If you've ever pondered the issue of cloning, imagine the following fictitious scenario.
Just outside a highly secluded lab amidst a row of ordinary buildings in an industrial park complex, a cult leader in a white uniform paces nervously as his footsteps shatter the silence of the waiting area. Every moment behind those doors counts. The experiment is especially critical.
A team of exacting scientists is charged with carefully removing an egg and meticulously extracting its nucleus. After replacing it with specially prepared DNA, the technicians electrify the cell which is literally jolted into the process of dividing. What remains is a newly formed embryo. The final step - implanting it into a surrogate proceeds without a glitch.
Soon the doors swing open, yet there are no laboratory animals in sight. As the team files out one by one, there is a haunting silence which focuses everyone's attention on the silhouette of a woman lying quietly on an exam table in the far corner of the room.
Jubilation replaces anxiety as the team leader reports that all initial steps have been completed successfully. "It's a 9-month count down," she says.
"Yes!" the cult leader shouts. "Success is ours. Soon there will be two of me!"
Sounds like the drama of a Hollywood script - think again.
CNN recently reported that the FDA is investigating an enterprise called Clonaid and its chief scientist, a French biochemist, Brigitte Boisselier. The company, originally located in the Bahamas, was forced to leave last year when the Bahamian government learned about its intention to clone humans. After relocating to the US, Boisselier testified before congress about the safety of human cloning. Shortly thereafter, the FDA reportedly arrived at her lab and a federal grand jury subpoenaed the company's records.
Despite her brush with the law, Boisselier is unwavering about her commitment to clone humans and is undaunted by any potential legal challenges. "The only thing I guarantee is that I want a very healthy baby, and I'll do all I can do so that this very healthy baby is presented to you soon," she said. "If it's impossible to do it here, we'll do it abroad, and we'll move on and move on."
Sounds like just another scientist intent on cloning - prepare yourself for this.
What you're about to learn seems like the makings of the latest sci-fi movie. Clonaid isn't your typical genetics engineering think tank. It was actually founded by a religious group called the Raelians. Not your ordinary religious splinter faction (55,000 members exist in 84 countries), the Raelians are convinced extraterrestrials created life on Earth. They believe this was accomplished through...you guessed it...genetic engineering!
According to CNN, "The leader is known as Rael, the former Claude Vorilhon, who dresses in a white spacesuit-like uniform and says he spreads his message after encounters with creatures who came to Earth in a UFO."
Clonaid is funded by an individual who lost his infant son after a heart operation. And if you're daring to think the unthinkable, you're right. His goal is to do no less than - clone his dead child.
As frightening as this seems, Boisselier and the Raelians are not alone. Claims, or better yet, "threats" to clone humans within the next few years have been voiced by others as well.
And while our government is committed to halting such research, it doesn't take a genius to realize that preventing such experimentation is practically impossible - especially world-wide.
Unfortunately it seems like the nightmare is already upon us as technology is a double-edged sword. Beyond the countless failures documented in animal research, (the cloned sheep, "Dolly," required 277 attempts) is a moral and ethical issue of the highest gravity. The prospect of ethnic cleansing and selective breeding raised by a madman in the last century now has a new and frightening dimension.
What concerns me most is why anyone would want to clone a human. Stem cell research for the treatment of serious diseases certainly has justifiable merits, yet replicating a human being certainly crosses the moral and ethical line for me.
And while I do not doubt that human cloning is possible, I question any rationale for doing so.
It's obvious that identical twins with the same DNA are not the same. While they share a certain likeness, the differences are considerable. Clones (even sheep) are not science fiction replicants. We will not bring dead people back!
So take a cult, add some financial backing and a defiant scientist, mix with just the right amount of intrigue, acquire some powerful technology, and you have the makings of a great science fiction movie or a true-to-life scientific disaster. Both are likely in the works.
Or - consider expending our efforts and resources on nurturing our children and caring for every child as if they were our own instead of cloning humans. It's our choice and our chance to stop those who choose to ignore their soul, and instead play God - Mind Over Matter!
©2001 Barry Bittman,
MD all rights reserved