We have written several articles about animal cloning over the years in this magazine. Several more have appeared on the pages of creation.com.1 This is a difficult issue, with spiritual, moral, legal, and technological twists at every turn. Yet, from the first successful clone of Dolly the sheep (1996),2 cloning technology has improved at a rapid rate. Today, it is routine to clone pets, farm animals, and even race horses. This comes as a shock to many people who have not realized how fast this field has changed in the past 20 years.
The technology is here to stay, but that brings up a perplexing issue: is it possible to clone people? And, if someone eventually does clone a person, how should we react?
The good news
Cloning humans is illegal in most countries. That is, the creation of an entire person from another person’s cells is illegal. What is not illegal in most jurisdictions is experimentation on cloned tissues. It is possible to grow organs, for example, from a person’s cells. If those organs (for example, a heart or a kidney) were created from a person’s skin cell, for example, this is not necessarily immoral. The problem comes in when it involves embryonic cells; that is, creating a cloned embryo, and then destroying it for its cells. CMI holds the position that an embryo is a human being, for both biblical and scientific reasons. Therefore, if an embryo has to be sacrificed in order to create something, that procedure is immoral as it goes against the biblical injunction against murder.3 Worse, in most places it would be legal to create a human embryo as long as it is destroyed before maturing.4 Also, new procedures are constantly being developed that constantly push the limits of cultural sensibilities, dulling our reactions to troubling trends, such as the ‘3-parent baby’ procedure recently made legal in the UK.5
The bad news
The information above is not necessarily ‘good’, but this part is even worse: there are no known technological limits that are preventing the cloning of human beings. Science has progressed to the point where we are now able to do things thought impossible just a short time ago, and cloning people is theoretically one of those things. In developed countries, specific laws are preventing it from legally occurring, but cloning advocates are constantly pushing the limits of those laws and the line between legal and illegal, and between moral and immoral, is getting more and more blurry.
Putting it all together
Think about this: identical twins (and the more rare identical triplets, quadruplets, etc.) are clones. Almost immediately after an egg is fertilized, rapid cell division happens. At some point early in development, the ball of cells splits in two. Two (or more) individuals can be born that started from a single fertilized egg and that have essentially the same DNA (the definition of a clone). Thus, human cloning is not only possible but happens naturally.
OK, but is it then moral for scientists to experiment on making clones of humans? No, it is not, for several reasons.
Humans are unique in all of creation. The Bible says we are made in the image of God, are at the centre of God’s thoughts, and are the focal point of all creation.6Mankind was given dominion over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26–28), but not over other humans. Therefore it is not right to treat tiny human lives as objects of experiments.
Animal experiments have shown that cloning is not 100% safe, and often involves the destruction of malformed embryos or newborn animals. If we are talking about human cloning, we will also be talking about selective abortion to remove embryos that develop improperly. Thus, this is also a pro-life issue.7
All cloning technologies involve an elevated risk of genetic (or epigenetic) defects. Most people do not realize this, but even in-vitro fertilization (IVF) technologies carry an increased risk of specific genetic defects in the children born after that procedure.8 Cloning technologies are inherently more stressful on the egg than IVF and should be expected to be associated with an elevated risk to human health and life. While it is true that cloning technology is improving, it is simply not acceptable to put human life at risk for the sake of advancing scientific understanding.
Is there a biblical answer? Yes!
After considering these things, what is a reasoned response? How should the Christian view Human cloning?According to the Bible, taking innocent human life is murder. Since an embryo is a human, any scientific procedure that requires the culling of embryos is inherently immoral. In addition, any procedure that creates an unwarranted increased risk to future human life and health should be banned. This does not mean we ban all risky medical procedures, but only those (like cloning) that are risky and without benefit to the individual.
Now, think about this: one day a human might be cloned. What will your response be? Is that person human? Does that person have a soul? Is it possible for that person to respond to the Gospel? Can that person be saved? We answer all of these questions with an emphatic, “Yes!” This should be obvious, since we have already pointed out that identical twins are clones, and no Christian would deny that they could be saved.
Cloned or not, human life is precious in God’s sight. All living people today are descendants of Adam and therefore fall under the Curse. Yet, all people are also related to Jesus Christ, the Kinsman-Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20), and therefore can be saved from the eternal condemnation brought about by that Curse.9 A cloned person would be no different. Cloned humans would be people, descendants of Adam, and related to Christ, their Redeemer; thus they would need the Gospel as much as any of us.
As far as I'm concerned no living being ,animal,bird, fish, or insect should be clone, that is playing with life itself and can open up a hole can of worms mostly bad. We are not God
Robert Carter responds
Since we were granted dominion over lower life forms by God himself, whether or not we can manipulate the genetics of those lower life forms is an open question. However, we were not granted dominion over other human beings, so at least that part of the argument is clear.
Luca B., Belgium, 5 June 2017
Well i understand that Clones are able to have a soul. But what if they make a hybrid? Human with horse lets say? if that being has a mind like ours a soul lets say...wouldn't that be bad?
Robert Carter responds
"Hybrid" has a difficult definition. If we splice a pig insulin gene into a human with diabetes, would that person be a "hybrid". I do not believe so. Currently, we do not have the technology to create a real hybrid (50:50) and so the question is moot. However, technology is advancing fast and under an evolutionary worldview there is nothing to prevent people from performing any number of morally challenging experiments. We stand at the threshold of questions that we as a society are neither spiritually equipped nor mature enough to answer.
Simon S., Australia, 5 June 2017
Another well thought out and biblical response to a modern day issue.
Thank you for information useful for when talking to others both in and outside the church .
Colin N., United Kingdom, 5 June 2017
Can we really be sure that, if humans create by artificial means a being which is biologically indistinguishable from a human, God will cooperate by imparting a soul to that being? Also, if an engineered being has DNA from more than 2 persons, then can we define how they connect to the human family tree? This surely matters because if we can't identify their kinship, Jesus technically can't be their Kinsman Redeemer. I think we could be on the verge of creating soulless beings, which the devil will be able to use as hosts for demons in the last days.
Robert Carter responds
We have no idea how God imparts the soul, nor do we know what a 'soul' is. It is an unquantifiable entity. We also have no suggestion that an engineered person indistinguishable from normal people would be different in the eyes of God, which is all that really matters.
If a person is created with more than two parents, they still connect to the family tree, only in more complicated ways.
I do not believe we are on the verge of creating 'soulless' humans, so I am not concerned about the other ramifications you discuss. A human is a human. A non-human is a non-human. It is when people start to blur the lines (if at all possible) that the discussion begins.
Man this is complicated!
Ken C., Canada, 5 June 2017
Cloning (animal and human) along with abortion, the use of aborted fetal tissue for stem cell research, and vaccinations etc. are merely a reflection of just how far humans will go in their attempt to achieve control over everything from A-Z… and indeed, is one of the many reasons why the “Oath of Hippocrates” had to be rewritten by the medical establishment.
The Encyclopedia of Bioethic, 2003 states,
“A document patterned after the Oath of Hippocrates appeared in 1948, when the newly organized World Medical Association (WMA) adopted the Declaration of Geneva. In 1991, 47 U.S. medical schools used it (Dickstein et al.). (Of the remainder, 14 schools used the Prayer of Maimonides or more recently written oaths.)” Conveniently omitted in the new oath was that a doctor must always cure patients, but never do them harm. “first do no harm”. I suppose we dare naught expect much more if we believe we are merely a product o of a mindless universe!
In his 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address entitled, "Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life, "Evolutionist William Provine, professor of biological sciences at Cornell accurately surmised, "Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent."
Robert Carter responds
While the Provine quote you provided was appropriate, doctors have NEVER operated under the 'do no harm clause'. Amputating an infected limb while the patient screams was a common scene in the world before anesthesia (in fact, scenes like that made Charles Darwin quit his doctor training program), yet doctors knew good and well that to do nothing was worse. Harming a patient for his greater good has always been part of medicine and trying to appeal to 'do no harm' is actually a backwardization of the real moral difficulties doctors face. You have inadvertently stumbled upon a very bad argument, and this negatively colors the other comments you made.
William C., United Kingdom, 6 June 2017
I found this article confusing and it seemed to be contrary to CMI's opposition to transhumanism. You might say that cloning is different but it's a branch from the same tree, I think. It's an assertion of man not needing God, man can be God himself.
It will certainly be argued by its proponents that cloning occurs in nature, is 'perfectly natural' but the outcome would be very different. It would be seen as a victory over God and open the door to a moral quagmire.
If we say we don't know when God imparts the soul then how do we argue against abortion?
I am uncertain about all of this and where we're heading.
Robert Carter responds
Sorry for the confusion, but I thought the article spelled things out clearly. Human cloning is ungodly. The risk to human life is too great and the doors that open afterward are terrifying. Our stance on transhumanism has certainly not changed.
The question about how (or when) the soul enters the body is a separate matter. This is a subject that has involved deep doctrinal discussions down the centuries. The fact that we are delving into this subject through genetics when the philosophical and theological community has yet to come to a firm conclusion only illustrates the moral morass that waits for us in the future. Also note that here we are using 'soul' when we should be using 'spirit' but most people use the terms interchangeably even if this is less accurate.
This article might help to clarify what is meant by 'soul'.