"The Bill Gates of Cloning"
8 January 1998
ynthia Crysdale, associate professor of religion and religious education at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., says the plan by a Chicago physicist to clone human beings is driven by entrepreneurial concerns and that cloning itself raises serious questions about the future of the human gene pool.
"Richard Seed is an entrepreneur," says Crysdale. "He wants to be the Bill Gates of cloning technology." Seed's announcement of his intentions comes little more than a year after the successful cloning of Dolly, a sheep, in Scotland.
"Why would he not submit himself to the procedures, the concerns, the discussion among scientists and ethicists?" Crysdale asks. "Why is he not willing to wait to see how cloning will affect Dolly over her lifetime, to take the time to study how this technology will affect human persons?"
Crysdale believes reproductive technology is market driven. "There is a strong push in our culture for every couple to have their own biological children," she says. "Cloning, I'm afraid, will simply become the next 'product' to be marketed to anyone willing to pay the price."
Crysdale expresses concern about the effects of cloning on future generations.
"There are already serious questions about how, when, and under what circumstances we ought to be manipulating eggs and sperm in order to facilitate fertilization. Cloning takes this a step further in that we would take the entire genome of an individual and reproduce it. We don't know what the long-term effects of this kind of genetic manipulation are. We don't even know yet how cloning will affect the long-range development of Dolly. "By cloning you are playing with the gene pool, you are determining which genes will be available for future generations. And as yet we have no idea what spontaneous mutations or other side effects will result from such manipulation."
Crysdale, who teaches Christian ethics at Catholic University, adds that "tampering with the very stuff of human life puts the future of the species at risk, if only in the sense that we don't know (and probably can't know) what the long-range effects will be. To assume that we can tamper with one individual's genes and not impinge on the wider future of everyone is not only arrogant but simply misguided."
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