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Genetic Cloning

The particularity of each person is his or her fear of something new and unknown. Today, it can be recalled that in the late seventies, the world stirred much from the hot discussion of possibility of human cloning arising after the successful experiment of cloning frogs. At that time, the scientists dismissed that the mammals were not frogs. It would take many decades, even the hundreds of years, to learn how to work with mammals. However, a famous American journalist, Ira Levin, in her book The Boys from Brazil tells how far the scientists have gone in the cloning science. We can`t but mention that the second title of this book was Modern Prometheus. According to the Greek mythology, Zeus eventually forgave Prometheus and released him from the mountains of Caucasus. Few years ago, the humanity was shocked by the reports of cloning of the Scottish lamb, Dolly. According to its creators, the cloned lamp was an exact copy of Dolly as the genetic material. Later, Jefferson and the American bull calf were bred by French biologists. The public has discussed the prospect cloning issues in the society.

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At the moment, the technology of cloning is not being fulfilled perfectly. However, today, there are many methods that allow a high degree of confidence. This means that the main issue of technology has been already solved. The most successful of cloning of higher animals was a method of the “nuclear transfer.” It was used to clone Dolly, a sheep from Scotland. The cloned sheep normally developed and produced at first one and then other five healthy lambs. In general, we can talk about the success of experiment. According to scientists, this technique is the best one of what we have today in order to begin the immediate development of the human cloning technique. Incidentally, shortly after the successful experiment with the sheep Dolly, the media reported on such scientific experiments with genetic twins playing cows, mice, goats, and pigs from somatic cells of these animals. A more complicated situation for a long time had been a situation with primates, which could not get clones using adult cells. However, as a result, the American scientists have managed to get a genetically identical embryo. The monkey was born as a normal monkey-clone Tetra.

The research and discoveries in the field of human genetics today are almost revolutionary. We are talking about the possibility of creating a “map of human genome” or the “pathological anatomy of human genome” with the establishment of the long DNA helix location of genes responsible for hereditary diseases. These capabilities form a basis of the idea for the gene therapy as a combination of treatments or prostheses defective genes. The invasion of structure and the functioning of human genetic systems can be implemented at two levels, somatic and embryonic.

Nevertheless, different approaches and the technology existence as the questions about the moral side of the mentioned issue are still relevant. The formation of predictive medicine is associated with the emergence of medical and biological control and power over human life together with a new set of limitations for the human freedom. However, a biological constraint of freedom is the most effective one; and there are some limitations associated with the possibility of irreversible loss. This determines the severity of ethical reflection for the modern biogenetic research. For example, in the 1st half of the XX century, there was an intensive development of nuclear physics. Its danger was fully realized only after the creation and use of atomic and hydrogen bombs (in Japan in 1945). As a result, the accidents at nuclear power plants happened (in Chernobyl, 1986). Now, the researchers claim that the human genome is a brilliant prospect of gene diagnosis and therapy. However, having no experience of adverse effects, they do recognize the risks of their activities. A Professor, Jean Dausset, having the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1980), states that, “In the field of human genetics, the unreasonable use of new technologies can lead to catastrophic consequences.”

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Why is it a presentiment disaster? What are the accounts for this anticipation? One might think. Apparently, this anticipation is determined by a semantic field of energy, where the moral side of question is crucial. The second chapter of The Book of Genesis describes the good, evil and life, in general. What happened to the man if this was not a ban to eat from the apple? What could happen to the humanity if we touched the fruits of the life tree? Of course, this question touches the boundaries of Bible symbolism, but the symbolism has a strong and deep ontological sense, which cannot be omitted. In fact, it is much related to the hidden layer of social expectations. The Biblical symbolism highlights something still vague, but at the same time it triggers a certain kind of life and personal orientation, including social, political and even historical.

A Catholic Cardinal Joseph in one of his works noted that in the XIII century the cabalistic Hebrew texts described the possibility of creating an artificial person out of the set selected parameters. In the complex web of ideas and symbols concerning this opportunity there is the reality of space-scale power over a man. At the end of the XIX century, in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, it clearly shaped a fundamental connection between the idea of a superhuman and the situation of “God`s death”. This represents the basically revolutionized traditional culture.

In the tragedy of Goethe’s Faust, in the course of the creation of Dr. Wagner a homunculus-artificial man, there is Mephistopheles present. In one of his letters to Eckermann, Goethe speaks of existence of the relationship between Mephistopheles and the homunculus. This relationship again captures the fact that the appearance of negative perception is being created by the will of man.

A special place in this regard is explained by O. Haksli in the novel Brave New World, which explicitly describes the “fruit” of people on the set parameters. The genetic manipulation of embryos allowed to move from the sphere of a simple slavish imitation of nature to the more exciting world of human ingenuity, where “we” (the powers that are as IS) predetermines to adapt and form the readiness for life in the predefined “us” caste and simultaneously instill love for their inevitable, we have chosen the social destiny.

At the end of the XX century, geneticists, philosophers, politicians and sociologists confront the need to address the whole range of the real-world ethical issues of genetic technologies. Can a person (a scientist, a research, a geneticist or a politician) make a biological evolution? Can and should the reality of biogenetic inequality (the ability and health) form the basis for the social inequality? Can science change the principles of the society’s democratic governance? Can the state and society regulate the process of research? If the answer is “yes”, then, “how” this would be. Should the genetic testing be made available to everyone and cover the entire population? Should the genetic testing be mandatory? Whether it should be mandatory for the people getting married or pregnant? Can we consider the basis for a genetic diagnosis of abortion? Is it ethical to inform the person of the best of its susceptibility to the particular disease, especially if medicine cannot even prevent its development? Is it ethical to create the “spare parts” for the market in organs, tissues or genes with the fetal germ? Can a gene be a criterion of assessing the personality? How is it better to ensure and maintain the confidentiality of genetic testing materials? Should the information of the results of genetic study be shared with all members of the family? Should people know their genetic future? Do they have the right to choose: to know or not to know? Is it possible to inform them by force? Can the genetic testing be based on the classification of population groups and on the basis for the government to limit the freedoms of “disadvantaged” people?

These are only few questions that may rise with the mentioned issue. These questions are at the heart of ethical issues of genetic technologies. They are closely related. Each of them is not an arbitrary designed ingenuity of human mind, but a natural consequence of existing scientific practice. The history of genetic techniques and technologies are directly related to the human desire to improve the breeds of domestic animals and cultivated plants. Selecting certain organisms from the natural populations, crossing them with each other, a man with no understanding of mechanisms of these processes hundreds years ago was creating the improved varieties of plants and animals with the desired properties. The ability to diagnose and identify a carrier of a mutant gene becomes the basis for genetic counseling for the couples having the possibility to bear a disabled child.

According to the West European and American medical associations, 15% of people need medical genetic services. In the developed countries, some genetic clinical examinations are the part of the modern health care. What for, then, have the modes of conduct surveyed the couples in case of the unfavorable diagnosis? This is the protection against pregnancy, an informed consent, a risk of the possible termination for pregnancy if a fetus inherits illness, the adoption and donor insemination cells. We know that in the UK, for example, in such cases where the fetus is incomplete, there are no restrictions for abortion. The emergence for a genetic diagnosis naturally raises the question for the development of operations for restructuring the human genome. Today, there are two types of gene therapy. The first is a somatic therapy. It lies in the fact that in the cells of patients with a defective gene, it is replaced with the healthy one that is able to perform the desired function. The first attempt to use the gene therapy is to treat people. This led to a positive result in 1990. The patient was a girl with some violations in protective functions of her immune system. The researchers believe that the manipulation of somatic cells is “totally unethical” because they effect an individual with no impact on heredity.

This statement is under doubt due to the development of this type of cell therapy, as the fetal is being used in the treatment of the human fetal tissue. The new “features” are new techniques; and, above all, they are working outside the boundaries of traditional morality and ethics. This is confirmed by the second type of gene therapy, which is a germ line therapy. It suggests the invasion of genetic material in male and female reproductive cells. In this case, any changes are passed down from generation to generation. Therefore, according to the UNESCO in 1994, germ line therapy strictly (so far) was prohibited. In his book Workshop of the Human Body, E. Kimbrell writes that many experts believe that the current negative attitude towards the use of embryos for medical purposes may soon change. One reason for this change is a growing influence of the really popular liberal ideology. This cannot be ignored because it is quite short-sighted to evaluate the particular technology in isolation from its social context. The technologies appear in a certain “intellectual environment”. They are able to do this in future to form. The liberal ideology evaluates the particular technology through the lens of some unconditional valuable and “individual rights”. The “human” progress of science and technology studies is being at the core of a perceiver and the “host” of a social context. Ezra Suleiman, a professor and chairman of the Committee for European Studies at Princeton University (the USA), characterizes the liberal position to research. The state must remain a bystander, where it comes to the scientific research. It should not dictate how to make the results for the scientific research. The scientists, who are the owners of their activities’ results, know themselves what results should be and whether they should be available to a general public. The state should not interfere in the identify areas of scientific research or to control the application of scientific discoveries interfering into the affairs of science. Also, the state is able to turn science from an objective tool looking for knowledge of state ideology .

This position can be accepted by many people as extreme. However, the reality is not so extreme it becomes a subject to pose the control over the safety of a biogenetic research and penetration of the state ideology of scientism. As an example, the final position could be considered the ideas of S.E. Motkova expressed in the scientific and journalistic magazine Soviet Eugenics. The author believes that the pollution of environment and the sharp weakening the natural selection as a result of the improved medical care and living standards lead to the increase in a genetic load. This may trigger a biological degradation of population exponentially. In this case, it refers to the suggestion of an academic N.P. Dubinina that the problem of genetic load in 2000 for its relevance to the problem of the environment’s equal protection as well as the biological one (or genotype) in the Soviet Union accompanied by degradation of the moral (phenotypic) degradation – relaxation will and the development of perverse inclinations (alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce, suicide or a crime). In terms of S.E. Motkova, one of the measures to get out of this crisis is firmly embedded in the idea of artificial selection of state ideology and politics. The state should initiate the “eugenic experiment”, first in a small town; and then “gradually expanding the area covered by eugenic measures”. What do the “eugenic measures” include? This is the selection of citizens on the basis of a psychological testing, medical examination and information on the performance (at school or university), etc. This may be as well the artificial insemination based on the selected sperm (a leading indicator of sperm donors – IQ (CI)), etc.

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F. Dostoevsky believed that even if we consider a “human” being as a phenomenon, the interests of race and the ideal still will not work because the sum will be equal to the term with all the properties. But the ideal of a “higher idea” is a core building block for the human being and the society, in general. The true ideal, qualitatively different from various human yardsticks, is Jesus Christ. “Christ was the eternal from the beginning of ideal toward which the law of nature, and should seek a man”. The divine-human nature of Christ is the ontological possibility and preconceived moral perfection of a man. The man’s attempt to determine the absolute criteria for himself out of himself sooner or later turns into different forms of subjectivity, which at best leads to farce, and at worst to a disaster.

The main goal of medicine, which determines the direction and development of the biomedical theory and practice, is to save the mankind from suffering. Medical genetics can help to diagnose and, thus, prevent many genetic diseases, i.e. a metabolic disorder, blood disorders (sickle cell anemia or hemophilia). It is assumed that it is possible to identify the genes associated with such diseases as diabetes, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed that it is not contrary to Orthodox ethics to have the genetic testing before the marriage in order to identify the carriers of genetic diseases and the awareness of a high probability to give birth to sick children. This may be related to the prohibition of church rules on kinship marriages to be carefully observed by the genetic selection.

Thus, concluding the issue, we can`t but mention that one of main dangers of the issue is the emergence of a new era, in which people will be a subject of the artificial manipulation. The genetic information will be a subject of bargaining in the market economy. Because of the high cost of technology, the financial elite in the society will be able to receive some additional benefits, which could lead to the genetic improvement of the specific sectors in the society.

How people would treat a clone? Such an approach could radically change the image of all humanity, as a whole, the individual and freedom of any person. The boundary between a man and a thing can be erased. Extremely thin, it is also the difference between the attitude of person as an “object of study” and “an object of use.”

Another major difficulty is that the cloned individuals live a long life, as the original cells used for cloning already have the “memory” that corresponds to the number of years the body lives. The clone, in fact, is an individual delayed in time, and who already has the age of donor’ organism from its birth. Is it fair to take a full part in the life of an individual?

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Currently, the methods of genetic engineering; and, in particular, cloning involves much hope in the treatment of some previously incurable diseases, the reproductive and organ transplantation, and the artificial conception of those with disabilities together with birth defects. There are more experiments being conducted on the cultivation of mammals and their subsequent transplantation of human organs. Most recently, in South Korea, a cloned pig genetically has been modified in cells that are capable of more than 60-70% risk of rejection of human immune system in transplantation. In light of the problems associated with the inability to have children, the methods of artificial insemination have a broad support in the society. As for cloning, it allows the same procedures while treating a gene pool of only one parent. It is often necessary in case of a parent’s predisposition to the serious illness.

On the other hand, cloning can reduce the genetic diversity making mankind more vulnerable to epidemics, for example; this would, according to the most pessimistic forecasts, trigger the death of the whole civilization. To this objection, human cloning is likely to be made in the sufficient mode because of the perceived high cost for this procedure. In addition, there will be some problems while finding a surrogate mother. To conclude, genetic cloning is a very burning issue. However, for today, the society is not ready for its development.

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