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Does Human Cloning Produce An Embryo?

Does Human Cloning Produce An Embryo?

In February 1997, Dr. Ian Wilmut and his team startled the scientific world by showing that the nucleus from an adult sheep’s body cell could be used to produce a developing embryo that would grow into another, genetically identical sheep. There was no doubt whatever that this process (“somatic cell nuclear transfer”) produces an embryo of the relevant species. As Dr. Wilmut said in his groundbreaking article: “The majority of reconstructed embryos were cultured in ligated oviducts of sheep… Most embryos that developed to morula or blastocyst after 6 days of culture were transferred to recipients and allowed to develop to term,” etc. [I. Wilmut et al., “Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells,” 385 Nature 810-813 (Feb. 27, 1997)]

Now that the discussion has turned to humans, political spokespersons for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries have decided to engage in a curious avoidance of the fact that somatic cell nuclear transfer using a human nucleus would produce a human embryo. There seem to be two reasons for this:

a. some spokespersons maintain — contrary to scientific evidence, the findings of the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel, and current federal law on embryo research — that no human embryos should be called “embryos” for the first two weeks of existence.1

b. because cloned embryos are seen as such useful research material for destructive experiments, current restrictions on embryo research etc. must be evaded by denying that an embryo produced by cloning deserves the name.

Thus euphemisms and misleading or inaccurate terms (“totipotent cell,” “clump of embryonic cells,” “unfertilized oocyte,” etc.) have entered the political discussion. They are employed to conceal the fact that researchers want to be allowed to use cloning to produce and destroy human embryos. Biotechnology groups claim to oppose the cloning of “human beings” or “persons” — but they reserve the right to conduct cloning experiments on human embryos and fetuses, so long as none is allowed to survive to live birth.

Fortunately, one can cut through the political evasions by looking at the professional literature — including writings by those who support cloning of embryos for research purposes:

“One potential use for this technique would be to take cells — skin cells, for example — from a human patient who had a genetic disease… You take these and get them back to the beginning of their life by nuclear transfer into an oocyte to produce a new embryo.

The Perspective of Plato and Aristotle on the Value of Art

The Perspective of Plato and Aristotle on the Value of Art

As literary critics, Plato and Aristotle disagree profoundly about the value of art in human society. Plato attempts to strip artists of the power and prominence they enjoy in his society, while Aristotle tries to develop a method of inquiry to determine the merits of an individual work of art. It is interesting to note that these two disparate notions of art are based upon the same fundamental assumption: that art is a form of mimesis, imitation. Both philosophers are concerned with the artist’s ability to have significant impact on others. It is the imitative function of art which promotes disdain in Plato and curiosity in Aristotle. Examining the reality that art professes to imitate, the process of imitation, and the inherent strengths and weaknesses of imitation as a form of artistic expression may lead to understanding how these conflicting views of art could develop from a seemingly similar premise.

Both philosophers hold radically different notions of reality. The assumptions each man makes about truth, knowledge, and goodness directly affect their specific ideas about art. For Plato, art imitates a world that is already far removed from authentic reality, Truth. Truth exists only in intellectual abstraction, that is, paradoxically, more real than concrete objects. The universal essence, the Idea, the Form of a thing, is more real and thus more important than its physical substance. The physical world, the world of appearances experienced through the senses, does not harbor reality. This tangible world is an imperfect reflection of the universal world of Forms. Human observations based on these reflections are, therefore, highly suspect. At b…

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… the definition derived by each philosopher is profoundly different. In order to construct a coherent, wide-ranging philosophy, art and its impact on society must be reckoned with, whether as an imitation of a system far removed or a system in our midst. The process of imitation is used in both cases to promote the particular version of reality espoused by each man. While such a study is beneficial in tracing the philosophical conflict regarding the usage and importance of imitation in art, what is most apparent, perhaps, is the discovery that language itself is an imperfect imitation of meaning, capable of fostering such conflicts.

Works Cited:

Aristotle. “Poetics” The Critical Tradition. Ed., David H. Richter, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

Plato. “Republic, Book X” The Critical Tradition. Ed., David H. Richter, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

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