Picture a viennese ball. The dancers are young women wearing the debutantes' "uniform" - long white dresses - and their escorts in dark tuxedo suits.
At a glance, the dancing duos look like so many identical pairs. Look more closely, though, and you see the diversity of individuals. No two dancers are alike, despite their similar outfits. You can see this in their faces, their posture, the way they interact with their partners. Their identity isn't limited to the clothes and steps they have in common, but is expressed in their characters, their relationships with each other - their individualities fashioned and formed through almost two decades of learning lessons and experiencing life.
Cut to Blacksburg, Virginia, where five piglets have been produced by the modern wonder of cloning. The ethical questions this once again raises will need to be sincerely addressed by medical ethicists, by politicians, and by the public at large. For now, though, a simple question to ask oneself is this: Do we need to be frightened when we see cloned creatures? Call it the "Frankenstein Syndrome," perhaps, but the first sighting of a litter of humanly produced identical piglets can make one feel squeamish!
It need not. What may make us feel this way is a perception that these creatures are nothing more than manipulated flesh.
According to the evidence of the eyes, that's all they are - five identical, physical pigs. Yet, what is identity? Does identical physical composition an identical entity make? Call it intuition, call it faith, but something says that the identity of animals - like the identity of human beings - is more than the visible, measurable, outer "clothing" of flesh and blood and bones.
Take a closer look at any creature, and there are qualities and characteristics that are individual. This hints that each entity we perceive as material has to have a unique and specific spiritual identity - not replicated and not able to be replicated. Spiritual identity is created by God, the divine Spirit and Mind. The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "The divine Mind maintains all identities, from a blade of grass to a star, as distinct and eternal" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 70)
God's identities aren't indistinguishable and mortal. God, who is Spirit and is eternal, creates all identities as individual and spiritual and immortal. And this is the creation that truly exists. Individuals and nature may seem to be merely physical beings, whether produced by cloning or conceived through natural procreation. But in neither case is physical individuality the real creature, the true creation. Identity lies in the spiritual being that God creates and maintains, which is not visible to the five senses. Where any material creatures appear, in reality there is Spirit, God, expressing Himself/Herself in an idea.
Whatever identity is truly "here today" is spiritual, not material, and cannot be duplicated, because anything spiritual is "distinct and eternal."
As scientists and politicians wrestle with the issues surrounding cloning, prayer will support the triumph of the most ethical conclusions. As thought progresses, cloning may or may not continue unabated, may or may not be regulated. But true individuality and identity, being in and of God, will remain sacrosanct - unable to be repackaged or repeated.
The knowledge of spiritual identity was a foundation in the teachings of Christ Jesus, who healed through the clarity of his understanding on such issues. Seen in this light, cloning can be a positive wake-up call for us to reach for a higher perception of individual identity, a move that will in turn result in healing.
But ye are not in the
flesh, but in the Spirit,
if so be that the Spirit of
God dwell in you.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society