A Brief history
On January 12, 1998, 19 European nations agreed to prohibit the cloning of humans.
Digging deeper, we find those 19 nations disappointed and dismayed that the two most powerful European countries, Germany and the United Kingdom, refused to sign the agreement!
Does this refusal mean we shall soon see human clones? Not from Germany. They claimed their national laws were more restrictive than the agreement and they therefore did not need to sign. It seems they have some national angst as a result the genetic experiments of the Nazi era. (See the History and Headlines article on the Nuremberg Nazi “Doctors” Trials) The United Kingdom, infamous for some of its own past medical experiments, reserved some flexibility to continue research.
The United States does not seem to have a coherent policy across the nation, with many states addressing the issues on their own. Political and ethical divisions similar to those surrounding the abortion debate prevent a consensus.
A major point to be made here is that there are basically two types of cloning. In the simpler sense, scientists attempt to clone only a group of cells or even an entire organ, technology that could conceivably be used for transplants without fear of rejection. The other major type of cloning is that where an entire exact replica organism is created, pretty much how the fictionalized Dr. Mengele created numerous clones of Adolph Hitler in the movie The Boys From Brazil.
Pop-culture has certainly seized on the reproductive form of cloning and has produced cinematic clones in films such as Jurassic Park (and its sequels), The 6th Day, The Island and the clone troopers in Star Wars. Obviously, books and short stories have likewise provided the public with scary examples of cloning gone wrong.
The debate about reproductive cloning, especially of people, touches science, ethics, religion and politics. In the United States, constitutionality is a major as-yet-unresolved question.
With much public opposition to the cloning of humans, it seems unlikely that any major western country is likely to produce a human clone anytime soon. The far east is another question entirely, with China becoming an economic and scientific powerhouse with autocratic leadership that does not have to cater to public opinion or debate.
Still, the thought of watching a baseball team of nine Babe Ruths or a football team of eleven Jim Browns is tempting!
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you think animal and/or human cloning should be legal? Why or why not? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more on the potential dangers of human cloning, see…
Bay, Michael. The Island. Warner Bros., 2011. Blu-ray.
Lucas, George, dir. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (Widescreen Edition). 20th Century Fox, 2005. DVD.
Schaffner, Franklin J., dir. Boys From Brazil. Lions Gate, 2009. DVD.
Spielberg, Steven, dir. Jurassic Park. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2013. Blu-ray.
Spottiswoode, Roger, dir. The 6th Day. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2001. DVD.
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