the clone wars

Recently, at another blog, it was asked if there was any argument against cloning one self and raising the child. My gut intuition is that, yes, there is an ick factor, but it’s not inherently bad or evil. The ick factor I can explain. We probably have a hard wired desire for a little genetic diversity in our lives.

I don’t think it’s unethical, but it’s harder to see the intuition. Consider the following hypothetical case:

Say a woman is trying IVF and she has two eggs fertilized. One begins gestation inside the woman and the other is kept frozen. A few years later the child grows up and discovers that there is an identical twin. He has the embryo implanted, it matures, and he raises his brother.

Now, how is this any different, morally, from an older sibling raising a younger sibling? None, as far as I can tell. Thus, if we can accept raising a delayed twin, we can probably accept raising a clone, long as they are treated with the respect that any child deserves.

The counter arguments focused on how weird it would be. Yes, you’d probably need an extreme personality to do it. Even though I was a pretty decent kid, I don’t want to do this. Glad my daughter is different than me. Other arguments focused on how you’d be engaging in making a “mini-me.” Lots of parents want to mold their kids, but we don’t stop them. Also, we overestimate similarity. Clones will grow up in different social environments, and there’s a bit of evidence that this matters. Even twin studies show lots of unexplained variance.

Perhaps the strongest argument is about externalities.  Too many clones wreck the gene pool, or creates political problems. True, but we still allow people to intermarry and strive for cultural and ethnic purity. Not much of a difference, but we permit it. In the end, I’ll file this under,  maybe its ok, but its weird.

Written by fabiorojas

April 24, 2010 at 12:26 am

3 Responses

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  1. Caplan hasn’t exactly been covering himself in glory recently, has he? The clone post was stupid mostly because he seemed to think the sentence “I’d love to be raised by my clone” and “I’d love to be raised by me” were equivalent.



    April 24, 2010 at 12:38 am

  2. I am not sure the main argument is sufficiently covered.
    The desire for variety is in part Darwinian, but also ethical. In the sense that we human beings “shouldn’t” want to, on a genetic level, control how our children end up. By choosing an identical twin, the outcome is a lot more predictable (not predictable per se) than if the gene pool is different. This is also the reason that, while it is ok to “remove” really sick genes, it is not “allowed” to decide whether our child will have blond hair.
    Of course, in the future, when we can estimate everything based on genes, this argument falters.



    April 24, 2010 at 7:37 am

  3. Bergies: Good point. I think the difference between cloning and other forms of sibship is that everything else is out of our control. We don’t choose to be IVF or twins or whatever. But we choose cloning, and that’s the ick factor.



    April 25, 2010 at 2:15 am

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