Bioethics Blogs

Clone me up, Scotty: A brief history of cloning and ethical progress

Julian Savulescu

The 90s was a terrifying decade. Boris Yeltsin with his finger on the button. Fortunately he was too drunk most of the time to move. The Spice Girls. And Y2K. I bought plenty of water.

Civilisation came to the brink in 1997 when Ian Wilmut managed to play God and clone a mammal, a sheep called Dolly. International chaos ensued. The German Prime Minister said it would lead to “xeroxing people.” The European Parliament beat its breast, proclaiming cloning an affront to human dignity. It proudly asserted that every human being had a right to genetic individuality (let’s conveniently forget that 1/300 live births involve clones or identical twins that lack genetic individuality).

The spectre of Saddam Houssein loomed large, creating vast armies of clones of himself. (Thank you Uncle Sam for ridding the world of that menace and his diabolical weapons of mass destruction. Oopsy. There were no WMDs. No matter. Minor point of detail. I am pretty sure Saddam would have mastered cloning and created clone armies, several million strong, invading the world, especially Jerusalem. Thanks be to the Lord for speaking to our Saviour, G.W. It would have been armageddon. Go Yankee, kick some ass! Boo Chinese and your unscrupulous gene editing.)

Civilised countries were galvanised into action into a Coalition of the Willing on the war on cloning. Millions of dollars were spent debating, writing articles on the evils of cloning and enacting legislation that would forever forbid the cloning of a human being. Even famous philosophers like Jurgen Habermas jumped on the clonist bandwagon.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.