Ten Years After Dolly Still No Cloned Armies

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University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan celebrates the tenth anniversary of the announcement of the cute cloned sheep Dolly. Caplan reminds us of the wild speculations that Dolly's birth provoked. To wit:

Dolly's creation set off a storm of fear, confusion, misunderstanding, pandering and double-talk that culminated in the greatest fraud ever perpetrated in the history of biomedicine — the false claim that a South Korean scientist had cloned human embryos and made stem cells from them.

Just three months after Dolly's advent, I merrily joined in the furor by asking, "What exactly is wrong with cloning people?" I still think that when cloning becomes safe, cloning people will be no big deal.

Caplan tenth anniversary walk down memory lane here.

Disclosure: I am not frightened by clones. I know several, e.g., identical twins. Also, I bottle raised a number of lambs when I was a boy growing up on my family's farm, but none were clones.

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  1. What did you make of her premature arthritis, Mr. Bailey?

  2. “Send in the clones,
    Where are the clones,
    Don’t bother their here.”

    Sorry. Just had to do that.

  3. I have a clone army. I just don’t keep them all in one place, so nobody notices.

  4. If only we could clone that rapier wit ^

  5. I’m a clone
    I know it and I’m fine
    I’m one and more are on the way
    I’m two, doctor
    Three’s on the line
    He’ll take incubation another day

  6. Hey, I only needed to hear Jonathon Frakes deliver his “…a thousand Will Rikers…” speech, and that was it for me.

    No way, man. No way.

  7. Pro Libertate,

    I’d figure you would store them “off planet?”

  8. I have a clone do all my blogging while I do research.

    Or am I blogging while my clone does research?

    Nobody knows except for me. And me.

  9. What do you make of her premature arthritis, Mr. Bailey?

    My guess is her heavy HFCS diet did it.

  10. Dave W.: It could have been associated with cloning or maybe because she was at points in her life overweight. Obviously, researchers need to know the answer to that question (and many others) before trying to clone people.

  11. Of course, identical twin clones have a mother and a father and a normal family life, something created-on-purpose clones can never have.

  12. Don’t worry James we cloned the mother and father too.

  13. Yes we did didn’t we.

  14. I wish we could clone Anna Nicole Smith so I wouldn’t have to hear about her death anymore.

  15. Of course, identical twin clones have a mother and a father and a normal family life, something created-on-purpose clones can never have.

    And something which tens of millions of Americans have been raised without. The adopted ones, of course are raised by someone other than their biological parents. The ones raised by single moms get by without a father.

  16. James Kabala,

    Don’t get all Brave New Worldy on us here.

    “Human cloning” would almost always mean using the technology to implant a zygote in a mother when a couple is having trouble conceiving.

    No warehouses of beaker-babies here.

  17. Actually, even with a mother and father, the few identical twins I’ve known have been royal pains in the ass. I suspect a legion of, oh, say, Ron Baileys or even D.A. Ridgelys would be a nightmare on earth for the rest of its inhabitants. And don’t even get me started on the prospect of Dave W. clones. Need I say more?

  18. Cab –

    just go to the Bobbi Brown samples counter at Bloomies, get some balloons and fill ’em with silicon, and get a hotdog case and inject it with collagen, and you got yer clone. Oh yeah. Big hair wig. (You can borrow Courtney Love’s merkin for that)

    joe – James Kabala is worried that Jengo and Boba will go after him, too!

  19. joe, short-term perhaps. But what basis do you have for your “almost always” claim? Always is a damned long time.

  20. I have no doubt there will be freaks out there wanting to clone Grandma. I really can’t see cloning ever going anywhere good. If the best you can say for a new technology is that is allows rich yuppies to have babies and not have to adopt, I can’t say that I am sold on its value.

  21. Time for another H&R “it’s just biotechnology, what could possibly go wrong?” entry.

  22. Short selling females?

    When it comes to creating human beings, I have a hard time imagining guys in lab coats doing a better job than my wife did (after a nominal initial investment from me)

    vat grown cloned organs might have a future

    but complete human beings are already too easily created by the private sector

    maybe we should concentrate on educating the humans we have, rather than suppose that science can somehow spit out a better class of them.

  23. DA,

    You are correct. I meant “always” as in “in almost all cases,” not “forever.” I was talking about the current situation, not long-term.

  24. There are people who find the idea of parents picking a child’s hair or eye color to be horribly objectionable. I can understand them having a problem with cloning, since in and of itself, it’s merely a “package deal” version of the same thing.

    It’s the “Brave New Worldy” concepts of artificial gestation, rearing, and “programming” that are more widely considered really morally objectional, and years of cheesy sci-fi have wrongly bound them up with the concept of cloning. If I could do those things, then perhaps I could create an army of evil minions to do my bidding, but the effect of adding cloning to that seems really superficial.

  25. Need I say more?

    No.

  26. “There are people who find the idea of parents picking a child’s hair or eye color to be horribly objectionable.”

    It is objectionable. It will have a lot of huge impacts on society. If kids become fashion, more than they are now, where is the difference? I don’t want to live in a world where large numbers of people in each generation look alike because that was the fashion. Moreover, what about the kids who turn out wrong? Wouldn’t it be great to grow up with brown hair when everyone else in your class has the more fasionable blond hair having to tell people “I didn’t turn out as planned”. It is turning children into a means to their parents own ends. The point is not to have a child but to have this child with these atributes because nothing else will do. I don’t know that that means that it should be illegal, but if that is the future, it is a pretty grim and gross future.

  27. There are people who find the idea of parents picking a child’s hair or eye color to be horribly objectionable.

    How about choosing sexual orientation. If that becomes feasible, would that be objectionable to you, Umbriel.

  28. I always wanted a gay clone. Just to see how well I’d do.

  29. Trust me, having a bunch of clones of yourself running around is more of a pain in the ass than you might think. Not that I’m saying I had anything to do with the other five being tragically disintegrated.

  30. but were those lambs delicious? this I believe will be the telling criteria in the clone debate…how tasty are they.

  31. I loves me some Chick-e-Bob.

    Free range, of course.

  32. What did you make of her premature arthritis, Mr. Bailey?

    What part of “when cloning becomes safe” did you not understand?

  33. The best part about having a clone army is that people get all freaked out when they see a guy coming at them whom they just killed. Very effective in combat, I find.

  34. I am a clone
    I am not alone
    Every fiber of my flesh and bones
    Is identical
    To the others
    Everything I say
    Is in the same tone
    As my test tube brothers voice
    There is no choice between us
    If you had ever seen us
    You’d rejoice in your uniqueness
    And consider every weakness
    Something special of your own
    Being a clone
    I have no flaws to identify
    Even this doggerel that pours from my pen
    Has just been written by
    Another twenty telepathic men
    It says “Oh for the wings of any bird
    Other than a battery hen.”
    It’s the spirit of the age…

    “Spirit of the Age” by Hawkwind (written by Robert Calvert, RIP)

  35. I don’t want to live in a world where large numbers of people in each generation look alike because that was the fashion…. if that is the future, it is a pretty grim and gross future.

    Well y’know, something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day.

    Uh-oh, I better quit quoting song lyrics!!!!

  36. Missed a line:

    Another twenty telepathic men
    Oh, word for word!
    It says “Oh for the wings of any bird
    Other than a battery hen.”
    etc.

  37. The best part about having a clone army is that people get all freaked out when they see a guy coming at them whom they just killed. Very effective in combat, I find.

    That’s what Mr. Smith thought, too. Obviously, however, it’s better to be The One.

    (BTW, I know Kung Fu!)

  38. It is objectionable. It will have a lot of huge impacts on society.

    Oh, no! An impact on society!

    If kids become fashion, more than they are now, where is the difference?

    Um… difference from what?

    I don’t want to live in a world where large numbers of people in each generation look alike because that was the fashion.

    Oh, well if John doesn’t want it, we better not do it.

    Moreover, what about the kids who turn out wrong?

    You mean like Down Syndrome? Or are you prattling on about something trivial?

    Wouldn’t it be great to grow up with brown hair when everyone else in your class has the more fasionable blond hair having to tell people “I didn’t turn out as planned”.

    Ah, it was trivial.

    Is this in any way different than being the only minority in your class? Is that a tragedy that needs to be prevented?

    It is turning children into a means to their parents own ends. The point is not to have a child but to have this child with these atributes because nothing else will do.

    See also: crazy soccer parents, or “My son the doctor” syndrome.

    I don’t know that that means that it should be illegal, but if that is the future, it is a pretty grim and gross future.

    Dude, the future you’re shitting your pants over is already here, except for a couple of minor details. Chill out.

  39. What part of “when cloning becomes safe” did you not understand?

    The part where he said “when” instead of the more conditional –if–.

  40. Son of A,

    Whatever you do, don’t take your head out of your ass or the sand or wherever it is. The future is already here is won’t be much worse is not much of an argument. If soccer moms demanding their kids be doctore is a bad thing, then what is cloning them to be such? A hell of a lot worse thing. Kind of like someone saying it is okay to shoot their wife because they already knock them around once in a while anyway. Yes, there is a difference in degrees in things.

  41. If soccer moms demanding their kids be doctore [sic] is a bad thing…

    Did I say that was a bad thing?

  42. how come nobody has mentioned the army of hitlers problem? you can’t discuss cloning while ignoring the army of hitlers.

  43. edna:

    No problem. We’ll just counter them with the army of Jesuses (Jesii?). It’ll all work out.

    Plus, as an added bonus, we’ll all get our own personal Jesus.

  44. I for one only want clones of myself to download my memories and thought processes into. I intend on living forever dammit and clones seem to be the way to go.

  45. The part where he said “when” instead of the more conditional –if–.

    When pigs fly, I’ll agree that was a meaningful difference!

  46. well, the nice thing about cloning is that you can actually make an army of jesuses. get a catholic to puke after taking communion, extract the dna, and those christian soldiers will be onward before you know it.

  47. I want to clone Richard Feynman, then have him work as my grad student. I figure that I can bask in the reflected glory of having trained the best scientist of the 21st century, and up my citation ratings by being the senior author on his first publications.

  48. Jeez, Fyodor. It’s dem flying pigs that gets people all against cloning and biotech and stuff.

    [whisper whisper]

    oh! clowning! 🙂

  49. thoreau 1.5 [Beta]

    I don’t think you’ve thought this through. You might get your ‘senior author’ publication. But you’d pay for it ten times a day as the victim of really devious practical jokes. You’d also run the risk of becoming immortalized as the ‘doofus’ in one or more comedic anecdotes. Retold over and over, and published in book after book, and then again and again all over the internet.

  50. I wouldn’t think an Army of Hitlers would be praticularly productive for maximum evil. Last I checked he wasn’t much into working well with others.

    On a more serious note…

    Why is it worse for a parent to give their child genetic gifts to help them in the career the parents want them to have, as opposed to the those who want their child to be something but prevents their child from getting those same abilities. In my experience if the parent wants to push their kid into something they will. This way they at least they might actually have the genes to follow said career it if they choose as opposed to becoming a possible failure.

    What’s worse being shoved into a beauty contest at a young age and losing a lot because you rolled snake eyes in the genetic dice roll, or being shoved in to them and winning because you were designed to? Worst case: when you grow up you’ll be free to hate your parents because those bastards made you smart and attractive.

    Ultimately most of this seems academic. There are so many variables to genes and how they interact with each other I doubt many people (or doctors) will even think about messing around with anything other than the more obvious physical characteristic type genes. As it stands now, from what I have read, there doesn’t seem to be an “intelligence” gene. It is the interaction of many genes that form the level of intelligence. One combo might make Einstien, a slightly different combo Ted Bundy.

  51. How about an army of Homer’s?

  52. John & Dave W — I wasn’t taking a stance on the objectionability in making that statement, but rather pointing out that it shouldn’t be cloning, as such, that’s so contentious, but rather the issue of selecting the physical attributes of offspring. There are, I suspect, a fair number of people who would consider picking hair and eye color to be harmless, but who fear cloning because of the associations I referenced, and I think that’s a pretty absurd stance.

    While I don’t suppose I’d want to live in a world where everyone looked the same, I am

    1) pretty sure I won’t have to, because any such socio-scientific trend would only make a difference in national demographics long after I’m dead. I leave my descendants’ preferences for them to decide.

    2) inclined to think it will become increasingly irrelevant, as it’s already pretty easy for people to change their hair and eye color at will, and biological science is likely to make even more radical alterations of appearance even easier in the future.

    To the extent that I have any reservations about designer genetics, I see enough potential benefits from it that I’m opposed to taking a scorched earth stance — obstructing all research and use of such technologies because it “might be misused someday”.

    Incidentally, I’m highly doubtful that sexual orientation will prove to be readily controllable genetically. If it were, I don’t suppose that I’d agree with doing so, but I’d be as opposed in principle to legally prohibiting that choice as I would be to legally mandating it… or to legally mandating the values that we try to instill in our children by conventional means.

  53. (1) Oh, give me a clone
    Of my own flesh and bone
    With its Y chromosome changed to X
    And after it’s grown
    Then my own little clone
    Will be of the opposite sex.

    (Chorus) Chlone, clone of my own
    With its Y chromosome changed to X
    And when I’m alone
    With my own little clone
    We will both think of nothing but sex.

    (2) Oh, give me a clone
    Is my sorrowful moan,
    A clone that is wholly my own.
    And if she’s X-X
    And the feminine sex
    Oh, what fun we will have when we’re prone.

    (3) My heart’s not of stone,
    As I’ve frequently shown
    When alone with my own little X
    And after we’ve dined,
    I am sure we will find
    Better incest then Oedipus Rex.

    (4) Why should such sex vex
    Or disturb or perplex
    Or induce a disparaging tone?
    After all, don’t you see
    Since we’re both of us me
    When we’re having sex, I’m alone.

    (5) And after I’m done
    She will still have her fun
    For I’ll clone myself twice ere I die.
    And this time without fail
    They’ll be both of them male
    And they’ll each ravage her by and by

    By Isaac Asimov

  54. I know that song is a joke, but it could be an interesting way to study sex differences: Clone a male mouse, but eliminate the Y chromosome and duplicate the X chromosome.

    And get the denucleated egg from the male mouse’s mother so the mitochondrial DNA is the same.

    That could be an interesting experiment.

  55. Mr. Anderson,

    Mr. Smith is Elrond, who can kick your wimpy, surfer ass any day of the week.

    An Army of Hitlers? Coincidentally, that’s the title of my book attacking the opinions of the Instapundit.

  56. t2, just goes to show ya, i can’t even remember who feynman’s advisor was. so much for reflected glory.

    my old advisor nobelled a few years ago- for some reason, the glory hasn’t trickled down to me yet.

  57. I agree that I shouldn’t have used the word “normal,” since there really is no such thing as a normal upbringing anymore. However, when I mentioned having a mother and father I did not necessarily mean present and involved in the raising the child, but simply existing. That is a big difference between naturally occurring twins and artificial clones. Even if I were pro-cloning, I would find that kind of facile statement dumb and below Mr. Bailey’s usual standards.

  58. I think I’m a clone now
    There’s always two of me just a-hangin’ around
    I think I’m a clone now
    ‘Cause every chromosome is a hand-me-down

    Look at the way
    We go out walking close together
    I guess you could say
    I’m really beside myself

    I still remember how it began (gan-gan-gan)
    They produced a carbon copy man (man-man-man)
    Born in a science lab late one night
    Without a mother or a father, just a test tube and a womb with a view

    I think I’m a clone now (a clone now)
    There’s always two of me just a-hangin’ around
    I think I’m a clone now (a clone now)
    ‘Cause every chromosome is a hand-me-down

  59. It [Dolly’s arthritis} could have been associated with cloning or maybe because she was at points in her life overweight.

    Early warning signs of the coming “ewebesity epidemic”!

  60. I realize this is late, but…

    when I mentioned having a mother and father I did not necessarily mean present and involved in the raising the child, but simply existing. That is a big difference between naturally occurring twins and artificial clones.

    I challenge this claim on two grounds: first, that the difference is all that big. DNA can neither know nor care where it came from. Second, clones still have biological parents: the parents of the person they were cloned from. I don’t see why the cloning process would make a person any different than any other test tube baby.

  61. “I bottle raised a number of lambs when I was a boy growing up on my family’s farm”

    Can you still hear them screaming, Ronald. Can you hear the screaming of the clones?

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