On Saturday, I attended the Southern California Philosophy Conference. The session I enjoyed most (while being frustrated) was the debate on human cloning. Prof. Michael Shapiro of the USC Law School made sensible points in favor of the proposition that human cloning should be legal, and that the burden of proof should be on those who want to ban it. Prof. Shapiro (for whom I had the pleasure of doing research while I was a graduate student at USC) noted that usually intelligent people make terribly arguments poor arguments when the issue is human cloning.
His opposing discussant, Francis Pizulli, an attorney who helped draft the anti-cloning legislation, illustrated Shapiro's contention quite nicely. (Though Shapiro noted that Pizulli has written the best stuff on his side of the issue.) The most reasonable of his arguments was that cloning might lead to shorter lives for the clones due to telomere shortening. Every other argument he presented, I found either laughable, annoying or both. For instance:
If smart people like Pizulli and the other intellectuals who have written in opposition to cloning become so irrational when dealing with an issue like human cloning, we'd better watch out for their response when we're talking about altering human nature and making technological changes far more interesting and far-reaching that copying a person's genes.
Consulting services on the impact of advanced technologies President, Extropy Institute: