Human Cloning - Individualistic vs. Communitarian


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Human Cloning - Individualistic vs. Communitarian

 

           In many controversial topics around the world, we can

find differing positions, and opinions. Many of these arguments, can be narrowed

down to two different views, or constructs: individualistic and communitarian

(an image of collectivism). An individualistic viewpoint "stresses the rights of

the individual as a unique being" (class review). A communitarian viewpoint is

more concerned with the good for the greatest number, "even if an individual

must suffer or sacrifice" (class review). These different elements do not

necessarily label the people as opposed to, or in favor of the topic here.  They

just show where your motivations lie, is your involvement for self fulfillment

or for the good of society? Within the contents of this paper, I will analyze

the elements of  individualism and collectivism that exist in the controversial

topic of cloning.

 

           When Dr. Ian Wilmut, a 52-year-old embryologist at the Roslin

Institute in Edinburgh announced on that he had replaced the genetic material of

sheep's egg with the DNA from an adult sheep, and created a lamb (Dolly), the

topic of cloning "created" many new questions of its own. None were as

controversial as: Will they apply this to humans as well? According to Dr.

Wilmut, the answer was "there is no reason in principle why you couldn't do

it"(clone humans), but he added, "All of us would find that offensive."(Wilmut

as quoted by NYTimes, Daniel Callahan, 02/26/97).

 

           From an individualistic viewpoint, those in favor of cloning human

beings, do not see it as morally, or ethically wrong. Many see it as an

opportunity to have children, or possibly to "re-create" a child who is dying

from a terminal illness. Using a deterministic argument, many infertile couples

are worried that any "government restrictions on human cloning might hurt their

chances some day for bearing children through new medical technology" ( Newsday,

Thomas Maier, 03/14/1997). In a form of expressive individualism, Tom Buckowski,

from Studio City, California said, "It's my body, my choice, right? But what if

I want my body cloned and warehoused for spare parts? Upon what basis can

government decide what I can or cannot do with my body?"(Los Angeles Times,

3/07/1997). In both examples, the predominant voice is that of the first

language of individualism. The first language refers to the  "individualistic

mode that is the dominant American form of discourse about moral, social, and

political matters" (Bellah et al, Habits of the Heart, pg.334).

 

           Anita Manning, a writer for USA TODAY revealed another

individualistic argument in favor of cloning.  In her article "Pressing a

"right" to clone humans," Manning interviews a group of gay activists, who see

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"breakthroughs in animal cloning technology as a path toward same-sex

reproduction." With their argument of genetic determinism, many individuals

state that now that the technology is available, its use is inevitable. Randolfe

Wicker, a New York businessperson, founded the Clone Rights United Front after

reports of the successful cloning. He said "we're fighting for research . . .

and we're defending people's reproductive rights." These examples show a very

individualistic language use in favor of cloning, ironically many people who

fight for the rights of individuals, form collectives to do so.

           In his Tuesday, February 25, 1997 article Should We Fear Dolly? James

K. Glassman, a writer for the Washington post has more of a "republican" voice

when discussing his favorable views on cloning.  A republican voice, or second

language is one that sees the benefits for society as a whole, over the

consideration of the individual, though not exclusively. He points out

"treatments to cure human diseases," and the ability to produce organs for

transplanting as benefits for all of society. Also, with a deterministic voice,

he points out that while cloning people is against the law in other countries,

it is not in the United States. He said  "I don't think it should be --certainly

not at this stage . . .  Trying to stop intellectual progress, in any form, is a

terrible mistake." Furthermore, "the technology is not, in principle, policeable.

In other words, you couldn't really stop research on human cloning if you wanted

to." Glassman's language is distinctively more communitarian than my previous

examples, though they all favor the technique of cloning.

 

           Most of the "scientific community" (a collective) favors the cloning

of animals.  Many, including Dr. Wilmut, argue that the potential for medical

and scientific advances to be enormous. He said any rush to judgement could

"lead to overly restrictive limits on related but less controversial areas of

research" (The Washington Post, Technique's Use With Humans Is Feared, By Rick

Weiss, Monday, February 24, 1997). With an appeal to higher authority Dr. Wilmut,

and other supporting scientists argue that society as a whole can benefit from

the techniques involving animal cloning. These include improved livestock herds,

opportunities for research on disease, and production of protein enriched

pharmaceuticals." When discussing the cloning of animals, the language of the

"scientific community" is ultimately communitarian. Yet when the discussion

shifts to the possibility of cloning humans, the water becomes a little

"muddier." Through my readings I got the impression that the topic of cloning is

a little too hot for scientists in favor of human cloning to say so (for now

anyway).

 

           By contrast to favoring cloning (human or animal), those who oppose

it, mainly have communitarian concerns.  The most prominent collective

opposition to cloning was from the religious community.  Evoking biblical and

republican themes (second language, Bellah et al), many said, "who has the right

to play God by creating life, and what are the moral obligations of the

creator?" (Albany Times Union, CLONING BOTH LAMB AND TYGER, by William Safire

02/27/97). Religious authorities, including Pope John Paul II have completely

denounced human experiments. The Pope said "the temple merchants of our age who

make the marketplace their religion, until they trample the dignity of the human

person with abuses of every kind. We are thinking . . .  about the lack of

respect for life, which has become at times the object of dangerous

experiments." (Pope John Paul II as quoted by Associated Press Monday,

03/03/1997). Moral theologian Gino Concetti, who is close to Pope John Paul II,

said "the creation of human life outside marriage goes against God's plan . . .

a person has the right to be born in a human way and not in the laboratory."

(Associated Press Monday, 03/03/1997). "One may not, even for a single instant,

even for a good purpose, use a technique that is morally flawed," declared the

Rev. Albert Moraczewski, a theologian with the National Council of Catholic

Bishops. "Cloning exceeds the limits of the delegated dominions given to the

human race."   By appealing to a higher authority and voicing the biblical

language, the concerns of the religious community are clearly societal, and not

individualistic in nature. They use paternalistic, degenerative and guilt by

association arguments to condemn the possibility of human cloning.

 

           Although many religious collectives condemn human cloning, some favor

it. An article on the TIME magazine web site stated, "the Jews and Muslims

maintain that cloning of people was not only permissible, but might even be a

moral obligation to help infertile couples have children." Another interesting

quotation was from Rabbi Moses Tendler, a Talmudic scholar and biologist at New

York's Yeshiva University.  He argued with a quotation from Genesis. "Be

fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth." Then he continues, "and master it."

These arguments, come from religious groups, with emphasis on individual and

communitarian gains. Both use a biblical voice, and an appeal to a higher

authority, but the first example is more individualistic in nature and the

ensuing more communitarian.

 

           In America, President Clinton imposed a ban on federal funding

for human cloning experiments. Using a biblical voice he argued that he was

trying to stop "people from playing God."  He said "there is much about cloning

that we still do not know. But this much we do know: any discovery that touches

upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry, it is a matter

of morality and spirituality as well."  Everyone in government did not share

President Clinton's communitarian concern over the cloning of humans. Sen.Tom

Harkin expressed his deterministic views when he said that he opposed any limits

on cloning. "What utter, utter nonsense to think that we can stop cloning . . .

human cloning will take place in my lifetime and I welcome it" (USA TODAY ).

Although president Clinton and Senator Harkin hold political positions (for the

people), both use dissimilar language when discussing cloning. The president's

concerns are communitarian.  He uses biblical and republican languages (ssecond

language), when arguing his position. Senator Harkin is clearly more

individualistic, and uses the first language of Americans.

 

           In a country where there is so much diversity, we learn quickly that

personal, familial and social views will always differ. One benefit of living in

a democracy is that we allow our different voices to be heard.  The controversy

over cloning humans or animals is no exception. Your voice may be

individualistic, arguing for your right at the chance of having a child, or

communitarian, claiming it is the hand of God that should create humans. The

important thing to keep in mind is that we need to be willing to take

responsibility for our decisions, no matter what they may be. Ultimately, what

we need, is to figure out a way to balance our individualistic tendencies with

our collective ones. If we can do that, we are being fair to ourselves, and

society as well.


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