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Virtual Biopolitical

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Answering machine: you called the 245 23 45 71. We are not available at the moment. Please call later or leave a message after the beep.

Kolja: ...or leave a message after the beep. They are never at home!...

(bell rings)

Mormon 1: Hello! Might we have a few minutes of your...
Kolja: no-no!
Mormon 1: But we won't take you more than...
Kolja: I said NO T-H-A-N-K-S
Mormon 2: but-but but we...
Kolja: NO!

I keep mixing them up: the Mormons, the Jehovah's witnesses and others. They knock at your door at most improbable hours, at the break of dawn say. They sure are strange. The world is packed with sects, various churches, bizarre religious groups.

Just take those of the UFOs. Who are those who claim to be extraterrestrials and advocate that extraterrestrials are coming to rescue us? Is it Ral, no, Rahel, yeah, Rahelians they call themselves. You know those who maintain to have cloned a baby girl. Is it all true?

They have provided no evidence.
Not them, but sooner or later somebody will clone a human being.

Frogs, sheep and who knows what other animals have already been cloned. That poor Dolly is now dead. She died a premature death, suffering the same ailments that beset an old sheep.

Life is not a toy everyone can play with. I mean, just look at the results.

Still, some insist that human beings have already been cloned in some part of the world but the news has not been made public. Even way back at the end of the seventies, there was this book entitled In His Image, published in 1978, on how a rich man had had himself cloned producing a son that was his spitting image. There was no end to the controversy the book started. The writer was a science journalist, I think his name was Rorvik, and he was accused from all sides of being a liar, a profit-maker.

Anyway, maybe back in '78 the biotechnologies were not advanced enough but I think today it is do-able. To even clone a man.

In order to have a successful case of cloning, you need a female, in any case, to carry out the pregnancy. Only, the insemination does not occur in the usual way. It is the scientist who takes the nucleus from a somatic cell, from an adult body cell not from the spermatozoon, and substitutes it into the nucleus of an ovule. In short, the egg cell no longer has its own nucleus but that of another person's cell. So the chromosomes do not mix, those of the father with those of the mother, but you only have the chromosomes of that person, called the "donator", whose somatic cell was taken.

When the embryo grows and the baby is born, it has exactly the same genetic make up of its parent: same sex, same eye colour, same bone and body structure.

If I had myself cloned, the baby would be just like me at that age. But who can tell, if that baby grew up in the same way as I did, would it have my character or go through the same experiences that I have gone through?

That remains to be seen. Which of the two is more important; genetic predisposition or environmental influence, the people you meet, the life you lead?

No doubt, both are important, but, can experience lead a person in a totally opposite direction from the one that is envisaged by the genetic identity? Who can tell?

The obvious fact is that environment can determine the changes in a man: so, if I had myself cloned, it is almost sure that my clone would not develop in exactly the same way as I have. One of the reasons is the time gap of twenty, thirty or maybe more years between my childhood and his or hers. In that interim time society, the environment, and living conditions and opportunities would have changed enormously.

There is still the ethical or the moral dilemma: would it be right to clone a human being? From what I read, the great majority of scientists are contrary and those in favour of cloning seem to be nothing more but weird sects like the Rahelians or some marginal characters in the scientific community.

Yet, why ban an option even though it is at present opposed by the majority of experts?

One thing appears clear: the question whether it is right or wrong to clone a human being cannot depend on the presumption that the clone would be an identical copy of the donator and would thereby lose its uniqueness. This presumption, be it desirable or not, can't come true because the environment plays a role here and prevents the possibility of the life of one person becoming a replica of another person's life. And what is more, there are cases of people with exactly the same genetic make up in nature - they are called identical twins.

To conclude: what arguments are there to support the cloning of a human being? I can't think of more but one: the freedom of producing the offspring in the way that the parents find best. It is true that cloning is a reproductive method that we could describe as "unnatural" because, in nature, no other sex-based living creature reproduces itself in this way. But try to think of all the other things we do in a way not found in nature. We cook our food, we go around in cars and planes, we build skyscrapers.
And if new ways of doing things are invented by science and technology why shouldn't we be able to use them? Even the counter-argument that by cloning babies their personalities would be way too exposed to manipulation doesn't go unanswered: babies that come to life in the most natural way are also manipulated by, or should we rather say, placed under a strong influence by their parents from earliest childhood.

Those who are opposed to human cloning could argue that the freedom of the donator to reproduce himself in a way he considers optimal clashes with the freedom of the clone to achieve self-realization in future: because anyway you put it, a person that is brought to the world with the genetic make up of his or her parent, is less free than a person whose genetic identity is a random mixture of two different sets of chromosomes.

The objectors could claim that cloning denies the natural dignity of a human being because it restricts one person to a certain "story" and to an exclusive relationship with another person, the donator. They could also draw our attention to the perils that the clone is facing if we consider that a great number of attempts is necessary for cloning to finally be successful and there is no guarantee that the implantation of the donator's nucleus into the host's egg cell will be done without damage. Above all, the objectors of cloning could claim that no man should have such power over another man's existence as to programme his or her biological identity or select it with arbitrary and instrumental criteria.

Well, it's really getting late. The doubt remains:
can we allow the cloning of a human being or not?

Antonio Caronia.
DemoKino - Virtual Biopolitical Parliament - Cloning.

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