Re: spare parts and cloning ethics

Anders Sandberg (
Sat, 1 Mar 1997 16:13:01 +0100 (MET)

On Sat, 1 Mar 1997, J. de Lyser wrote:

> Wouldn't it be possible (theoretically) and maybe ethically more acceptable
> to:
> A) Make sure a clone doesn't develop a brain BEFORE fertilization, by
> taking out certain genes ?

Sounds reasonable. A bit tricky, but possible. It even circumvents all
bans on germ line modification, since you are using a clone (hmm, they
have already been rendered void. Interesting).

> B) Grow just an arm or body part from specialized tissue cells ?

Tricky, but probably what we really want. Growing entire clones is so
wasteful (and bad taste), while finding ways to generate organs from
scratch in vitro by controlled morphogenesis would be much more elegant.
Hard to do, we need much more understanding of how cell differentiation
occurs (as the clone experiments have shown, we certainly don't know all
of the puzzle).

> Genetical modification should be used to improve, not to degrade.

Exactly. In one of the articles in Nature Axel Khan discussed the ethical
principle Kant proposed: Human life should never be thought of as only a
means, but also as an end. While I disagree a lot with Kant in general, I
think this principle is quite sound. The trouble comes when defining what
human life is; is a brainless clone human? An undifferentiated cell mass?

Personally I would think bionic implants can do quite well in many
situations too.

> and about using animals for donor organs:
> Shouldn't i be the one left to decide what i do with my genes to my animals
> ? (as long as i don't cause that animal to suffer) In the Netherlands a
> court ruled a bull had to be 'terminated' last year, because it was given a
> human gene (which would increase milk production i believe). In the end
> they just sterilized it and let it live.

The current rush of condemnations of biotechnology all seem to boil down
to that some loud people want to decide what is proper and what is not,
and then force all life to conform to it. A *very* dangerous way of
thinking - if you start to see certain trait as "unnatural" and hence
undesirable, you can easily begin to play eugenic policeman.

> It would surely be good for agriculture to allow modification, and maybe
> then those subsidies would finally end, opening the doors for a free world
> market ?

Unfortunately the groups that currently do modifications are the big
corporations; they of course thrive in a strictly regulated field since
they can lunch with government officials and afford expensive security,
labs and paperwork. In a less regulated field they would have more
competition, but they would still be the biggest.

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
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