An Argument for Limited Human Cloning
Hershenov (David)
Source: Public Affairs Quarterly, 14:3, July 2000, 245-258
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Most discussions of Cloning tend to dwell on the most awful imaginable scenarios rather than the more attractive ones. Admittedly, it is a lot easier to imagine the former than the latter. Dan Brock probably speaks for the majority when he says “I believe it is reasonable to conclude at this time that human cloning doesn’t seem to promise great benefits or meet great human needs.” However, I disagree with this assessment because there seem to be cases in which the human needs are quite compelling and, as a result of this, it would be quite callous to deny certain infertile couples the option of cloning. In addition, I believe a rather useful principle can be found for distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate cases of cloning. After surveying the different types of cases, I will present this principle as a guideline for legislative and institutional policy.
  2. My hope is that this guideline will be received by most of the opponents of cloning as a welcome compromise because it rules out the more repugnant cases while allowing the few that are more appealing. We do not have to accept Leon Kass’ claim that “the only safe trench we can dig across the slippery slope to insist upon the inviolable distinction between animal and human cloning.” The opponents of cloning can also take some consolation in the fact that a principled line in the sand has been drawn, one not based on just the “yuk factor,” its more sophisticated cousin “the wisdom of repugnance,” or a dubious adherence to doing only what is “natural,” the latter stance making them appear as Christian Scientist fellow travelers. By accepting such a line they can retrench in a way that prevents the scenarios of their nightmares while having satisfied most, if not all, of the demands of their more reasonable opponents.
  3. In the first section of this paper, I will survey a number of cloning possibilities that make people instinctively recoil. Afterwards, I will describe other scenarios, rather poignant ones, in which cloning appears a quite humane and defensible solution to people’s distress. Emerging from this survey will be a trait which all the favorable cases of cloning possess and all of the intuitively repugnant cases lack. This will supply us with the promised principle. But the existence of this principle does not rule out that certain unattractive features of the various unwelcome types of cloning, such as the disruption of traditional family roles and obligations, will show up in all cases of cloning. So the last part of this paper will be an investigation of to what extent, if any, these disagreeable attributes are found in the cases of cloning permitted by the guiding principle. My conclusion will be that these characteristics are absent or are manifest only to a much lesser degree in the advocated cases of cloning. The reader will see that most of the objections to cloning that its opponents put forth are not applicable to the type of cloning advocated in this paper. Thus their call for a permanent total ban on cloning is undermined.


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