Playing

One of the objections to human cloning most often raised is that it would be Playing God. While it is not always clear just what is meant by this, at least three or four overlapping versions of this objection can be delineated. One is that only God can and should create a human life. This role is specifically reserved to God, such that when humans who try to do it take on a role that is improper for them to play.

Those who hold this view might use religious reasons and sources to support it. However, while this looks like a religious position, it is not necessarily so. For example, it might mean that the coming into being of a new person is a creation, not a making or production. A creation is the bringing into being of something the outcome of which is not known in advance. The coming into being of a human being or person is also a said to be a mysterious thing and something in the face of which humankind should be in awe. When producing a human being, as in cloning, people become instead makers or manipulators of a product that they control and over which they have power. Rather, this argument continues, those who bring a child into the world should do so with an attitude of respect for something wondrous, the coming into existence of a totally unique and new being.

A third version of this objection stresses the significance of nature and the natural. In producing a human being through cloning, scientists act against human nature. In humans, as in all higher animals, reproduction is sexual, not asexual. Cloning, however, is asexual reproduction. Leon Kass is one of the strongest proponents of this view. He alleges that in cloning a human being people wrongly seek to escape the bounds and dictates of their own sexual nature.

A fourth and related version of the "don't play God" argument holds that attempting to clone a human being would demonstrate hubris, thinking we are wise enough to know the effects of one's acts when in fact that is not the case. It is similar to the warning that it is dangerous to "mess with mother nature." When dealing with human beings one should be particularly careful. Above all each person should avoid doing what unknowingly may turn out to be seriously harmful to the individuals produced and to future generations.

Just as there are various possible interpretations of this objection, there are various responses to, or criticisms of, it. On the point that by interfering in nature people take on a role that belongs only to God, the response is to ask how this is any different from other ways that man interferes with or changes nature. One example is medicine. Here science fights off natural threats, disease, and disability, for example, with inoculations, insulin, blood transfusions and prosthe-ses. Others argue that God gave us brains to use and God is honored by that use, especially if it is for the benefit of humans and society. Human intelligence, the argument continues, is in fact a part of nature, so that in using it people do not actually oppose nature but follow it. Critics also point out that in using technology to assist reproduction, one does not necessarily lose a sense of awe in the face of the coming into being, though with human help, of a unique new being. Objectors may point out, however, that cloning does not create a unique new being, but a copy of one that already exists or has existed. This objection thus overlaps with a second major objection, namely, that cloning is a threat to individuality.

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