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Cloning has quickly become one of the most contentious issues in modern society, along with other issues like abortion, homosexuality and euthanasia. Due to the conflicted teachings and ideologies of many people in the world, there is no general consensus about cloning. Some people feel that it could benefit humans (through cures, through solving infertility and through knowledge), while others feel it could endanger humans and is a bad thing (due to ethical issues and due to being unaware of what could happen if it didn’t work).
Because of this, I have decided to investigate whether cloning actually does benefit or endanger society. I will go about this by collecting 6 sources (3 against cloning and 3 for cloning) and evaluating the evidence they present with the hope of coming to an unbiased conclusion of whether cloning benefits or endangers mankind. I will aim to collect my sources from a number of different places and resources in order to make my final conclusion more reliable.
It should be noted that much of what is discussed in the field of cloning is hypothetical as humans have yet to do many of these things. This means that the topic will be very relevant in the future, and therefore I have decided that the target audience for this case study will be teenagers, as they are our future generation.
An example of the results that successful reproductive cloning could yield
Cloning is the process of creating an organism or tissue which is genetically identical to another organism or tissue.
Genes are sections of DNA, found in the nuclei of cells, which contain information for the production of proteins. A clone has the same genes – and therefore proteins – as the original organism, which is why they are considered to be identical.
The process of cloning can be used to make clones of a number of organisms, including plants and animals, and also a number of tissues, like muscle cells. There are three main types of cloning currently, reproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning and natural cloning.
Reproductive cloning is the cloning of an entire organism. This is done through the process of nuclear transfer. In this process, a cell is taken from an organism (let’s say Cat A for this example). The nucleus is taken out of the cell and is treated with chemicals so that undesired genes are turned off and desired genes are turned on. It is then put into an empty egg cell, where the whole cell should become reprogrammed. Electrical impulses then stimulate the egg cell and cause it to undergo the process of mitosis until it becomes an 8-cell embryo. At this stage it is placed into a surrogate mother. Upon birth, a genetically identical – though infant – Cat A will have been created.
This diagram shows the process of cloning a baby using nuclear transfer. As you can see, a nucleus from a person’s body cell is removed and placed in an empty egg cell which has had its nucleus removed. It is then placed into a surrogate mother, develops into a zygote, then an embryo and finally a baby. The baby will be a clone of the person that provided the nucleus for the empty egg cell.
Attempts to clone in this way are often unsuccessful. There is a success rate of 0.1% to 3%. This is because it is difficult to get the process of nuclear transfer to work. There are a number of reasons for this:
– The empty egg cell and the transferred nucleus may not be compatible
– Like any pregnancy, the birth could fail
– Implanting the embryo into the surrogate may fail
– The egg cell, once stimulated with electrical impulses, may not divide properly, meaning it will not become an embryo
Therapeutic cloning is cloning with the aim of creating embryonic stem cells to help patients. This also uses nuclear transfer, but instead of producing whole organisms, this time it helps to produce tissues for repair.
In the process, a cell is a taken from a patient, and the nucleus from this cell is taken and put inside an empty egg cell. From here, mitosis should occur and an embryo should grow. Once this has happened, the embryonic stem cells from the embryo are taken and treated with chemicals to turn on desired genes and turn off undesired genes. Because embryonic stem cells are unspecialized cells which can turn into any kind of cell, the treatment with chemicals allow for us humans to choose which cells we want to be made. This is how the tissue the patient requires is made.
This diagram shows the process of therapeutic cloning. It shows that a zygote, either a cloned one or a natural one, is what is used for the process. Once the zygote becomes an embryo and then a blastocyst, the embryonic stem cells that make it up are then harvested and form different types of tissues that can be used for therapeutic uses.
If the patient requires a new kidney, and a new kidney is made using this form of cloning, it is certain that the new kidney will be compatible with the patient’s body as it genetically identical to the original kidney.
Like reproductive cloning, the success rate for therapeutic cloning is quite low due to difficulties in the nuclear transfer process.
Title: Frontiers of cloning
From: New Scientist article by Ian Wilmut published on 4th August 2010 (magazine article 2772) http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727722.600-frontiers-of-cloning.html?page=2
The underlying message coming from this source is that reproductive cloning should not be used to create new life as too much effort and resources are used to achieve such little success. It is clear that Ian Wilmut feels the cons outweigh the pros in this case, and this is made evident as he states that ‘the possibility for harm far outweighs any conceivable benefits.’
Ian Wilmut’s evidence for his idea is that only 1 of the 277 reprogrammed eggs – eggs which have had their nuclei removed, and then replaced by the nucleus of a patient’s egg cell – resulted in the growth of a cloned sheep which made it into adulthood.
This evidence can easily be justified. The small amount of success can be attributed to the high levels of stress that the patient’s nucleus and empty egg cell are put under to become reprogrammed. The high levels of stress can damage the cell and in turn ensure it cannot become an embryo, and later, a fully-grown clone. It is extremely rare for cells to handle the stress and become reprogrammed, hence why ‘only 29 [cells] made it to the stage where they could be implanted into 13 surrogate mothers.’
The source and the evidence used in it can both be considered to be reliable and accurate to certain extents.
Firstly, the source can be considered to be reliable as it was published in the magazine New Scientist, which is a respectable science magazine. Furthermore, the author of the article, Sir Ian Wilmut, a professor, who is currently Director of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, adds credibility to the source through his credentials. This also shows that his view should be valued. The accuracy of the evidence is also certain as Ian Wilmut was the leader of the research group that cloned Dolly the Sheep, meaning that the data he is using is in no way estimated or assumed.
Title: What’s wrong with cloning humans?
From: The Guardian article by Ian Sample – published on 22nd April 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/apr/22/zavos-clones-human-embryo
In this source, Ian Sample is essentially saying that reproductive cloning would not be beneficial to society because it would provide many couples who have lost their children with false hope, and instead of making them happy it would damage them psychologically. He also slightly suggests that reproductive cloning may be a waste of time as it so inefficient.
His evidence for this is his idea that the cloned baby would not be the same as the person that is being cloned, and therefore ‘it won’t behave the same way, despite its parents’ expectations’. This idea cannot be disproven or proven because there has never been a human clone, which means a clone’s behavioral traits cannot be compared to the original person’s.
However, it is widely agreed within the science community that human beings are affected by environmental factors as well as genetic factors, and therefore, despite the fact that the clone will be genetically identical to the original person, it is certainly possible that environmental factors could cause the clone to be a completely different person. This could be a psychological ‘car crash’ for the parents, like Ian Sample suggested, as it may be hard for the parents to accept that their child can’t be replaced.
Along with this, Ian Sample refers to – though not explicitly – the fact that most cloning attempts result in death for the clone. He alludes to this fact in the source when he says ‘A cloned baby – if it survives – will…’ This evidence is correct. The success rate for cloning ranges from 0.1% to 3% depending on the species of animal being cloned. This low success rate can be attributed to a number of different problems, like the reprogrammed egg cell not dividing properly, or the implantation of the embryo into the surrogate mother failing. The fact that the success rate is so low for animals means that it is likely that it will be low for humans too, which is proof that this suggested evidence is accurate.
Overall, the source can be considered to be reliable. Although The Guardian may not be as reliable as a scientific magazine or journal, it can still be considered quality media. Furthermore, the author Ian Sample is a science correspondent, was previously a journalist at New Scientist, was a journal editor at the Institute of Physics, and has a PhD in Biomedical Materials. It would be fair to say that that adds a lot of credibility to the source, and consequently it adds reliability to the evidence. It also shows that Ian Sample’s opinion should be highly valued in this debate.
Title: How cloning stacks up
From: Article from the Christian Science Monitor by Gregory M. Lamb – published July 13th 2006 http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0713/p13s01-stgn.html/(page)/2
This source is essentially saying that if therapeutic cloning was to become a common practice, a large demand for egg cells would surface which would cause an ‘ethical challenge’ to be created. This ‘ethical challenge’ is the fact that a large number of embryonic stem cells would be destroyed in order to create new tissue to replace damaged parts of the human body. The source is therefore suggesting that therapeutic cloning is not beneficial to society.
The evidence provided in the source is correct. ‘Widespread cloning of human stem cells would create a huge demand for women’s eggs’ due to the low success rate in the nuclear transfer process. This low success rate can be due to a number of different things, like the cell not dividing properly or the nucleus of the patient not being compatible with the empty egg cell. The low success rate means that if scientists want to cure a disease through therapeutic cloning, they must have more eggs than sufferers of the disease. If scientists were trying to cure a disease with 100,000 sufferers, and they had 100,000 eggs, the disease would not be cured in all of the sufferers as many of the eggs would fail in the nuclear transfer process. This is why a ‘huge demand’ would be created.
It is also correct that this ‘huge demand’ would ‘in turn create an ethical challenge’. Hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of eggs would be needed to cure diseases due to the low success rate of therapeutic cloning. This will be an ‘ethical challenge’ because many people feel that an embryo can be considered to be life. There isn’t a general consensus about when a human’s life starts and therefore pro-cloners cannot disregard the idea that an embryo is life. In therapeutic cloning, all of the embryos used are destroyed, whether the process works or not; if it works, it will become a tissue, if it doesn’t work, it will be disposed of. Due to this many people will see therapeutic cloning as mass murder, hence creating a large ‘ethical challenge’.
The Christian Science Monitor is a long-running newspaper which has been running since 1908. It has won 7 Pulitzer Prizes in its time and claims to be normal newspaper that happens to be owned by a church rather than a religious publication. Consequently, it can be assumed that there is no bias in its reports of an ethical issue like cloning, and therefore we can also assume that Ms. Darvonsky did actually say what the newspaper reported she said. The Christian Science Monitor can be considered to be quality media and therefore somewhat reliable.
Ms. Marcy Darvonsky has a PhD and is the Associate Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society, an organization which is ‘particularly critical of proposals for full-term human cloning’. Her credentials add credibility to the source and show that her opinion should be valued in the debate. Along with this, the fact her evidence is correct suggests that the source is also reliable.
Title: Experts support human cloning
From: BBC news article by unnamed journalist – published on 16th August 2000 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/881940.stm#top
The basic message behind this source is that therapeutic cloning is beneficial to society as it provides the opportunity for humans to deal with diseases that are currently impossible to cure.
The source’s evidence for this idea is that embryonic stem cells can develop ‘into almost any kind of tissue in the body, including nerves, muscle, blood and bone’, and therefore, they can be used to make a new part of the body (‘selected types of tissue’) which can be used as a replacement for the unhealthy organ or tissue.
This evidence is accurate. Stem cells are unspecialized cells which can turn in to any kind of cells. If a stem cell is treated with the right chemicals, certain genes can be switched off, which will result in the desired cell being made. For example, if scientists want to make heart cells, they can treat the stem cells with chemicals. This will turn off all the genes that aren’t needed for the production of heart cells. The stem cells will then specialize into heart cells.
This could be beneficial to society as it could provide patients with the opportunity to replace their faulty organs. The stem cell used would include the patient’s genes, and therefore it is certain that the patient’s body would accept the replacement organ; this isn’t a certainty for normal transplants.
Although the author of this article is unnamed and there are many more reliable sources than BBC News, the fact that the evidence put across in the source is correct suggests that the source can be considered to be somewhat reliable. Also, the BBC is a highly regarded organization and is considered to be quality media.
Despite this, the fact that the author is unnamed does cause the source to be somewhat unreliable too. While it is true that the evidence provided is correct, the author could just be a random journalist, meaning that his opinion may not be highly valued and consequently his view may not be relevant to the debate.
Title: Cloning has a world of benefits
From: Feedstuffs FoodLink Article by Rod Smith – published 28th May 2007 http://www.feedstuffsfoodlink.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=news&mod=News&mid=9A02E3B96F2A415ABC72CB5F516B4C10&tier=3&nid=74EF3EBD874246F1914C2E6F9F9D38E7
In this source, Rod Smith is saying that reproductive cloning will be beneficial to society. His evidence for this is that it will allow for producers to clone their most useful livestock. This will ‘improve the consistency and quality of meat and milk’, ‘insure against unexpected injuries and losses’ and will improve ‘disease and pest resistance’.
This evidence can be considered to be correct. Due to genetic variation in species of animals – which is caused by the mutation of genes – some get different traits to others. This can ensure that some animals are more resistant to disease than others in their species (e.g. a human that has sickle-cell trait will be more resistant to malaria than humans that don’t have sickle-cell trait).
Cloning the healthiest and strongest animals in a livestock would improve productivity. If there is a livestock of 30 goats, 1 of which is resistant to a particular disease, it could have an effect on the productivity of that livestock if the disease was to come about. Much of the livestock could die.
On the other hand, if there is another livestock with 30 goats, 27 of which are clones of the goat which is resistant to the disease, it wouldn’t have as big of an effect on the productivity of the livestock if the disease was to come about.
Rod Smith is also correct that cloning in this way would ‘insure against unexpected injuries and losses’. If only 1 goat in a livestock is resistant to a disease, then dies before it is able to reproduce, those genes will be lost as they have not been passed on to any offspring. If there are many clones however, one dying will not have a big effect as there will be others with the disease-resistant gene.
Although Feedstuffs FoodLinks has a small following (around 1,000 Twitter followers) and although it is a website about food rather than science, the accuracy of the evidence that the source provides does give it some degree of reliability.
On the other hand, the source’s credibility is questionable. Yes, it is true that the evidence is accurate, but the opinions expressed in the source may not carry much weight as Feedstuffs FoodLinks is a relatively unknown organization and Rod Smith is seemingly just a regular journalist.
Title: Therapeutic Cloning
From: Article by Ian Murnaghan – published on 17th November 2010 http://www.explorestemcells.co.uk/therapeuticcloning.html
The basic message behind this source is that therapeutic cloning is beneficial to society as it provides humans with the opportunity to get a transplant without having to wait on a waiting list for the right donor or worry about immunological rejection.
The source’s evidence for this is that ‘the patient’s own genetic material is used’ and therefore ‘immunological rejection is alleviated’. This evidence is correct. In therapeutic cloning, the patient’s own stem cells are used. These cells contain identical genetic information to the patient’s other cells. Once the stem cells have been treated with chemicals that turn off undesired genes, an identical tissue to the existing one will start to develop. This means that when the new, clone tissue is ready for transplantation, there should be no problem with the compatibility of the new tissue and the patient’s body.
Ian Murnaghan is also correct when he states that ‘the patient’s body would be more likely to recognize the foreign proteins and then wage an attack on the transplanted cells [during a regular transplant].’ This is more likely to happen during a regular transplant because, unless the donor is the patient’s twin, the tissue will not be genetically identical. This could cause the immune system to destroy the transplanted cells once they enter the patient’s body. It does this because it recognizes the cells as foreign.
Due to accuracy of the claims made by Ian Murnaghan in the source, it can be considered to reliable.
On the other hand, the source’s credibility can be considered to be questionable. The website I got the source from, http://www.explorestemcells.co.uk, is relatively unknown which means that the views expressed by the website aren’t necessarily highly valued.
The same applies with the author of the article, Ian Murnaghan. Although all of his scientific claims were correct, the actual opinion that he expresses in the source also may not be highly valued, but this is difficult to know as there has been no background information provided about his credentials.
Reproductive cloning isn’t beneficial to society as too much effort and resources are used to achieve so little.
Reproductive cloning could provide couples with the false hope that they can replace their dead child.
Therapeutic cloning can be considered to be the murder of human life.
The high amount of eggs needed for therapeutic cloning mean that it would be difficult to cure everybody.
Therapeutic cloning gives humans the chance to cure diseases.
Reproductive cloning could improve the productivity and survival chances of livestock.
Therapeutic cloning could ensure that humans would no longer have to worry about immunological rejection.
Therapeutic cloning could ensure that humans no longer have to wait to replace a damaged organ or tissue.
Another potential example of the results that successful reproductive cloning could yield
In conclusion, it is clear to see that there are many contrasting points of view on the issue of cloning. There were a number of different arguments in support of cloning and just as many in opposition of cloning.
One of the main arguments in its favor was that therapeutic cloning would eradicate the possibility of immunological rejection in transplants. This argument was correct. The cloned organ would be genetically identical which would mean that the body would not see it as foreign and reject it. On the other hand, this argument was flawed. While immunological rejection would be alleviated, there is still an extremely low success rate in the nuclear transfer process. Some people would argue that this creates the same problem as before – not everybody could get a transplant. The majority of the attempts to create the cloned organs would fail. With this in mind I feel that this argument was theoretically strong if you assumed that therapeutic cloning will have a high success rate in the future, but as of now, is weak.
Another one of the main arguments in cloning’s favor was that reproductive cloning would allow for producers to clone their most productive livestock. This argument was also correct. Genetic variation means that some animals are more useful than others, meaning that cloning the useful ones would create a more productive livestock. On the other hand, this argument was also flawed. Again the low success rate means that many of the attempts to clone the useful animals would fail. Some would argue this would be a waste of time and money and others would argue that we do not fully understand the long-term effects of cloning, and therefore it is impossible to know if the livestock would actually be productive. Again, this argument was theoretically strong if you assumed that cloning will have a high success rate and have no long-term effects in the future, but again, as of now, it is weak, and weaker than the immunological rejection argument.
The fact that therapeutic cloning could cure diseases was another argument in favor of cloning. This argument was correct. Diseases could be cured as organs that are unhealthy could be replaced by a genetically identical, but healthy version of the organ. This would essentially cure the disease. But like the other arguments supporting cloning, some people would argue that the low success rate for therapeutic cloning means that way too many egg cells would have to be donated to cure a substantial amount of people. Others would also argue that it would be unethical as huge amounts of life would be sacrificed to create organs. Like the other arguments for cloning, this was a strong argument theoretically but until the success rate of nuclear transfer actually increases, this argument will remain a weak one.
One of the main arguments against cloning was that too much effort and resources are used to achieve little success. This can be considered to be somewhat correct. The low success rate for cloning suggests that little can be achieved. On the other hand though, some people may believe that a lot can be achieved. Some may feel that curing 2,000 people of a disease is a lot of success while others may feel the opposite, it is all down to opinion what ‘success’ regarding this topic actually is. Despite this, I feel that this was a strong argument against cloning.
Another one of the main arguments against cloning was that reproductive cloning would provide people with the false hope that their cloned child will be the same as the one that died. This argument is likely to be correct. It is highly likely that the cloned child will not be the same as the original child – environmental factors will cause the child to be different. Also, we cannot be certain that people will have the false hope that the clone will be exactly the same, but it is highly likely they will. I assume that the only reason parents would want to clone their dead child is because they want it to be exactly the same as the child that died. Others would argue that the procedure wouldn’t create false hope within the parents as they would already be aware of the high chance of the cloning failing. Regardless, this is a strong argument against reproductive cloning.
The fact that therapeutic cloning would create a massive ethical challenge was another argument against cloning. This argument is correct. There are many different people in the world, with many different beliefs, so the fact that therapeutic cloning involves the destruction of embryos upsets a lot of people as they consider embryos to be human life. Others would argue that it isn’t an ethical challenge as embryos are not human life and therefore therapeutic cloning is not murder. Regardless of these points of view, there is no general consensus as to when life starts. Therapeutic cloning would create a massive ethical challenge and therefore I feel that that was a strong argument.
Overall, I have found that most of the arguments supporting cloning assume that the success rate is high. If the success rate of cloning was actually high, these would be strong arguments. The problem is that the success rate is not high, meaning most of the arguments are weak. For example, it is true that cloning would benefit society as it could cure a number of diseases if the success rate was high, but with the success rate as it is now, it will not benefit society. So many resources will be used and it is unlikely that everybody will be cured.
On the other hand, most of the arguments opposing cloning would be strong arguments whether the success rate was high or not. For example, if therapeutic cloning had a low success rate, some people would consider it ethically unacceptable; if therapeutic cloning had a high success rate, some people would still consider it ethically unacceptable.
On that basis, I believe that cloning endangers rather than benefits society. The uproar from legalizing the practice would be too large and the low success rate renders it pointless at this moment in time. I see why some people would support cloning, there could be massive benefits. I just feel that until the success rate can be increased, there is no real benefit from it. Also, if cloning became common practice it is possible that somebody with the wrong intentions could gain the capability to do it. This is something I’d rather not find out.
Regardless of my opinion though, cloning will forever remain a contentious issue. Some religious people may feel that cloning is playing God, while some optimists may feel that the benefits of cloning outweigh the risks. There are too many people in the world too many with contrasting beliefs for there to be agreement over the topic, so ultimately, we will never find an answer as to whether my opinion is correct or not.
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