Dolly Sheep with scientist who created her Ian Wilmut

Scientists first began cloning with frogs in the 1950’s, not extremely successful but since then things have only gone forward. The first mammal being Dolly the sheep in 1996, that died five years later. However, human cloning is a controversial topic and has yet to be a successful accomplishment. In most countries embryo cloning for research is banned and in some states it is outlawed. The FDA has has prohibited human cloning, not to mention there have been moratoriums placed (in attempt to be placed) on human cloning interestingly mostly in western countries.

Honestly, the only image I have personally of human cloning is based on the book Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, where in which the future has successfully cloned humans for the purpose of harvesting their organs in order to keep their real selves alive. The irony, in this fictional world humanity has established a way through clones to elongate life in some form of immortality. The question is whether or not cloning is a destructive or creative process.

The most simple way I can summarize cloning, and the process is essentially involving a lot of eggs, a lot of “mature cells”  and no sperm. The development of an adult cell has to somehow be reprogrammed to reset its “genetic clock” so that it can start all over as an embryo. The process is called nuclear transfer, the nucleus is first removed from an egg and replace it with the nucleus of an adult cell then the two “components are electrically fused and chemically activated to trick the hybrid cell into dividing like an embryo” (The Perils of cloning, Park).


The first mammal cloned Dolly, was the only survivor of 277 attempts, and that is one of the controversies the defectiveness of the clone. One other complication is large offspring syndrome, when the clones are born larger than normal the other being the surrogate’s experience complications with prolonged pregnancies, and difficult labor. Other abnormalities found were in the kidney and brain functions, sometimes the heart does not develop normally. However interestingly enough, the defects found in the clones do not pass onto the next generation, when they mate with non-cloned animals the offspring do not have the same defects and are almost reprogrammed; Dolly for example gave birth to five lambs. Dolly herself, only lived for only 6 years developing early arthritis amongst other things.

Hwang Woo-Suk, a South Korean scientist was the first to claim success in creating human embryonic stem cells through cloning. After establishing fame he was disgraced because it turned out to be mostly false, however he is still currently trying to complete research in that field. Which brings me to an earlier mention, and is just an interesting thought, of the legality, mostly being banned in the West for arguably abrahamic reasons of not playing god, supposedly secular constitutions are the first to oppose cloning. South Korea being the other country to pursue research in the field of cloning is more open to the idea of human cloning. A NY times article mentioned the difference in Judeo-Christian tradition and Buddhism, where in which there is no single creator in the latter religion making embryo research to support life more acceptable.

It is extremely interesting where science (maybe scientists) hold back in really acquiring immortality or elongating life, and the arguments differ as to why human cloning should be banned. Mostly because elongating life through cloning would come at a cost, if it were to be successful what would happen to all the dysfunctional human clones in the process of making successful ones? The ethical argument is long, but immortality by way of cloning would be detrimental to many, and who would benefit? Would it be limited to the privileged, or would it be available to most with time? Is it the same as the discovery of penicillin, or vaccines, were those also only available to few before it was perfected for the masses? Not to mention the ethics of creating clones that would be lesser humans only existing for organs etc with no rights. Don’t we have enough people already treated as less than human in the problematic society we live in…..