Last week, a handful of prominent economics and political blogs discussed the merits of and motivations for reproductive cloning. Some defended it, while others raised concerns of sexism as well as the exceptional expectations and diminished sense of uniqueness a cloned child would face. The debate was instigated by Bryan Caplan, a libertarian economics professor at George Mason University. He wrote that his upcoming book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think will likely have this paragraph:
I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I'm sure we'd share. I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I'm not pushing others to clone themselves. I'm not asking anyone else to pay for my dream. I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask? [emphasis mine]
The passage belies a poor understanding of genetics, as Jason Kuznicki noted:
Your genes are not little avatars of your Self. They are not post-theistic souls on which to pin your dashed hopes for immortality. They are not even alive, for crying out loud. Want to save your genes for all eternity? Build a fifty-foot granite monument and inscribe them. It would work about as well for your purposes.
Most of all it simply reeks of narcissism. Adam Keiper eloquently concluded:
Your genes are codified ways for building proteins, nothing more and nothing less. These different ways of building proteins play out an intricate mathematical game across some infinitely vast, unpredictable, and constantly changing dimensions of fitness. Just as with prices in the spontaneous order of economics, you cannot possibly know what makes one gene or set of genes better or worse in all possible circumstances. Nor should you try. Trying just shows that you don't really understand the nature of the game that you are professing to control.
The staunchest public advocates of cloning-to-produce-children have argued that it might someday help infertile couples produce biologically related children. But Mr. Caplan's example shows us that there are people who desire to clone themselves for the shallowest of reasons - the sheer pleasure of interacting with a duplicate, and the somewhat paradoxical belief that a person could have raised himself better than his parents did. It is hard to know which is more breathtaking: the callous disregard for the independently lived life of the cloned child, or the extreme narcissism so unabashedly on display.
However, most of these (male) bloggers, particularly the economists, wrote about cloning in the abstract, not as a real procedure. In fact, one or more women would be needed both to provide eggs and to gestate and deliver Caplan's clone. Given the current state of the technology (and its slow rate of progress), many women and eggs would be needed, and there would be significant health risks for both the gestational surrogate and the child. Furthermore, reproductive cloning may be inherently unsafe, regardless of technical developments. Such risks are not an acceptable price for one man's ego trip.
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
Posted in Jesse Reynolds's Blog Posts, Reproductive Cloning
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