Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Art Caplan on what cloning monkeys means for human cloning

Art Caplan, a well-known bioethicist, is using the recent news about monkey cloning to promote the creation of cloning human embryos for embryonic stem cell research. While I strongly disagree with his position and find his reasoning to be incredibly sloppy, he is at least being honest about what he wants.
The real drive in cloning human embryos with this Oregon technique is not to implant the cloned embryos into wombs, but to try to manipulate these embryos in lab dishes to see if they can provide viable sources of stem cells.
Notice how Caplan, when writing to the general public, avoids using terms like "blastocyst" or "somatic cell nuclear transfer" which the public isn't familiar with. What's the state of our media when a fierce advocate of cloning human embryos for research like Caplan is willing to be open about what he wants while some media outlets are bent on misleading their readers about what cloning is and what researchers want to do?

Let's take a look at Caplan's reasoning,
While it is true that the creation of stem cells means destroying a cloned embryo, a cloned embryo in a lab dish has no ability to develop into a person. It is at best a possible person —not an actual one.

Caplan contradicts himself here. On one hand, he claims a cloned human embryo has "no ability" to develop into a person, which for Caplan probably means obtaining some level of mental ability (though he provides no argument for that position here), and then in the next sentence claims a cloned embryo is, at best, a possible person meaning it would be possible for a cloned human embryo to develop into what he considers a person. Well, which is it?

Caplan continues,
Moreover, we already know that nearly all cloned embryos are so miswired that very few are capable of becoming a healthy adult organism at all, making cloned human embryos far more ethical to use for embryonic stem cell research than human embryos created solely for research purposes.
Notice here how Caplan doesn't provide an argument for why creating cloned human embryos for the purpose of killing them is ethical. He provides an argument for why it is "more ethical" to kill cloned human embryos created solely for research than kill IVF human embryos created solely for research. It may be true that killing cloned embryos created solely for research is more ethical than killing IVF embryos created solely for research but that doesn't mean creating and killing cloned human embryos for research is itself ethical. Just because act A is "more ethical" than act B doesn't mean that act A is ethical or should be legal. Shoplifting may be "more ethical" than armed robbery but that doesn't mean shoplifting is ethical and should be made legal.

Also, I can think of numerous kinds of afflictions which prevent born children from becoming "healthy adult organism(s)." I don't see why this would lead us to the conclusions that it is 1.) ethical to kill them for research and 2.) more ethical to kill them for research than children who have a higher likelihood of developing into healthy adults.

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