Christianity

As with other religious traditions, Christian responses to cloning have been mixed. As early as the mid-1960s, Christian ethicists split sharply over whether cloning was "playing God." Supporting new biotechnologies, Joseph Fletcher famously claimed: "let's play God" (p. 126). Paul Ramsey's equally famous and oft-quoted response cautioned against advancing reproductive technologies: "Men ought not to play God before they learn to be men, and after they have learned to be men they will not play God" (p. 138). The contrast between such different Christian responses to interventions in reproduction continues into the twenty-first century. Some of the diversity in Christian responses to cloning is noted below.

PROTESTANTISM. Protestant Christianity shares a number ofJudaism's intellectual and textual traditions. For example, some of the principal elements of the Protestant view of humanity are rooted in the biblical accounts of creation, taking seriously the imago Dei theme found in Genesis. Within the Protestant tradition, imago Dei is often discussed either in terms of "stewardship" or of "created cocreatorship," but unlike the Jewish thinking, the stewardship model understands creation as a completed process in which humans serve as God's appointed stewards overseeing a finished work, while the cocreatorship model sees creation itself as incomplete creation continua, a process in which humans are responsible to participate and improve. These two perspectives relate to human cloning when one asks whether cloning exceeds the limits of human createdness, and whether humans attempt to play God through the genetic manipulation of another human. Understood as stewards, humanity is restricted to conserving the created order. In this view, human cloning is problematic because it usurps God's role as creator; humans are not called to be creators but rather stewards of creation. By contrast, emphasizing the theme that humans are created cocreators tends to support the permissibility of cloning by highlighting the idea of creative freedom implied by this view of imago Dei.

In their analysis of human reproductive cloning, Protestant scholars also seriously consider the impact that asexual reproduction may have on the societal norms of marriage, childbearing, and how humans are likely to view and value human clones. Protestants often maintain a normative Biblical view of the child as a being conceived within marriage, a gift from God, and the result of a loving relationship between a man and a woman. Human cloning raises Protestant concerns regarding the disjunction of marriage and childbearing, and the fear that such a separation will have a lasting and adverse affect on children and society. As representatives in some Protestant denominations have argued, human cloning allows humans to sever the connection between human reproduction and the marital relationship, a separation considered harmful both to child and culture.

Protestants also fear cloning's potential to change how humans view children, namely from a "gift from God" to a "project." Some scholars distinguish between what is "begotten" and what is "made," arguing that begetting is consistent with human dignity in a way that manufacturing is not. Similarly, some Protestant traditions caution against cloning on grounds that it reduces humanity to raw material to be fashioned in human image rather than the image of God.

It is in this light that some Protestants consider both the parental motives for cloning and some of the possible benefits of reproductive cloning. Sympathetic to suffering and the human condition in a fallen world, Protestants remain skeptical of cloning humans for utilitarian purposes such as cloning to replace a young child killed in an accident or cloning to gain access to biological material. Each of these instances of cloning may violate Protestantism's commitment to the inherent and non-instrumental value of human beings.

Indeed, all of these themes are nicely illustrated in a resolution condemning cloning passed by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2001. According to the resolution, because cloning involves the "wanton destruction" of human embryos; because it is contrary to the "biblical witness" that children are a gift from God and "not the result of asexual replication"; because cloning "does not meet the biblical standards for procreation in which children are begotten, not made"; and because cloning represents "a decisive step toward substituting human procreation with biological manufacturing of humans," cloning is morally abhorrent.

CATHOLICISM. Perhaps the most consistent and vocal opposition to human cloning has come from the Catholic Church. Magisterial (authoritative teaching) documents of the church have regularly and vigorously rejected cloning. For example, in Donum Vitae, an "Instruction" issued in 1987, the Vatican examined cloning in the context of other reproductive interventions made possible by the advent of in vitro fertilization and concluded that cloning was categorically wrong. Donum Vitae is typical of Catholic teaching on topics of bioethics in that it appeals both to beliefs that are shared primarily by the community of the faithful and also to basic human values and experiences that it takes to be common to all humanity. Thus, according to Catholic tradition, it makes sense to note reasons why cloning is morally wrong both in explicitly religious terms and in more secular terms.

An example of the former is Catholic teaching that life is a gift from God and that humans therefore have a responsibility to appreciate and safeguard the inestimable value of human life. According to the Catholic Church, the embryo should be treated as a person from the moment of conception. It follows that cloning is deeply troubling, for embryos will inevitably be destroyed when human beings are cloned. Cloning thus fails to respect the fact that life is a gift from God that should be treasured. Moreover, Catholic tradition emphasizes the fact that humans are created by God as a union of body and soul, and, for that reason, the human person cannot be treated merely as a complex biological system. Thus, to the degree that cloning defines the human person genetically (that is, largely in bodily terms), it is not consistent with a Catholic vision of the spiritual and bodily union of the person and is problematic. Indeed, according to the Vatican, cloning fails to respect the fact that there are limits on human dominance over nature. According to Catholic teaching, it is one thing for reproductive medicine to study human reproduction to assist society in the good that is procreation, it is another thing to dominate the process of procreation. Cloning crosses that line.

In addition to this religiously-grounded argument, Catholic teaching also appeals to the notion of common human experiences. Thus, for example, in her testimony before the NBAC, Lisa Sowle Cahill noted that although autonomy has become a, if not the, central value in contemporary debates in bioethics, Catholic teaching has always emphasized the importance of the common good in addition to individual liberty. With regard to cloning, therefore, Catholic tradition asks not merely whether this technology might benefit individuals, but whether it will benefit society in the long run. In answering this question, Catholic tradition focuses on the importance of family to social good. According to Catholic teaching, the biological connection between parents and children is a manifestation of the natural connection between sex, marriage, and procreation. In traditional language, natural law requires that sex and procreation go together. Thus cloning is wrong in that it violates natural law by separating sex and procreation. This conclusion, says the Church, should be clear even to those who do not share a commitment to natural law. Careful reflection on the importance of families, historically and cross-culturally, along with an examination of how cloning might fundamentally change the notion of family is enough to show that cloning is deeply worrisome.

Pregnancy Nutrition

Pregnancy Nutrition

Are You Expecting? Find Out Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy and Nutrition Without Having to Buy a Dictionary. This book is among the first books to be written with the expertise of a medical expert and from the viewpoint of the average, everyday, ordinary,

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment