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Nancy Ahern

is a freelance writer and columnist in Arizona.

Nancy Ahern Archives

    Cloning Around
    Is a new generation of superbred idiots looming?

    by Nancy Ahern

    January 1, 2003

    If you missed your chance to catch a ride on a comet, take heart. You may still express your inner Whack-O by cloning yourself alien style.

    A religious sect known as the Raelians, who derived their religious doctrine allegedly from extraterrestrials who presumably created all life on Earth through genetic engineering, has founded a company that claims to have successfully birthed a human clone.

    Nicknamed "Eve", the 7-pound baby girl was born the day after Christmas. The company that performed the genetic engineering is called Clonaid. Ten women have been implanted with eggs fertilized in this cloning process. Five have miscarried, and four others are in varying stages of pregnancy.

    Whether the child is indeed an exact genetic copy of the donor mother is still up for debate, as the company's claims have not been verified.

    There are legal questions, since the FDA has regulations that forbid human cloning without its permission. I'm not certain those legalities will apply, as Clonaid appears to have been operating outside of the United States.

    More important are the ethical questions. Suspend, for a moment, the Christian concepts that only God may create life -- any good Christian will realize that no matter how you stitch the flesh together, only God may imbue it with the breath of life. The ethics need to focus more on the risk to the life that was generated: these children, owing to the unconventional way in which they were put together, are at risk. Studies of cloned animals and cloned tissues have shown a host of abnormalities.

    The scientists of Clonaid poo-poo that idea, contending that defects seen in cloned animals will "not necessarily appear in humans." This statement is true, at face value. Consider that defects seen in some cloned animals may not necessarily appear in other cloned animals. It's a crap shoot. This position is discussed at length in a 1999 Washington Post article that may be found at the Center for Genetics and Society. From the article:

    "Cloning, it turns out, is a serious health risk--usually resulting in death for the clones themselves and sometimes even killing mothers pregnant with those clones. Moreover, as cloners expand their efforts to a growing variety of animals, including cows, goats, sheep and mice, it's becoming clear that the problem is not simply one of beginner's bad luck.

    "'There are a hell of a lot of fetal and neonatal deaths along the way,' [...] 'There are placental abnormalities, abnormal swelling, three to four times the normal rate of umbilical cord problems, severe immunological deficiencies.'"

    The reason God and nature requires donor material from two disparate sources has been demonstrated to ensure survival -- reinforcement of flawed genes from closely-related genetic donors creates problems. Dilution of flawed genes happens when the material comes from more than one source. The "idiot child" offspring of brother-sister pairings is not merely the stuff of stereotypical legend. Given the millennia of data that demonstrate a marked propensity toward abnormalities in children born from closely-related pairings, it's safe to guess that there's a strong likelihood cloned babies, who draw their genetic material from one source, are highly likely to suffer similar, or worse, abnormalities. Again, from the Washington Post article:

    "For a newly fertilized egg to develop into a normal embryo, the proper combination of mother genes and father genes, "on" genes and "off" genes, must be present. "In short, you need information from both parents," said Judith Hall, chief of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia and an expert in imprinting."

    E-tenet, an on-line healthcare database, has this to say concerning consanguinity, or inbreeding:

    "Inbreeding is the production of offspring by the mating of closely related individuals. This practice provides a greater chance for recessive genes to be expressed phenotypically. In humans, the amount of inbreeding in a specific population is largely controlled by traditional and cultural practices."


    "In other genetic disorders, both parents (apparently normal) carry the same abnormal gene. Each child that is conceived has:

    - a 25 percent risk of receiving that gene from both parents (in which case, the particular birth defect may occur)

    - a 25 percent chance of inheriting the two normal genes and remaining unaffected .

    - a 50 percent chance of inheriting one faulty and one normal gene (becoming a carrier without the disorder, just like the parents). This type of inheritance is called recessive inheritance.

    Cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs disease are transmitted as recessive disorders. Therefore, the chance of inheriting a recessive disorder is increased in a child whose parents are "blood" relatives (consanguineous)."

    I have to wonder from where the Clonaid "scientists" got their degrees. Perhaps they need to return to some of their earlier biology courses -- the ones that note that human beings are, in fact, members of the animal kingdom. Rather than address the question and cite scientific data to back up her claim, one Clone Doctor huffed:

    "If my science is giving babies to parents who have been dying to get one with their own genes, is my science worse than the one preparing bombs to kill people? I am creating life."

    Talk about your God complex.

    We have laws in our nation concerning the marriage of closely-related people. These laws protect the stupid, and work to ensure children are not unduly saddled with the flaws their idiotic parents would bestow upon them. Cloning is merely the ultimate form of this same idiocy, and should be treated under the same set of laws.

    © 2002 Tocqevillian Magazine