To clone or not to clone

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

If a three-year-old human clone and a three-year-old child conceived by traditional sexuality were playing together on a playground, is the first quasi-human and the second genuinely human?

If the latter, to clone would be barbaric, as one ethicist has said (Time, February 19). But if not, is the child conceived in the traditional way essentially the same as the one created through cloning?

Some say that there is a huge difference. They fear profoundly that one would have a soul and the other would not. To many, the soul is the spiritual essence of an individual that is impart-ed at the moment of conception and that dwells in that body until death.

To those who believe this, it is a moral evil to clone humans. These and other deeply held objections need to be respectfully considered in the search for answers to the ethical questions surrounding cloning.

To me, a person's essence is not found in his or her body. I see it as one's special identity that comes eternally from God, not at the moment of any physical coupling, traditional or non-traditional. God is Soul, the source of each one's unique and eternal individuality. We manifest Soul by our beauty, purity, spiritual insight, and goodness. Since matter doesn't create these qualities, they must be from a spiritual source - from God. We are God's ideas, and this means in the warmest and deepest way, that God is both Father and Mother.

One understandable argument made for human cloning is that it would be a solution to the anguishing problem of infertility, as well as to other heartfelt hopes and fears surrounding childbirth. Whether or not others see it as morally wrong, some people who have yearned for children now feel at least a tinge of hope that biological technology will be able to do for them what they've been unable to do for themselves.

The popular press reports that it's no longer a question of whether humans will be cloned, but when. "It's inevitable that someone will try and someone will succeed," predicts Delores Lamb of Baylor University (Time).

This shouldn't be surprising. When has society permanently restrained invention? The inquisitive and adventuresome nature of the human mind seem unquenchable, even when they drift into questionable areas. The justification is that barriers exist to be broken. Human infertility is one of those barriers. To some it is a mandate to overcome every limitation.

It appears that science will probe infertility until the problem is solved by the development of a dependable physical process, or a solution is found in other arenas.

The Bible addresses the second possibility. It includes several compelling examples of healings of barrenness, as infertility was then called. One of the best known was Sarai, who conceived and bore Isaac when she was in her nineties. Another especially tender account is Hannah's: "And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord ... and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass ... that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord" (I Sam 1:19, 20).

These experiences suggest a solution to infertility worth investigating. I know several couples who have been healed of infertility through prayer and without drugs or surgery. One woman just a few weeks ago e-mailed me her recent experience. "After a few years of trying to conceive with no results, a fertility specialist was consulted, and the diagnosis was complete tubal occlusion." Yet without any medical treatment, but through persistent prayer, that condition was entirely reversed, and she and her husband now have a normal, healthy son.

These experiences may attract the attention of cutting-edge researchers. If chemistry and biology have been the focus of humanity's solution to infertility up to this point, inspired theology may already have resolved it.

The ideas in this article are explored more fully in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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