Cloning is a form of reproduction of genetically identical cells descending from a single common ancestor such as a bacterial colony whose membranes arose from a single original cell as a result of binary fission. An organism descended asexually from a single ancestor such as a plant produced by layering a replica of a DNA or a gene produced by genetic engineering.
Cloning , as a form of reproduction assumed much importance after scientists cloned Dolly the sheepin 1996. Eversince this, people view cloning with awe and wonder. Our research is confined to study how human cloning is socially constructed.. There have been mixed responses on cloning Cloning is a medical marvel achieved by scientists. There have beenso many technological, medical inventions in the world . Some sensitive inventions have been accepted by people eventhough there were initial inhibitions in their minds.
But the impact of human cloning on the society is big because it touches the very essence of mankind – reproduction. Though no successful experiments have been conducted so far on human cloning, it is indeed possible sooner or later. Before analyzing the social impact , it is imperative to understand briefly the types of cloning and the purposes for which cloning is done.
Hybrid cloning – mix cow plus a little human DNA to produce milk with human proteins. Therapeutic cloning – cloning tissue which has the potential to cure many diseases.
Human reproductive cloning.
We are now concerned about human cloning. The term human cloning is very often seen only as a reproduction of a complete human being. But it is to be noted that human cloning is done for two purposes.
=Cloning of embryos for bio medical research which has not progressed beyond earliest experiments.
= Cloning to produce children .
There are many aspects being raised on the issue of cloning humans.
Scientific aspects concerning feasibility of human cloning.Legal aspects such as who is the legal mother or father of the clone.
Social ,ethical and moral aspects .concerning the society.
We are now studying the social aspects of human cloning.
Assuming that the scientific and legal aspects are through, we shall study the social impacts. For this, we need to understand the purpose, advantages and limitations of human cloning.
Scientists believe that stem cells derived from cloned human embryos produced exclusively for such research might prove to be uniquely useful for studying genetic diseases. It is possible to find medical solutions for genetic diseases like type 1 diabetis, alzhemers and parkinsons disease. Such bio medical research can possibly help the sick and suffering.
As regards cloning for children, it can be a solution for infertile couples and for growing human organs .
These points in support of human cloning are socially constructed for the benefit of society.
The limitations, or rather disadvantages of human cloning can be abuse of human life and resulting danger of moral insensitivity and degradation apart from the risks involved to the cloned and the female carrying the fetus. There are possibilities of complications at later stage of a clone and even sudden death .
Let us see how cloning is socially constructed. Man is a social animal. We are part of a community of people . So any new concept affecting us is to be socially tested for acceptance. Responses to cloning has been mixed. Some people believe that such a practice is unethical. It shakes the very structure of the family and human community.
In a report by Reuters North American News Service dt 11th Nov 2007, calls for a ban on human cloning and allow only strictly controlled research to help treat diseases.
A report released by Oregon State University programme for Ethics, Science and
Environment reports that native Americans feel that society would abuse the new technology. They feel that a cloned child will not be the product of love but of scientific procedure.
It holds true in that cloning reduces human to the level of man made object. It is also feared that human cloning threatens the survival of humanity. Society believes that sexual reproduction is the natural way given by the Creator. Any thing done in contrary is against nature.
Michael Lupton, http://facweb.stvincent.edu/academics/religiousstu/writings/logston1.html puts in that initial response to cloning was negative and called for outright banning of human cloning. This, he says is because it challenges the deep rooted sense of reproductive exclusivity.
A.H Zakri,, Head of the United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Studies says that international community has to either prevent reproductive cloning or to defend human rights of cloned animals. While people have accepted even controversial inventions such as the pill or an organ donation after initial inhibitions, human cloning may take much longer time for obvious social reasons . Questions like the mother being the cloned one’s sister, grand mother being the mother arise . Social confusions are bound to arise. Another fear is that two cloned persons of a single ancestor , reared apart meeting each other and marrying unaware that that are siblings.
Cloning may also reduce genetic variability more so if cloning alone is used on a wide scale as a supplement to sexual reproduction.
California Advisory Committee on human cloning in a report in 2002 put forth that reproduction is solely God’s divine domain and that cloning amounts to infringing it. Human cloning runs counter to the responsibility of humans to be caretakers of the creations.
Amy Logston , in the report on Ethics of human cloning by Amy Logston
discusses in detail all issues related to human cloning. The author feels that ,when confronted with the prospect of human cloning, regulating legislation is at the top of the list of what needs to be done.
There have been various committees convened by the State for purpose of studying the social impact such as the Bio Ethics Committee with a 17 member panel of scientists and others including a psychologist. The National Advisory Board on Ethics in Reproduction is one such.
The Bio Ethics Committee”http://www.bioethics.gov/reports/cloningreport/children.html” reports that our present opposition to human reproductive cloning is based on science and medicine, irrespective of broader considerations. The panel stresses, that a broad ethical debate must be encouraged so that the public can be prepared to make decisions if human reproductive cloning is some day considered medically safe for mothers and offspring.
In the report of The Presidents Council on bioethics on Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry discusses on public policy options in regard to human cloning. http://www.bioethics.gov/reports/cloningreport/index.html It is reported that one can be morally opposed to human cloning yet also protest against making it illegal.
So also a person may not have any moral objections to cloning but may find practical reasons to support regulations. .
Various reports go in favour of human cloning, high lighting the possible benefits in the health fields.
It is also believed that by the time more number of cloned children are born, more exciting reproductive technologies would also be available and we may also go in for designing a baby with health, intelligence and designer specifications.
An analysis of the studies go to show that questions raised have no clear answers. The response by people depend on a set of opinions and values in the society. The objections on human cloning are more related to emotional reasons.
It must be noted that the media plays a major role on opinion forming by people. Let us consider the theory of Herbert Marshal McLuhan He has coined the expression.’The medium is the message’ . He believes the message that the medium conveys can be understood if the medium and the environment where it is used are analyzed together. People tend to either accept or oppose a theory based on group or social behaviour . People tend to cling to a particular group while forming opinions on sensitive issues. People are carried away by misconceptions from science fictions.
Though much is debated, it is a fact that scientific advancements are a part of human evolution which cannot be curtailed or put an end to . It has to be accepted with prudence.,
The State , as also the public have to view the issue in total and find various ways to see that the people are first educated on the scientific aspects of human cloning. It is the duty of the scientists also to win the confidence of society at large. The maturity of a technological development can be measured not only by its power but by discriminating the limits of the power as well.
Even if the cloning procedure is perfected by scientists, society has to look for reasons to support cloning when the world population has been increasing manifold. It would be in place if cloning is used to reproduce animals in danger of being extinct. Certainly human beings are not in such category at present.
Therefore human cloning is to be viewed as wholly socially constructed . The role of a social scientist along with scientists and others is immensely necessary at all stages of discussions and debates relating to human cloning .The social scientist has to work closely within the frame of reference of contemporary problems. It is heartening to see that the State is keen on getting public response on human cloning at the very early stage of development itself.. It is the duty of any State to first to take social scientist into every stage of discussions. Regulations are needed and they should be periodically reviewed also.
A social scientist while making decisions, has to negotiate to get the best results His role as a responsible social scientist participating in framing science policies is essential. When the scientific base is established, the judgement of the social scientist who represents the society at large becomes clear and their bearing on the policy becomes precise.