Last week, scientists revealed they have successfully cloned an endangered Asian gaur — a stocky ox-like animal with a humped back. Such a technological breakthrough provides confidence that we will soon have the endangered species problem under control. Or does it?
Though the university’s burgeoning squirrel population seems to indicate otherwise, species extinction is a grave problem in most parts of the world. Species are imperiled by myriad causes, but the four main perpetrators are habitat destruction and alteration, exotic or invasive species, overhunting and pollution. The gravest threat is the loss of physical habitat: The clearing or large-scale alteration of the land threatens species by removing food sources, nesting opportunities or refuges from predators. The next most pervasive issue, which frequently acts in conjunction with the first, is invasive species: Organisms new to a habitat adversely affect native organisms by preying upon them, competing with them for food or changing the dynamics of the entire ecosystem. The two most intuitive dangers — pollution and overhunting — are relatively smalltime crooks in this grand larceny of life.
The same scientists who cloned the gaur — a group at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass. — already have plans to clone giant pandas and an extinct Spanish mountain goat.
But will successful cloning bring pandas back from the edge of extinction? Unfortunately not.
Pandas are severely threatened by alteration and fragmentation of their natural habitat. This fragmentation prohibits emigration from bamboo patches when the vegetation suffers “die-backs,” which occur every fe…
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…roblem. Social problems demand social solutions, nothing less.
Systems scientists came to this realization nearly three decades ago, with the model “World3.” In 1972, Donella Meadows and coworkers created a computer-based model of the world, and discovered that the human population was bound to dramatically overrun its resource base no matter how much we invested in technological solutions. Crucially, also limiting human population growth failed to avoid this “crash.” Per capita consumption tends to spiral out of control and can deplete resources on its own. Without tackling all causes of the crisis, we are powerless to avert disaster.
The same logic applies to biodiversity preservation. Cloning, like captive breeding, is a band-aid solution. If we want to preserve the biological legacy we inherited, we must fundamentally change how we live our lives.
Free Essays on The Cloning of Humans
The Cloning of Humans Will End Only in Exploitation
Cloning is a process that can be applied in a wide variety of different circumstances. Some of these circumstances are more appropriate than others. Unless the process is inherently evil – and one would seem to commit the naturalistic fallacy to claim that it is – a single policy for all applications of cloning technology would inappropriately legislate this complex mosaic of issues. Some applications are clearly indefensible: it’s horrendous to suggest cloning people for the purpose of harvesting their organs. Other applications seem clearly beneficial: the cloning of stem cells allows medical researchers a powerful, cost-effective, suffering-free alternative to animal testing.
However, if most applications of the technology are undesirable and none are highly advantageous, society might do well to ban the technology entirely and keep a lid on Pandora’s box. This may well be the case. While the cloning of stem cells is beneficial – because it does not entail the creation of new persons – it is not “reproductive cloning.” We might therefore take the route adopted by several countries and ban reproductive cloning while allowing the cloning of stem cells for medical research.
But are there no major benefits to reproductive cloning? In my previous column, I discussed the case of an infertile couple that strongly wishes to have their own genetic children. But a cloned child would not be “their” genetic child, as it would only share genes with one parent. I am confident that more effective reproductive technologies will soon be available. These technologies – which might allow the insertion of an infertile man’s genes into another man’s functional sperm – will eliminate the need for reproductive cloning.
One of the most frequently discussed complaints against reproductive cloning is that it will render genetic enhancement easier but still expensive, thereby widening the gap between the rich and the poor. This objection relies upon an analogy with genetic enhancement in livestock, where the two separate technologies will be combined: once cells are enhanced genetically, they will be cloned. Notice that cloning is fully unnecessary for genetic enhancement: it only makes the mass enhancement of a group more cost effective. The genetic enhancement of humans is unlikely to follow the livestock route, as most people would prefer their own genetic children to mass-produced children, even if they were cheaper to enhance genetically.