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- Published on Amazon.com
I'm interested in the life issues currently being debated and examined in our modern world; abortion, euthanasia, and human cloning. The question of human identity and personhood is crucial to all these issues; the answers ultimately come from one's worldview (The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.)
The book was written by numerous authors (about 20) grouped thematically.
Part I: Science
Examines the procedure used to clone Dolly. The relationship between nature (DNA) and nurture (choices, environmental considerations). The influence of DNA on the human brain, individuality, and so on. Also, a preliminary examination of the ethics of cloning.
Part II: Commentary
This section seemed like something of a miscellaneous section. One essay (among the most difficult to read in the book) was entitled, "Cloning and Mythology." Another essay explored the connections between the "uncanny," sheep, human humour and cloning. The most interesting essay in this section was entitled, "Queer Cloning," exploring the possibilities for cloning as a reproductive technology for non-heterosexual persons.
Part III: Ethics and Religion
Probably the most interesting section on the book; this is where the "significance" of human cloning is examined. Religious and secular moral objections and supports are offered and analyzed. The question of "sameness" and narcissism are also looked at in this section.
Part IV: Law and Public Policy
This examined the legal (American, in this case) framework that could be implemented to ban all human cloning, possible regulations on its uses. The whole question of legal recognition of the clone and the radical altering of current social structure (e.g. how would the roles "mother" and "father" function in cloning?)
Part V: Fiction and Fantasy
This section looks at the impact and significance of cloning through the medium of fiction. I found the two stories, "World of Strangers," and, "My Clone," very profound and definitely more accessible as to the meaning of human cloning.
The tone of the book is rather unabashedly secular; the naturalistic worldview, coupled with autonomy and "freedom," pervade the pages. The question frequently turns on whether there is a "right" (a favorite term in American public discourse; on paper in Part IV posited two hypothetical US Supreme Court rulings, one is pro-cloning and one is anti-cloning. This appeals to North America's tendency to follow the philosophy of assumption of liberty; "I can do anything I want; the person who opposes me has the "burden" to prove that my action is wrong." Two prominent evolutionists, Richard Dawkins and Stephen J. Gould were contributors. Gould's essay tried to examine the mysterious interaction between nature and nature and how one should not over-emphasize in favor of either one. Dawkins' essay proved a searing look at what he calls "communities" objections to human cloning. Dawkins' recalls his experiences when he appeared on news programmes following the cloning of Dolly; whenever a religious person objected to cloning, Dawkins (correctly) pointed out that natural twins and hypothetical clones are one and the same in that both persons share the same DNA. The only difference is that natural twins are "accidental" whereas clones are artificial.
Dawkin's analysis points to the need for the Church (i.e. Christians in general) to only send informed, intelligent persons with a training in science, apologetics and theology to interact with others in the media. Until that happens, Christians will lose every battle to the secular world.
There were some other interesting points raised in, "Queer Clones." For example, if incubation technology and gender modification technology eventually improve enough, theoretically, a male homosexual could clone himself and carry the child to term himself or place the conceptus in an artificial womb. However, the author of the essay notes that as incubation technology is basically speculation, men would have to rely on women to carry their clones to term. Indeed, the author notes that lesbian women would have an inherent advantage; they could carry their own clones to term.
Throughout the book, the philosophy of genetic determinism is shown to be false. Due to this, some of the emotional appeals for cloning evaporate. For example, say a 20-year-old son or daughter died in an automobile accident, wouldn't the parents wish to clone him or her "back to life," so to speak? However, at most there would be a great physical resemblance (as well as some psychological attributes perhaps) to the dead child; the clone would be very different in personality.
The essay entitled, "Human Cloning and the Public Realm: A Defense of the Good," was fascinating. The contributions of the West's (i.e. the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam) religions to the understanding of what it means to be a human person is examined. The influence and contribution of Eastern religions is briefly touched on at the end of the essay but the focus is primarily on the "Western" tradition; The Jewish anthropology of self; the unity of body and mind, the Catholic understanding of "person" as a being that has inherent dignity and is the Protestant contribution of the need to limit human power, pride and greed.
To the fact that there are so many different authors, the book is difficult to assimilate the diversity of information; there seems a lack of a unifying principle here. In addition, the Christian will find the some of the language where secular philosophy (i.e. rights-oriented, autonomy etc...) is a priori assumed. Also, the whole ethical system is based on instrumental values (what is the "harm" of action x?) and the whole question of whether certain actions are intrinsically wrong is deficient. In addition, there is a comment on the book flap, "what it means to be human." Indeed, if one's anthropology provide the answers to the cloning issue; so whose anthropology is true? Christianity wins!
I would recommend the book, "Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics," by J.P. Moreland (ISBN: 0830815775) for a Christian analysis.