|By Clyde Lewis
there is no mirror
in which to view your soul.
- Kahlil Gibran
Changes in the way we operate as humans inevitably results in a resistance to change. The unbelievable stories, rumors, and superstitions that are spouted as fact continue to amaze me.
I say now that we live in the greatest of times. That is if you are spectator and nothing horrible finds itís way to your doorstep. Horrible things stalk in the shadows on a daily basis. Thoughts of terror, war, biological attack a number of other great fears are playing out as realities on the 6 oíclock news.
While the mainstream press continues to deliver death on your doorstep and into your home one story arrived talking about life.
Never was there more derision and modern day Luddism being demonstrated than when it was announced that quite possibly a human clone has been born and she has been named Eve.
Today's Luddites continue to raise moral and ethical arguments against the excesses of modern technology to the extent that our inventions and our technical systems have evolved to control us rather than to serve us and to the extent that such mechanized leviathans can threaten our essential humanity.
Cloning however is not some mechanical marvel that can be shut down or otherwise easily sabotaged through mechanical monkey wrenching. Cloning is a procedure where science and technology have stepped into the territory that has been called the act of playing God.
I must admit that it is a difficult task to find anything in literature, movies or music that doesnít have an evil bias on the act of cloning and reproductive research. Aldous Huxleyís "Brave New World" painted a sterile Utopia with baby factories and antidepressants and as I turned the pages I could see my world spiraling towards this prophetic vision. Huxley's warning in "Brave New World" is probably the most influential because of his prophetic insights.
Huxley foreshadowed many of the reproductive practices and ideas that we have taken for granted today and many people have used Huxley as a warning for what may happen as we move forward through the nebulous future that is the new millennium.
I found it peculiar that "Brave New World" was one of the books that was frowned upon by the influential church groups in my hometown. The book was later embraced when the clergy found that the book painted a bleak picture of a world where we replaced God with material goods, and children have sex for pleasure.
"Brave new World" was written in 1932, and Huxley predicts genetic engineering, test-tube babies, cloning, a loss of meaning in sexual relationships, and drug abuse among other dystopian horrors.
The concept of producing humans without parents blasts a loud warning and Huxley urges us to avoid such practices. In "Brave New World," Huxley's forewarning of the "manufacturing" of humans reveals that there can be devastating results when we misuse our knowledge and apply advancing technology to procreation.
Huxley points out that in the future hatcheries will be able to create many human babies at once and that the miracle of human childbirth through sexual intercourse will eventually be looked upon as an obscene joke.
I recall that my first exposure to movies dealing with the tampering of the power of creation and reproduction was the "Boys from Brazil" and a film called "Embryo."
Both films demonstrated that cloning and reproductive tampering would result in horrific ends. In "The boys from Brazil" we learn of a sinister plot to resurrect the Adolf Hitler and establish the Fourth Reich through the act of Cloning performed by Nazi scientists.
In the Movie "Embryo" a doctor somehow saves an unborn fetus from a horrible accident and then accelerates the growth process until he invents a very attractive female named Victoria that eventually turns into a psycho and murders people in order to stop the out of control aging process.
There is of course a cadre of modern films that depict clones in various forms from dinosaurs to armies of war.
I am sure that many of these movies, and so many more books and songs have influenced our thinking with regard to the news that a human clone has allegedly been born at the dawn of the year 2003.
In 1996 Ian Wilmut and his colleagues successfully cloned a sheep at the Roslin Institute. This event seems to be the only event that is mentioned in conversation when anyone brings up cloning. Mainly because it not only awakened us to the possibility of cloning a human, but later the sheep known as Dolly started to exhibit health complications long after her birth. However she successfully gave birth to at least 6 lambs and as far as I can tell they have remained healthy.
According to the Human Cloning Foundation a group dedicated to educating people on Cloning, Dr. Paul Shields and Dr. Ian Wilmut, reported that Dolly had slightly stunted telomeres. Telomeres are DNA strands at each end of a cell's DNA that become shorter with each cell division.
There has been speculation that telomeres are a sort of clock that tells cells it's time to stop dividing and die, but reality has not proven to be so simple. The researchers reported that Dolly's telomeres were 20 percent shorter than those of sheep who are not clones.
The media has chosen to dwell on this finding than the other positive outcomes of Dolly and her life:
Dolly has had several offspring including Bonnie--who is known to have normal telomeres. To learn about telomeres is reason to proceed with cloning research, not abandon it.
The telomerase study is of only a few sheep including Dolly. Some scientists have speculated that the reported telomere shortening may be laboratory error, and it's also been suggested that a 20 percent difference may be within the normal variation for sheep.
Jose Cibelli, a cloning expert at Advanced Cell Technology, has done studies that suggest that cloning makes cells younger, not older.
Dolly was cloned from a 6-year-old adult. Sheep only live to be from 7 to 15 years on average, depending upon your source of information and the breed of sheep. Since 90 percent of cell divisions occur in the womb, how could Dolly have been born?
The telomere question is not as straight forward as some headlines make it sound.
Both eggs and sperm contain telomerase, and enzyme that causes the telomeres to lengthen. So when the DNA from Dolly's parent was placed inside the egg, perhaps her telomeres were readjusted to the needed length.
According to HCF The simplistic telomere hypothesis does not hold up because animals have telomeres of all different lengths. Those with long telomeres do not necessarily live longer than those with short telomeres.
Mice without telomerase have lived normal lifespans.
Telomeres do not always shorten with age.
In addition, one of the cloned sheep by the "PPL Therapeutics, Roslin people" did not have shorter telomeres. This sheep, 6LL7 was cloned with fetal tissue DNA, which was minimally cultured.
The press reports are one-sided. Virtually all the headlines for the stories were negative, even when the articles were neutral. Newspapers were fast to emphasize the negative. One newspaper took the front page story from the Washington Post and shortened it by cutting out all the comments by pro-cloning people questioning the results.
But if you dig even farther back behind the recent news stories, you'll discover a very interesting thing that none (or apparently none) of the newspapers bothered to report at all. Geron Corporation owns the Roslin Institute's cloning subsidiary having acquired it in a stock swap. After outlining the alleged problem with Dolly's telomeres, the Geron press release states:
"Geron and its collaborators have cloned telomerase, the cellular immortalizing enzyme which, when reactivated in normal cells, extends their healthy replicative lifespan by preventing telomere erosion.... Geron and the Roslin Institute will collaborate to combine telomerase activation with nuclear transfer to enable the efficient production of cloned transgenic animals with normal, full-length telomeres. Geron will also pursue the combination of these technologies with pluripotent stem cell technology to produce human cells and tissues for medical transplantation.... Telomerase activation should provide the transplanted cells and tissues with extended lifespan and hence therapeutic benefit."
What does this mean? It means that the telomere "problem" has been blown out of proportion and the reality is that there has been a solution to the problem and now the whole process has been patented.
So can we ascertain that perhaps we have been thrown a curve ball and that human cloning is not as complicated and dangerous as we have been lead to believe?
Why didn't the Geron press release make it into the mainstream press?
Why doesnít the mainstream press educate the masses on the successful clonings or twinnings that have already taken place?
The history of successful cloning and duplicating goes back some 50 years!
The cloning era began in 1952, when Robert Briggs and Thomas King cloned the first animal. These scientists duplicated simple tadpoles from tadpole cells.
This event sparked a series of discoveries and a movement of cloning research, and soon more and more complex species were being reproduced.
In 1958 vegetables were cloned when F.C. Steward successfully produced whole carrot plants from carrot root cells. Later in 1962 John Gurdon successfully cloned Frogs.
The ball was rolling and more and more discoveries and claims were made and of course in the process there were many claims of cloning that were faked, or hoaxed.
In 1977 Karl Illmensee claimed to have created mice with only one parent. Later in 1981 Illmensee and Peter Hoppe made the claim that they cloned mice by transplanting the nuclei of mouse embryo cells into mouse eggs. Other scientists are unable to reproduce the same results. It is later discovered that the results were faked.
A year later another hoax made the rounds that may ring familiar with a story that made the papers on December 27th, 2002.
In March of 1978 the New York Post actually reported a story that a human clone had been born in an undisclosed location in the Pacific. A spokesman for the project refused to identify the infant, citing a desire to "protect the child from harmful publicity.
The story turned out to be a hoax.
It is with great trepidation now that we believe the claims of Clonaid, a company that has allegedly produced the first human clone, a baby girl that they have named Eve. The announcement came from Brigitte Boisselier, the director of Clonaid, the research branch of the Raelian religious sect that seem to be under scrutiny because of their beliefs that extra terrestrials cloned humans some 25 thousand years ago.
This always seems to be the sticking point for the mainstream media. You canít avoid reading a story in the newspaper or otherwise that puts into question the trustworthiness of anyone who believes in the idea that a being other than a mystical magical God created man.
This type of religious prejudice has reared its head before especially in 1997 when the Heavenís Gate cult committed suicide. Their belief in an extraterrestrial god was used as a warning of what happens when people believe in Gods other than the conventional ones.
The fact that Clonaid has ties to a religious sect that believes in extra terrestrial intervention into the affairs of man should have no bearing on the results of a yet to be seen DNA test to prove the genuine artifact.
I have pointed out in previous articles and diatribes about the subject the whole cloning process is detailed in the book of Genesis Chapter 2 in the bible.
"And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. He then took one of his ribs and then closed the flesh thereof. The Rib, which the Lord had taken from man, was used to create woman and he brought her to the man."
It states clearly that man fell asleep and while he slept God engineered a mate by using a piece of Adamís body.
This appears to be the first example of cloning.
In the haze of extraterrestrial sideshows and a cult leader who stands at the steps of a UFO prop looking like Michael Rennie in the movie the "Day the Earth Stood still," we must stop and realize that the announcement of human clone being born has definitely stopped the world.
It has thrust us into thinking about our mortality in the year 2003.
Even if the Raelians have produced a hoax, the genie has been let out of the bottle. Once you release the toothpaste from the tube you canít put it back in and what the Raelians have done is shown us another Jonbar hinge, where a decision bad or good has opened up a virtual Pandoraís box. There are others in line that will deliver the news that they too have successfully cloned a human being.
Two other independent researchers, Severino Antinori who will probably be criticized for working in a Muslim country and Panos Zavos from Lexington, Kentucky have suggested that a birth of human clone is forthcoming.
I am beginning to see that there is a preconditioning probably based in fear and ignorance regarding the production of clones.
The odd irony is that Cloning is a science of life. Creating life, prolonging life, and quite possibly the very thing that religious groups preach as a gift from God, eternal life, and the immortality of man.
Why is it then that most religions accept the finality of death when it is evident that the constant repeated message of the biblical texts is that mankind will learn of a way to gain eternal life and immortality? Is cloning the breakthrough that mankind was promised if he were worthy to practice in the art of resurrecting his own body through principles and practices that were already developed by God or some other scientists that existed before us?
Maybe extra terrestrial scientists?
Think of it.
Halting the practice of cloning could hamper our progress as a human species. It could thwart the process of the promised resurrection that is given to us in the gospels.
Are we waiting for a magical resurrection?
Or are we to understand that it is our responsibility to bring to pass the process through knowledge and practice?
Why canít the resurrection process be a discovery?
The entire human mind is Godís gift. What we do with our minds is our gift back to the very God who gave us a mind to exercise and to fill with things to prolong the life that is vital to the continuation of the plan that was first introduced to the first man and woman.
I would like to give you some hypothetical situations where human cloning would provide that promise of life and how I feel that even though the practice of Cloning may not feel right at the moment, the perfecting of the science will benefit us.
Let us suppose that a couple has one child and then for some unfortunate reason they become infertile and cannot have more children. Cloning would enable such a couple to have a second child, perhaps a younger twin of the child they already have.
This is a simple scenario but as you can see there is a benefit.
I do know that there are other options such as adoption, however there are choices and cloning gives yet another choice.
What if you lost your child soon after a birth to a tragic accident? Human cloning would allow you to have a twin of your lost baby.
I have known women who have had cervical cancers. Some have ended up having a hysterectomy before being married or having children. Some of these women feel empty because they have been robbed of their ability to have children. Through a surrogate these women could have a child with their own DNA, which can be done either by human cloning or by in vitro fertilization.
Here is another hypothetical situation where the solution could easily be to allow the person to take part in an assisted suicide, however you will see that cloning could give peace of mind to someone whose quality of life has been stunted due to a horrible accident or birth defect.
A boy graduates from high school at age 18. He goes to a pool party to celebrate. He confuses the deep end and shallow end and dives headfirst into the pool, breaking his neck and becoming a quadriplegic.
At age 19 he has his first urinary tract infection because of an indwelling urinary catheter and continues to suffer from them the rest of his life.
At age 20 he comes down with herpes zoster of the trigeminal nerve.
He suffers from chronic unbearable pain. At age 21 he inherits a 10 million-dollar trust fund. He never marries or has children. At age 40 after hearing about Dolly being a clone, he changes his will and has his DNA stored for future human cloning. His future mother will be awarded one million dollars to have him and raise him.
His DNA clone will inherit a trust fund. He leaves five million to spinal cord research. He dies feeling that although he was robbed of normal life, his twin/clone will lead a better life.
Or how about this scenario? It isnít hypothetical but it is important to me none the less.
A successful talk show host (Someone you know) has a hidden genetic disorder called Tuberous Sclerosis or TSC. He has been hospitalized several times with debilitating headaches.
Doctors tell him that he has developed minor tumors in various parts of his brain and one cyst that has to be removed from his head at age 17. By age 21 he develops another cyst that has to be removed while he is living in Argentina. The recovery time is a painful 6 months. By Age 28 he develops dime-sized tumors on his adrenal glands and another small tumor on his Kidney.
Doctors tell him that he has Cancer. Later doctors comment that their diagnosis was premature and that they are seeing that tumors are appearing in various parts of his body.
Word comes to him that his son has been born with the same problems however his problems have developed into seizures due to tumors in his brain as well.
He is later determined to be an epileptic. He also has a learning disorder. Also it is discovered that his immediate family is showing other signs that they have the genetic disorder. His brotherís son is born with tumors on his heart and is on a pacemaker.
His sister is unable to have children because of the disorder and his mother has various mental disabilities due to non-cancerous growths that move slowly through the brain.
I deal with the possibility of losing my faculties, motor responses, and my ability to do simple tasks every day. So far I have been lucky. I have had cancer scares, and I sometimes have very bad headaches but I have been able to maintain a very happy life and it has been a challenge at times to not think about my quality of life decaying at a momentís notice.
Am I supposed to say that this has been dealt to me and that I have to live with it?
Well at the moment my family and me are doomed to continue carrying this genetic problem and our children will continue to carry it because of limits on cloning research and genetic research.
Tuberous Sclerosis is caused by defects, or mutations, on two genes-TSC1 and TSC2. Only one of the genes needs to be affected for it to be present. The TSC1 gene, discovered in 1997, is on chromosome 9 and produces a protein called hamartin. The TSC2 gene, discovered in 1993, is on chromosome 16 and produces the protein tuberin.
Scientists believe these proteins act as tumor growth suppressors, agents that regulate cell proliferation and differentiation-the processes in which nerve cells divide to form new generations of cells and acquire individual characteristics.
If I had the money or the ability, I would love to have a successful clone of myself or another member of my family without the TSC mutation to continue my progeny free of the suffering that my family has had. A child that could function without the embarrassment and ridicule that many people with TSC face on a daily basis.
It would be a blessing to see a child born to me or my future wife that would not have the Angiofibromas that I have on my face or the abnormalities that now plague others with this problem.
I am well aware the highly charged derision that comes with supporting cloning research. I have heard the arguments about how clones will have no souls and that playing God is wrong. I have heard that it is an affront to human dignity.
However I can only conclude that most of the ugly words about cloning may have come from the preconditioning process and the warnings of Huxley and others about tampering with the science of creating children without parents.
Congress and others have demanded that we ban the research however I believe that banning research will only tempt fate.
If congress is seeking to avoid fulfilling Aldous Huxleyís dystopian vision, then they should just leave well enough alone.
The irony is that while we are being told that we should not play God our leaders pretend to be Gods every day deciding on who lives, who dies and now who reproduces and how they reproduce.
We are now living in a time we can call the Clone Age however it becomes more and more evident that some of the attitudes and words that I have been hearing about clones and cloning sound like they come from the stone age.
Copyright 1998-2007 Ground Zero Media, Clyde Lewis, and John Hart. All Rights Reserved.