Great news for the Lone Star State: Scientists find a way to clone sheep. Now every Billy-Bob Yahoo can have a date for Saturday night. If he’s lucky. And the sheep is drunk. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
Now that scientists have discovered a process for cloning mammals, I think we all need to sit back with a cup of café latté and reflect on just how terrific it would be to have an exact genetic copy of a guy like me roaming the world. That’s right. It wouldn’t be very terrific at all. In fact, I’m betting it’d be pretty darn awful. I mean as if one of me isn’t enough to create utter pandimonium in the monkey cage down at the San Diego Zoo, now we need two? Give me a clone, a couple of carbines and some ammo, and we’ll have Planet of the Apes going in no time.
But I digress.
Thanks to a Scottish scientist who was apparently tired of wearing imitation wool kilts, it’s now technologically possible to create an exact genetic duplicate of the mammal of your choice. He chose sheep. But, for the sake of example, let’s say—and this is just hypothetical—I choose me because, after all, I am one choice mammal.
First, let’s talk about my qualifications. Except for my bad back, slight farsightedness and pre-disposition to liver disease (and heart disease and high blood pressure), I’m the perfect physical specimen. Oh sure, you can quibble over the term “perfect” (or “physical” or “specimen”), but I can think of no one better qualifed to help create an exact genetic duplicate of me. Besides, I was head of the microcomputer club in junior high, and that’s got to mean something.
No, I meant besides that I was a nerd in junior high.
All right, I confess I can’t think of many advantages to cloning myself—other than finally getting the Guiness Book recognition I so richly deserve. In fact I can’t think of any reason for us to clone anyone. But it just sounds so bleepin’ cool that it seems like we ought to clone somebody just so we can say we did it.
All of which is, of course, the traditional American response to new technology. Create it, use it, abuse it. Ethical and moral judgment—a hallmark of humanity, mind you—are again relegated to the realm of academia, which is to say meaninglessness. (Sorry Ph.D. candidates!)
We live in the Science Fiction Age, a time when the dreams and fantasies of old become reality faster than we are able to judge the ethical or moral consequences. We can destroy the planet a hundred times over. (But why, when once is enough?) We can retrieve pollution-causing fossil fuel buried miles beneath the surface of the globe. And now we can clone human life in a petri dish. What a testament to how we’ve evolved from the lower life forms! Spin, Mr. Darwin, spin!
I suspect that some enterprising grad student, scientist or millionaire will covertly clone a human being in the next couple of years. The truth is that nothing of particular import will of have occurred, except that we will have once again forced ethics and morality to bow down to Technology, our once and future king.
Perhaps it’s useful to remember that technology is morally neutral and that human action or inaction with technology is what carries weight. (Which is not to say that an atomic bomb is morally neutral, merely that the technology used in building it is.) Human cloning as a practical application offers nothing to humanity. Sure, the cloning technology expands our understanding of life, and for that it should be applauded. Here’s your Nobel, Mr. Scottish Scientist. Nice wool coat, by the way. But outside of an incredible ego-boost, what would human cloning do for someone? If you need an ego-boost, get a personal web site. I’m sure it’ll be much more affordable and have far fewer negative moral consequences.