GeoffLamberton Ethically Speaking

Cloning virtues

About 2500 years ago Aristotle made an interesting contribution to the study of moral philosophy, known as virtue ethics. He suggested that the path to an ethical life is a matter of determining what a virtuous person would do. Determine what virtues an ethical person would possess and the right thing is what would lead to being that virtuous person.

Lets fast forward to the cloning debate, and specifically human reproductive cloning, the universally illegal aspect of cloning. Reproductive cloning involves the implantation of genetic material from a donor into a female host which, if successful results in a baby genetically identical to the donor. There are numerous cases of animals being produced using reproductive cloning, but to date there are no verified accounts of cloned humans.

There are many arguments supporting the view that human reproductive cloning is a really bad idea. These include:

The religious argument only God should create human life;

The natural view human life should be created by sexual reproduction;

The diversity argument cloning violates the natural condition whereby life is unique; and

Social concern how will cloned individuals be integrated into family and community?

When I was doing some research on this topic I came across some ideas on the BBC website in support of human reproductive cloning. Some of these ideas are a bit silly.

Banning things is a bad idea;

Cloning doesnt hurt anyone;

Gives people more choices about their family;

Enables parents to replace a lost child (this is creepy);

People can reproduce in the way they choose;

Could save our species in case of global disaster;

Gay or celibate people can have biological children; and

It is a childs right to have good genes.

Id like to talk more about this last idea which is suggesting that if you have a child naturally you are denying the child the possibility of having designer genes. Eugenics is the process of breeding for desirable traits and its this method that underpins the biotech and GM food industries.

Now lets be honest, none of our kids are perfect (not that anyone else is allowed to suggest this). Would the world be a better place if we identified the traits that a perfect person would possess and breed a super race of humans with these desired attributes?

We could breed super athletes, intellectuals, children who phone home once a fortnight. Im always going on about sustainability, so well breed in a recycling gene and the ability to read in the dark.

Getting back to Aristotle, could we clone the virtuous person? Will they be a hard working, clever business person, a courageous soldier or do we prioritise charity, non aggression and generosity and try to achieve world peace and an end to poverty?

Something tells me this is inherently wrong. It just feels yuk!


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