I’ve been following the cloning breakthroughs with interest. Frankly, I thought Dolly the sheep was an accident, and impossible to repeat. As cloning work progressed, though, it became more and more a reality to me. Recently, I heard a radio interview with a representative from a company that clones deceased pets for their owners. This week, scientists in Korea succeeded in cloning a dog. I wondered, if Mr. Tibbs should die and cloning a Tibbs II were financially feasible, would I do it?
It seems that most cloning opponents object on religious grounds. Either they find man’s attempt to play creator generally abominable or they see it as a slippery slope towards cloning people, which is definitely a step into God’s territory. As an atheist/agnostic, I don’t have this objection. In fact, if I had the choice between a naturally created child or a clone of myself, my decision would be much more heavily influenced by the quality of genetic material, than any concerns of being damned.
With the vociferous religious objects to cloning, I wonder that Jango Fett’s child clone in Episode II didn’t create more of a stir. Is it because Star Wars is so far removed from our reality? Many of the things we once considered science fiction or fantasy have come to pass. In 1976, when Logan’s Run was released, who would have imagined that two years later the first “test tube baby” would be conceived? I was only a child then, but was there as much religious uproar about man playing God as there is with the cloning debate? Granted, I’m not religious, nor do I associate with those that are, but I’ve heard almost no one say that they wouldn’t consider in vitro fertilization because it usurps God’s role. (I have heard much on the ethics of saving or disposing of the excess embryos created in the process.) I imagine that cloning will similarly become less of an anathema with time and exposure.
The other protestation to cloning is the “creep factor.” Laboratory created animals seem to be the province of horror movies. In one of my favorite horror movies, Severed Parts, a man loses an arm and it is replaced with a laboratory grown arm (cloned from a murderer). As expected, the arm is evilly sentient and even detaches and crawls away, scorpion-like, to continue its murderous activities. The thought of a cloned Mr. Tibbs reminds me of the cat in Pet Sematary. It would look like Mr. Tibbs, but something would be wrong about him. I’d probably sleep with one eye open, waiting for the kitten to chew my face off in the night or simply trip me as I walked down the dark stairs. Perhaps I’m a little religious after all – I seem to believe in the dark side of the spirit world. I find it hard to shake the silly suspicion that creating an animal in a lab might allow some sort of demonic possession.
In the end, I’ve decided that I wouldn’t clone Tibbs. However, it has nothing to do with the damnation of my eternal soul or the general creepiness of clones. I would not clone Mr. Tibbs because there are so many other kittens that need homes. Although I love him dearly, it doesn’t make sense to spend the money and effort to recreate Tibbs when there is the possibility for me to fall in love all over again. My final objection to cloning is that I’ve grown up with death as a natural part of life. Death, grief, moving on, and remembrance are such an integral part of the human existence that I’m loath to let go.
In 50 years my attitude may be archaic. The human condition is not constant, and my grandchildren may very well laugh at such an old-fashioned attitude. In the future, cloned pets may be commonplace and families will raise clones of themselves. I hope I can get over the creep factor.