Do We Have The Right to Play God?:

Genetics and Cloning in Catholic Social Thought

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In 1973 James D. Watson and Francis Crick stumbled upon on discovery. These two men proposed a structure for all the genetic material found in the human body. Their formulation of a double-stranded helical structure of DNA changed the face of science forever. Now the characteristic make-up of each human being was known and could also be manipulated. Watson himself urged after asked a question on the possibility of human cloning that, "...as many people as possible be informed about the new ways for human reproduction and their potential consequences both good and bad"[1]. Human cloning as a field of biological and biomedical research is one of much controversy. On the one hand, the use of cloned humans would offer countless number of medical advancements that could overall lead to a healthier and more viable population. On the contrary, there are morally relevant facts associated with cloning and genetics that obviously contradict the Catholic Church's views on ideas such as human dignity and sexual reproduction. The field of genetics has grown greatly since Watson and Crick formulated their thesis on DNA structure. Since, The Human Genome Project has been completed which unlocked the entire genetic sequence of all of the genes within the human body. More monumental is the cloning of the first mammal. A Finn-Dorset lamb gave birth to Dolly the ewe, the first successful cloning of a warm blooded mammal. Undifferentiated cells were isolated and then manipulated to suspend cell growth. These cells were then inserted into an unfertilized egg cell of a lamb that had previously had its nucleus removed. The new hybrid cells were then shocked into growth and after a few days implanted into a surrogate mother. Dolly was born in 1997 and was composed of the exact same genetic make-up of the donor Finn-Dorset Ewe.[2] In society today there is just about a consensus opinion among scientists, theologians, and bioethicists that the cloning of humans is not a power that we should posses as humans. While cloning may be a topic that is individually determined within the field of science and theology it certainly does not mean that all forms of genetics viewed as inadequate in the eyes of scientists and theologians.[3] Stem cell research, if examined technically, deals with the destruction of cloned undifferentiated cells created for the sole purpose to be killed and used for science. Where do we draw the line today? Is all genetic research unethical and therefore impossible within the world of a good social Catholic? In this essay I hope to provide a social analysis of the benefits of genetics and specifically cloning and its implications on society. Secondly, a theological interpretation of genetics and cloning will provide a very different view on these controversial topics and in almost all cases find them to be inadequate and unsustainable. By comparing these two extremely different ideologies on genetics and cloning I hope to provide a strategy for change that could benefit society and possibly collaborate with the church and biomedical field to come to an agreement. The 21st century has been prematurely dubbed the biological age, and with all the advancements in genetics this name seems to fit.[4] We are at a time where the possibilities in the field of medicine and biology are just being realized and it is through these advancements that a better social society could be formed.


[1] Kass, Leon R., Wilson, James Q. The Ethics of Human Cloning. The AEI Press. Washington, D.C. 1998 p. vii
[2]Connors, Russell B. The Ethics of Cloning St. Anthony Messenger. http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Mar1998/Feature2.asp. April 27, 2009
[3] Pence, Gergory E. Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Lanham, Maryland. 1998 p. 25
[4] Pence, Gergory E. Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Lanham, Maryland. 1998 p. 39


Social Analysis of the Benefits and Drawbacks of Genetics and Cloning in our Society

Theolgoical Reflection on Human Cloning in terms of Catholic Social Thought

Strategies for Social Change in Biolgical Genetics

Conclusion

Works Cited