes hundreds or even thousands of embryos would be destroyed before a single successful clone is produced.  

Let us consider the cloning of Dolly, for example. It being an animal, cloning it would obviously be easier than cloning humans. Yet in this case Dr. Wilmut had to merge 277 living cells with the same number of ova. Once this fusion takes place, this single-cell embryo is identical in every respect with the final being. Yet, he had to witness 248 of them perishing in the laboratory. Only 29 of them survived for implantation into mother sheep. Even here 16 of them perished, and only 13 of the mothers became pregnant. Even out of these 12 of them perished, and only one offspring was produced. In summary, out of the 277 uni-cellular life created, 276 of them perished before they could get a single clone.  

Now let us apply this to humans. Even a person with very elementary background in biology knows that cloning of humans would be far more difficult than this, and as a consequence of scan experience perhaps tens of thousands of embryos have already been destroyed in laboratories. I am making the above statement in the light of several published reports, all of which claim that attempts at human cloning have been going on secretly now for more than three decades. A well-known book written by David Rorvik (In His Image) claims that human cloning became successful as far back as in December 1976.  

Since three decades have already passed after that that claim, it is obvious that hundreds or even thousands of experiments must have been conducted to perfect the techniques using which the alleged clone was produced in 1976 itself. Now the question to ask is, if these are HUMAN embryos then are we not stepping out of limits by manipulating them and destroying them. True, God has given man the power to create life, and even the most casual and careless sexual union begets life, but there ends man's freedom. While even the most reckless sexual union can beget life, man has no more moral control over it. He is not authorized to destroy it because it is made in the image of God.  

Even in test-tube fertilization, thousands of embryos are destroyed. Then the number of cases in cloning attempts would be far greater than that. But then this is something for which man is not authorized. He is not supposed to play with or destroy human life. Some might argue that this is only a temporary problem because some sacrifice has to be made during the development and perfecting of any scientific technique. While this might be true for non-living substances, the argument does not hold for living beings. They are not inanimate things that we can destroy them as we please.  

Others might argue that such destruction would take place only during the developmental stages, and that destruction of embryos would come to a halt once the techniques are perfected. Several fallacies are involved here. First, even in the far simpler process of test tube fertilization (where techniques have been highly perfected), there is much destructions of embryos before a single one is successfully implanted. Thus in the far more complex and unnatural process of cloning the rate of destruction would inevitably to be very high.  

Second, even after perfecting of the technique there would be much deliberate destruction of life as already witnessed in the area of artificial fertilization. No sooner artificial fertilization became available, laboratories offering this facility opened up everywhere, including India. This in turn gave rise to several related industries. For example, sperm-banks began to collect and offer semen for those couples where the husband had a problem with his sperms.  

Sperm banks then gave rise to embryo-banks where a couple could freeze fertilized embryos for future use. This future use could be for a time when one of the partners died prematurely, or where they suddenly lost the power of reproduction due to accident or illness. Alternately, many wealthy couples envisaged a situation when during old age they might have a desire for a child but when neither of them could give birth. They reasoned that they could hire a young woman, in need for money, to carry their child and give birth to it for a substantial reward. Others realized that in this era of a limited number of children they could lose their children at a time when they are no longer capable to give birth to another child, making frozen embryos useful.  

All the reasons above, and many more, made embryo banks a lucrative venture, and they came up in numerous countries. Embryos were produced in labs using either parental sperms and ova, or by using one of the components through donation. Initially things went on well, and many couples seemed to obtain some joy, but at a cost that many of them had not foreseen. For example, there was a white woman who, along with her white husband, purchased sperms from a bank. They were assured that the donor resembled the husband in colour, physique, and social background. The couple reasoned that since the child would resemble the parents, it would escape detection and the stigma of being labeled a bastard. While they were rejoicing that they never would have to reveal the story to anyone, disaster struck. The child born was black. There was some mix up in the labeling or distribution of sperms. Not only did they now have the embarrassing task of explaining it all to their friends and relatives, but would also need to raise up the child in a family and social atmosphere where it might face much ridicule.  

Accidents like the above one are not rare. They have been taking place with alarming frequency. Then there is the story of a woman who carried the embryo for a couple in whose case the wife had a problem with her uterus. But finally when the surrogate mother gave birth, she did not want to give away the child and even went to court for continued custody.  

Reproduction-related banks have now been functioning for almost three decades, and they now face another problem. People in their enthusiasm deposit a lot of embryos, but soon forget them. Or they die, leaving the embryos orphans. Still others default on payment. Since the embryos are placed in deep freezers, maintaining them requires substantial funds. It is not like the financial-bank where one gets an interest for deposit, but rather a place where the investment of capital requires regular payments for its sustenance.  

Thousands of frozen embryos in USA, Europe and other developed countries recently became orphans in one way or other. Finally when there was a default on payments, the banks had no option but to destroy them. Some countries even required the embryos to be destroyed after a stipulated period. There was no way to give them away to other because these are human beings. Thus killing was considered the best option, and truly they were killing was considered the best option, and truly they were killed by many of these banks. Similar is the case of cloning. Since clones can be produced at any stage of a person's growth, many would find reasons to clone themselves and for placing these embryos in banks. Further, since reproductive cells are not involved, many would easily be willing to part with their cells. Alternately, it would also be possible to steal cells from prospective donors.  

Thus a company might want to have cells from sportsmen, intellectual giants, wrestlers, or even beauty queens. These people might not find it difficult to give a scraping from their body, having in it tens of thousands of useful cells. Alternately, it would not be difficult to steal cells from them during medical checkups or any other artificially contrived situation. A human cell is such a tiny entity, and so many thousands of them break down and fall from our body during each of our physical movements, that obtaining cells from any persons would not be difficult. There is already a case of a person from whose blood a laboratory extracted a certain useful compound (during a routine blood check), and patented it. Now even the owner of that blood does not have manufacturing rights over it.  

Thus cells cloned in masses might be stored in banks and used for purposes wider than the purpose for which stored semen or embryos are used. Semen or ova from people need to be mixed with their counterparts from the opposite sex and this often destroys the desirable characteristics, but it is not so with cloning. Here there is no mixing, so the physical end result would be closer to the original, making cloning attractive and useful in many ways -- specially to commercial setups.  

The ethical question then arises as to who shall regulate these banks. For what all purposes can the clones be given away. Can cosmetic and body-parts manufacturers be permitted to buy from these people ? What all uses shall be considered ethical, and what all shall be unethical. If a country is ruled by an autocrat who does not respect moral laws (as is happening in many countries today), what shall be the fate of this technology.  

True, human clones have not been produced so far at least in masses, but the technology is at the door. Though the process is very difficult at present, we must not forget that almost all (advanced cutting-edge) technologies were extremely difficult in the beginning. But eventually they were simplified to such levels that many of them could be handled even by lay people. The same would be the fate of human cloning once it becomes available.  

Since the end-result of cloning (i.e., the properties of the clone) is much more predictable than the end-result of artificial fertilization, numerous industries and movements would be interested in fruits of human cloning. Even medical laboratories might want to have clones for medical experimentation. All of it put together is going to give rise to moral problems in front of which the problems created by artificial fertilization and embryo-banks would become insignificant.  

Terrible is the consequence of tampering with things that are sanctified, and about which there is clear instruction that man should not play with them. This includes human life, which is in the image of God.  

 

3. Eschatological Implications: It would be obvious to any history-watcher that each and every major scientific or technological breakthrough brings us closer to fulfillment of end-time prophecies. For example the advent of TV was the first step in the fulfillment of the prophecy in Revelation that says that ALL the people on earth saw the dead bodies of two end-time witnesses. With the invention of satellite-based broadcasting and the ever widening use of Internet, instant broadcast of information all over the world is now a reality without doubt. Similarly, the advent of cloning definitely indicates fulfillment of other prophecies related to end times.  

In Revelation the Mystery Babylon is presented as a woman doing transaction in all kinds of goods. Two of these have perplexed Bible students and translators alike because in Greek it says that she will be doing transaction of "bodies" and "souls". While the slave traders all over the world are definitely doing it in a small measure, the new technology now makes it possible to cultivate and sell people. In fact, several types of commercial establishments are keenly interested in using human cloning technology purely for commercial purposes. Mystery Babylon would actually do it.  

History is our witness that society initially resists those people who would like to commercially exploit technologies in a harmful way, but soon this resistance breaks down. Eternal vigilance is the cost to be paid for freedom, but those who need to exercise this vigilance tire after some time while those who would like to exploit never give up. Finally the enemies of freedom win. Human cloning also seems to be destined to the same end.  

In summary, the spiritual, the ethical, and the eschatological implications of human cloning are very serious. Neither Christians, nor the religious people, are ready to face the consequences of the new development. It demands immediate attention of Christian theologians, ethicists, and communicators. Meanwhile, it is necessary for others in the Christian community not to become a part or partner in these developments. They should not even encourage such practices by their neglect, apathy, or silence. As Mordecai cautioned Esther, each one should use the occasion properly for the sake of righteousness. Though God is in control of everything, he does not excuse or overlook those who neglect their human duties.    

          

 
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