Re: SOC: More genetic tech protests (fwd)

Robert J. Bradbury (
Wed, 11 Aug 1999 22:53:23 -0700 (PDT)

> wrote:

> I wrote:
> > As Greg Bear pointed out to me at the EI4 conference, you should
> > emphasize the personal benefits of cloning. You only have to say
> > to any parent, "If you had siamese offspring, would you want them
> > to remain "joined" for life?" -- that resolves the cloning question
> > very quickly. We have a *very* strong perspective, that people should
> > be "individuals". If two people arrive in this world "joined" as
> > non-individuals, we will generally promote the technologies that allow
> > them to become individuals.
> I don't quite follow this argument. What is the connection between
> "Siamese Twins" and cloning? Is it that a cell on my finger, say, is
> "joined" to me in the same sense that conjoined twins are joined together,
> and that by cloning it I can allow that cell to reach its destiny as an
> individual, no longer joined to me?

Sorry, no, I should have been clearer about the context. Siamese twins are often separated by a medical operation (whether this is ethical or not we will leave aside, often this is done for medical reasons). Depending on the degree of twinning this may or may not be done in an "equitable" fashion. Usually doctors or parents must "allocate" body parts to one "brain" or the other. When I speak about cloning, I'm refering to "brainless" body cloning to supply a complete body for one of the twins.

The word "clone" is overloaded at this time since we can have both "inhabited" and "uninhabited" kinds. We need distinguising vocabularies. [The medical term is something like aencephlic, but I can never remember it exactly.]

> I think there is an issue with regard to cloning, and it is similar to
> the one Robert raised with regard to genetic modifications.

Again, we are in the swamp. My usual use of the word "clone" refers to the brainless variant. I see relatively little use for identical twins of different ages, though one could presumably argue this could be benificial to society for instances like Einstein.

> A cloned child is someone who is being raised in a situation which is bizarre
> by historical standards.

True, but so are computers, TVs, VCRs, running water, toilets, etc. You can't easily invoke "historical standards" in a moral discussion because you are on a very slippery slope.

> A genetic duplicate of his "parent", he will
> grow up with the model before him of what he will grow to be, physically
> and to some extent mentally and emotionally as well.

We all do this already with our own parents and older siblings. They all share some of our genes and all serve as role models for us. Twin studies show that the interesting stuff (intelligence, longevity, etc.) is only about 50% "genetic" and so as long as these facts are emphasized I think the risks would be minimal.

> It's hard to say whether this will be good or bad for the child, on
> balance. Do we have the right to create a clone, with the possibility
> that it will turn out to be unpleasant?

Agreed. But we can't tell when we create *any* child whether it will turn out good, bad or unpleasant in advance!

> Maybe most clones will be unhappy, and feel that they
> are living a life which is a carbon copy of someone else's?

One would presume that you would only activate a "clone" if the first one turned out "well". Presumably this implies that (a) the original copy had "good" genes (something we will be able to test for in the not too distant future), and (b) the parent(s) were able to afford the rather expensive technologies required to produce clones. So the individual will likely grow up in a fairly priveleged environment.

I'm assuing here that *most* clones will be of the form of split embryo's (e.g. twins of different ages). If you are refering to the "lets make a clone of Robert" scenario (I'm flattered, really I am...) -- What possible reason is there to do this? (other than shear egoism or the Einstein scenario.) I think this is what everyone is afraid of and I can't make a reasonable argument for it. If we have the technologies (reliable & inexpensive) to make copies of ourselves, why would you do that? Why make a copy of a program that is fundamentally flawed? Remember nature is working blindfolded with its hands tied behind its back. It looks like designer children and cloning technologies are going to race neck and neck in terms of reliability and costs. I would say that designer children trump cloning in the minds of what most adults would want for their offspring (and as I've argued this is questionable from the ethical standpoint).

>From a risk standpoint, I suspect designer children are more likely
to have unforseen risks than a simple cloning exercise. There are big problems to be overcome in both areas and even with the genome in hand those problems might not be overcome before hard nanotech hits (so they may cause a lot of noisy discussion but be generally irrelevant).

> We can't get the child's consent beforehand, and some people will conclude
> that it is ethically wrong to give birth to a child for whom there is
> a significant possibility of these kinds of emotional problems.

Yep, but "on balance", given the probable wealth and intelligence of the people most likely to use these technologies in the near future, I would say you would have a better case arguing that "emotional problems" would be more likely to occur in children born to families living below the poverty line or to parents who have low IQs. Is it ethically wrong for these people to have children?

[Please no flames... I'm not making claims but am posing arguments based on observed statistics.]