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Should we bank the genes of extraordinary people for cloning?


Cloning the Best: Arguments Against Gene Banks
For many, the idea of human cloning brings to mind films such as "Alien: Resurrection," in which scientists grow batches of clones to try to bring the film franchise's hero back to life.
For many, the idea of human cloning brings to mind films such as "Alien: Resurrection," in which scientists grow batches of clones to try to bring the film franchise's hero back to life.
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To put it lightly, human cloning is controversial. Major religions, global organizations and entire countries have banned its research, despite the various medical benefits human cloning offers. While some of their concerns are health-related, objections often come down to ethical or religious stances. For the purposes of this article, we'll put aside some of these larger ethical concerns and focus on the potential pros and cons of banking extraordinary genes for future cloning.

The main argument against the creation of such a bank can be summed up in one existential question: What makes me who I am? While genetics contributes a great deal to the answer, there's no getting past that we're all shaped by our experiences. It's the old nature vs. nurture debate. A clone might be born with all the genetic charms of a great scholar or athlete, but his or her subsequent upbringing, education, environment and relationships might steer the person any number of ways.

After all, is the biological child of two talented individuals guaranteed any of the drive or happiness possessed by his or her parents? Think of all the tiny decisions, influences and bits of pure chance that made you who you are today -- if any one of these had chanced to go a different route, how drastically different might your life be?

Another related argument against the cloning of extraordinary individuals is the extraordinary pressure it could put on the children to match up to their clone parents. Critics argue that this and other methods of genetic tinkering would create an atmosphere more akin to racehorse breeding than healthy parenting.

Some critics also fear that such genetic practices are nothing more than a return to the failed science of eugenics, the controlled breeding of human beings to improve the hereditary qualities. During the early 20th century, eugenics programs in the United States were responsible for the involuntary sterilization of thousands. Nazi Germany followed suit, instituting sterilization programs and eventually attempting to eliminate Jewish and non-Aryan populations. Might the banking of extraordinary genes for cloning purposes constitute the establishment of a new master race?

Another major issue to consider is that the human race is still evolving. While some biologists previously said we stopped evolving 50,000 years ago, researchers have identified more than 700 human genes that have evolved over the last 10,000 years. Researchers are just beginning to understand why and how we evolve, so why should we consider ourselves a finished product?

But the supporters of creating a top-shelf gene bank have a few points on their side as well, including the fact that these banks, in essence, already exist.


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