Cloning--Problem or Solution?

The biological world has gone cloning crazy. World newspapers carried the report of the successful cloning of sheep, and articles are now coming out on an almost weekly basis of some other animal that has been cloned. Almost every science or popular magazine that has seen a story on this subject has addressed the question of human cloning. Is all of this a problem for those who believe that God created and made all things? Has the process of cloning somehow eliminated God or minimized or trivialized His creative acts?

What happens in cloning in very simple terms is that reproduction occurs by a man-made process. Genetic material is reproduced in a mechanical physical way instead of by the combination of two different genetic materials. The result is that the properties of the cloned individual are identical to the donor of the original genetic material. If you took a cell from me and cloned it, you would have a person who would have my physical properties. He would not have my memory or even my personality, but he would have my eye color, hair color, sex, height, skin color, etc. If you took five cells from my body and cloned them, you could produce five individuals physically like me.

Horrendous as that may sound, there are some good reasons to do that. Superior strains of animals could be cloned, improving size, resistance to disease, leanness, and other desirable characteristics. Many times a super cow or plant that contains special nutrients is sterile, and if we could reproduce them by cloning, we could ease world hunger. In humans, you could help sterile couples have a child uniquely theirs genetically, or you could make sure a genetically-caused disease is not perpetuated in a family.

From a biblical perspective, is there a problem with this kind of activity. God designed a system that has operated well for a long time. His command was to have each animal "bring forth after their kind." Certainly that is happening in cloning. God designed the eye with a lens so that we could see, and man has learned in cataract surgery to take the lens out and replace it with a man-made lens. We have learned to make artificial skin, heart/lung machines for open-heart surgery, artificial blood, food supplements, etc. Very few seem to object to these types of procedures. Why would a cloned human be a problem?

The most immediate answer to that question is that the human would not be a spiritual being if it were cloned. The question has to be, "Why not?" The Bible does not tell us specifically when or how the soul of man is fused into his makeup. It seems to this writer that the soul in natural reproduction is present when the sperm meets the egg. In natural reproduction, everything genetic about the person is set when the sperm meets the egg--the person's eye color, hair color, height, even the weaknesses genetically determined in their body is set. In cloning, it would seem that the same thing would be true. When the genetic material begins its reproductive process, the spiritual dimension is present for that individual. The pattern God gave in the genetic part of the individual is set and being followed. God's sovereignty is not invaded nor is His plan destroyed.

There are good reasons for not cloning people. The ecological problems of overpopulation would be negatively impacted by adding another method of reproduction. The mental and psychological problems of having a small version of you on earth could be enormous. Geneticists know that combining genetic characteristics can lead to desirable new properties in all living things. The fact still remains that no cloning process or result poses a religious dilemma.

We would suggest that the whole cloning situation has led to another interesting observation. Biologists speak even today about how hard it is to clone anything. When the one successful sheep cloning was accomplished, there were literally hundreds of failures. The complexities of genetic and cell structure are enormous. All of the hardware, failure, hard work, and confusion about how all of this works should be a strong argument that life is not a product of chance. The more complex something is, the less likely it is that it could have come into existence by chance. Truly, we can know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:18-22).

                            --John N. Clayton

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