Real Fakes - The Possibility That Humans Are Clones
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This representation of cloning as a frightening mass production of sameness reflects two powerful and widespread ideas. The first is a belief in genetic determinism. Ordinarily, the common public response on news and talk shows to claims about the genetic determination of violent behavior, or adultery, or even happiness is skepticism or rejection. The reason seems to be a reluctance to allow anyone to "get away" with proscribed behavior or to believe that one's own happiness or success is predetermined. It is somewhat odd, then, that the reports on cloning indicate a public belief that a clone will be psychologically identical to his or her donor.
As it turns out, however, the media reports contain little evidence that the U. The reports simply assume that it does and then attempt to disabuse the public of its error. But most television and magazine stories engage in a confusing, contradictory bit of double-talk or double-show.
The images and notvery-clever headlines all convey unsettling messages that clones will be exact copies, while inside the stories go to some effort to educate us that clones will not in fact be exact copies. On the Nightline program, which first teased viewers with replicating babies, the reporter asks what it means that scientists could create a genetic copy of him. He says:. If I expect that baby to become another me, a copy, no way, because he can't live my life, can't have my accidents, my good luck, my bad luck, my experiences.
So like all identical twins who start out genetically the same, in spite of the similarities, over time they become very distinct, very different people. Environment counts. It shapes the genes, it changes them and creates difference. Says Dr. Francis Collins, head of the government's big project on human genes, "genes can't reproduce an exact copy of a person. Scenes from the movie The Boys from Brazil follow this explanation, and then the summary: "So, no matter what you see in the movies, there's no way my clone could ever be an exact or even a close copy of me. Cloning will never make anybody immortal.
On The Charlie Rose Show, Rose discusses the possibility of an infertile couple who want to clone themselves. One guest points out that the child would not be a copy of the parent because that child wouldn't have mom's or dad's experiences. Discussing parents who might want to clone a dying child, another guest argues that much of the ethical debate depends on fundamental misconceptions about what genes actually determine. He says that having a genetic copy might tell you something about the risk of disease, but it will tell you little about what that person will be like as an adult.
Thus, these hypothetical parents who want to clone a dying child in order not to lose the child will still in fact lose the child. On the PBS Newshour, two interviewees both point out that it is a major mistake to think that a clone would be an exact copy. A later broadcast reiterates that the biggest popular misconception about cloning is that one would get an adult copy of oneself.
Some stories, however, are a bit more confused and ambiguous about their rejection of genetic determinism. Here is the opportunity to pour all the accumulated learning of your life back into a new you, to raise your exact biological double, to guide your very flesh through a second existence" 10 March , p.
But most are very clear in their texts even while contradicting their stories with images. Newsweek says: "[O]n the more profound question of what, exactly, a human clone would be, doubters and believers are unanimous. A human clone might resemble, superficially, the individual from whom it was made.
But it would differ dramatically in the traits that define an individual" p. Identical genes don't produce identical people. Parents could clone a second child who eerily resembled their first in appearance, but all the evidence suggests the two would have very different personalities" p. While it is admirable that most reports on cloning try to explain a little basic genetics and try to clarify some of the misconceptions about genetic determinism, it is interesting that most of the comments on determinism are geared toward allaying fears that clones will in fact be exact copies.
The push in these remarks is less toward basic genetics education and more toward convincing the public that individual uniqueness is not endangered by cloning. This concern points to the second prominent idea at work in all those eye-catching pictures and headlines representing cloning as mass photocopying: that a copy of something is necessarily inferior to the "original" a term of positive value itself and that copies often devalue their "originals. For example, Time claims: "Dolly does not merely take after her biological mother.
She is a carbon copy, a laboratory counterfeit so exact that she is in essence her mother's identical twin" 10 March , p. The term "counterfeit" here implies that clones as copies are fakes, not as real or legitimate as the original-at least if made by humans.
And the anticopy rhetoric gets more passionate. The same issue quotes Jeremy Rifkin saying: "It's a horrendous crime to make a Xerox of someone You're putting a human into a genetic straightjacket" p. A picture of one of Rifkin's protests in an earlier issue shows people holding signs that say, "I like just one of me" 8 November , p. The existence of human copies is not only interpreted as an assault on individuality, however, but on the very essence of human dignity.
A Time report on embryo cloning says: "For many, the basic sanctity of life seemed to be under attack. On Nightline, an interviewee asked about the technology behind cloning says:. There are certain clear points, though, and one is that we have to use our technology to undergird and to build on human dignity, and human dignity, the dignity of the individual has to be at the center of this discussion and plainly the very idea of cloning introduces a problematic into the notion of human dignity.
I mean, this is taking somebody's identity and giving it, at the genetic level, to somebody else. I mean, this is what its all about. Once you start doing it to people, human dignity is in the balance. This idea implies that clones will lack this highly desired property of uniqueness. These amorphous fears about the existence of genetic copies eating away at human dignity, uniqueness, and individuality even begin to get translated into a right of genetic uniqueness.
Time quotes Daniel Callahan saying: "I think we have a right to our own individual genetic identity. I think this could well violate that right" 8 November , p. In a speech replayed on PBS's Newshour, President Bill Clinton raises the worry about uniqueness and copying to an even grander scale: "My own view is that human cloning would have to raise deep concerns given our most cherished concepts of faith and humanity.
Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science. I believe we must respect this profound gift and resist the temptation to replicate ourselves. At one and the same time, then, the media showcases, exaggerates, and mitigates concerns that clones will be dignity-damaging, individuality-damaging copies. What none of the reports does, however, is question the assumption that even exact copies would in fact have these deleterious metaphysical, moral, and social consequences for the "original" people who were cloned.
Instead, even while defusing The Boys from Brazil scenarios, the media shores up a peculiar obsession with uniqueness-pouring the weight of that concept into genetic patterns. The belief promulgated almost seems to be that human value or human dignity is a fixed unity attached to a genetic pattern, a zerosum game in which copies of the pattern have to divide that value up among themselves. The moral and rhetorical weight attached to this idea is amazing, so much so that even the president characterizes cloning as a sinful "temptation" to "replicate ourselves.
One has to wonder if the dominant media message about cloning is not a manifestation of a peculiar American emphasis on individualism.
Can people identify original and manipulated photos of real-world scenes?
It is assumed that uniqueness is an unquestionable good, a paramount metaphysical virtue an idea I would expect at least a few twins and triplets to challenge. But no one defends why being unique is better than being one of many. It is easy to imagine, however, the media in another culture with different values never mentioning the worry about copies and the loss of uniqueness. Another culture's magazines might instead focus entirely on medical risk a topic virtually ignored in U. As it is, however, American culture's selective passion for uniqueness is threatened by the realization that humans can be copied biologically.
This leads to a vaguely valuative fear that cloning is simply un-American. As Time puts it:. What does the sudden ability to make genetic stencils of ourselves say about the concept of individuality? Do the ants and bees and Maoist Chinese have it right? Is a species simply an uberorganism, a collection of multicellular parts to be die-cast as needed? Or is there something about the individual that is lost when the mystical act of conceiving a person becomes standardized into a mere act of photocopying one? Cloning, Time worries, is on the side of robotic insects and communist ideology.
Not cloning is on the side of American individualism and Mystery. As with so many other cases, these ideological alignments lead policymakers to use the law to "protect" us and our conventional understanding of ourselves from the unromantic analyses of science.
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Announcing a federal moratorium on cloning humans, President Clinton said:. What the legislation will do is to reaffirm our most cherished belief about the miracle of human life and the God-given individuality each person possesses. It will ensure that we do not fall prey to the temptation to replicate ourselves at the expense of those beliefs. Banning human cloning reflects our humanity. It is the right thing to do. Creating a child through this new method calls into question our most fundamental beliefs. It is telling that the primary reason for opposing cloning, in both the media and in the words of the chiefof-state, is that copying ourselves challenges our beliefs about individuality.
Of course, there are extraordinarily few people in the world who currently intend to use cloning. After all, the possibility presented itself only recently, and even then it was made clear that human cloning was still a way off. However, in trying to imagine what kind of market cloning might have, the media have repeatedly discussed hypothetical scenarios.
One can hardly blame people for trying to think of what uses human cloning might be put to.
However, the repeated broadcast and printing of various hypothetical situations has a tremendous influence on how cloning is received-especially when these hypotheticals are laced with moral judgments. Empirically accurate or not, these hypothetical examples travel memetically through the public consciousness, becoming almost paradigmatic. Virtuous motives and human cloning are seen as incompatible. Here are some of the major media examples, in order of their frequency.
Cultures of Replication
The Megalomaniac. This character is drawn from movies, whose clips were shown constantly in the days following the cloning announcement. Scenes from The Boys from Brazil flashed onto television screens, showing a plot to clone little Hitlers. Scenes from Woody Allen's Sleeper, featuring an attempt to clone an evil leader from his left-over nose, and shots of innocent people fleeing the bloodthirsty T-rex clones of Jurassic Park had their time as well.
But fiction is frighteningly close to reality, we are told. Nightline instructs us that irrespective of the law, some real live fellow with enough money could clone himself if he wanted. Time hypothesizes a rich industrialist who has never wanted children but now "with a little help from the cloning lab.
Now that appeals to the local industrialist. In fact, if this first boy works out, he might even make a few more" 10 March , p. It's one thing to want to be remembered after you are gone; it's quite another to manufacture a living monument to ensure that you are. Some observers claim to be shocked that anyone would contemplate such a thing.
But that's naive. The same issue of Time warns of "the ultimate nightmare scenario," which begins: "The Despot will not be coming to the cloning lab today. Before long, he knows, the lab's science will come to him. As soon as the technology of the cloning lab goes global-as it inevitably must-his people can be assured of his leadership long after he's gone" p.
News eF World Report also blithely informs us, in spite of previously rejecting genetic determinism, that a megalomaniac could decide to achieve immortality by cloning an "heir" p. Less objectionable but still egomaniacal examples are scattered around-brilliant scientists, great physicians, and famous athletes figure prominently as people who would love to copy themselves, or whom others would love to copy. The Replacement Child. Usually contrasted to the megalomaniac or egomaniac as a more sympathetic middle-class motivation for cloning is the couple who hopes to "replace" a dying child.
Even though Nightline host Chris Wallace calls this the "best-case scenario," a guest describes the situation as psychologically dangerous for the child and "horrific.
Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua: first primates born using Dolly the sheep cloning method
The embryo cloning issue of Time asks: "Or what about the couple that sets aside, as a matter of course, a clone of each of their children? Author: Gabriele Schwab. Add to Cart. Have an Access Token? Enter your access token to activate and access content online. Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.
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