Don't lose sleep over cloning nightmares…

Let me briefly tell you why these nightmares causes me no loss of sleep, before I go on to talk about some of the things I do worry about. First, I think it would be impossible to clone dozens of Hitlers, or for that matter, scores of Michael Jordans or Albert Einsteins or Marilyn Monroes, if we could get their genes. For the simple reason, that personhood is not an event but a process. That is to say, becoming the persons we are is the result of a very complicated and ongoing process. We are all works in progress, if you like. And that process involves human DNA, which certainly is replicable, as well as an environment or series of environments, and the responses we each uniquely make to these various environments - in other words, our choices.

And neither the environments nor the choices that we make in response to these environments are replicable. That is to say, even if you had Hitler's DNA, it would be virtually impossible to create the environment that brought that man into being. The economic, social, political conditions of Germany during the Depression of 1933 are virtually unreplicable, let alone the choices that man made in response to those environmental stimuli. That makes it impossible, in my view, to clone, as that editorial put it, "hordes of drones to perform menial work." Because even if the checks and balances of a democracy were absent and the cloning were done in some totalitarian state, the persons to be cloned would be persons first and drones only second.

That is to say, plenty of us, and I dare to say many of us here today, started our adult lives doing menial work and then aspired to higher and better things. Because we were persons first, and menial workers only second, or only incidentally, we were able to dream and reach toward a more meaningful life. It's impossible to hold good people down. So even if the intent was to clone people to be drones, the fact that they are people, in my view, means that water will rise to its own level and the inherent talents and abilities that people have will emerge. Slavery simply did not work. Historically, it was impossible to hold people in bondage in perpetuity because they were people. So, that particular nightmare does not haunt me but I do have some concerns about cloning.


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