By Aaron Wilson
In a recent interview with Variety magazine, Barbra Streisand shared that two of her three dogs are clones of a former pet.
Streisand’s new dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, were created from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her dog Samantha, which died last year at age 14.
For anyone who’s ever had to put down a pet, dog-cloning might sound intriguing—offering the chance to preserve traits and characteristics of a beloved family member.
But the procedure, which begins at $50,000, prompts ethical questions—most notably, what could this mean for human cloning?
Can the cells of other family members—ones who don’t sport fur—also be cloned? And should they?
Human cells have been cloned
In 2014, scientists cloned adult human cells for the first time to create human embryos. These embryos were created with the intent of being harvested for stem cells.
But had these cloned embryos been implanted into a uterus, they might have grown and resulted in the birth of offspring.
While regulations currently restrict human cloning in many countries, this technology—and the use of similar procedures to reproduce pets—should raise concerns.
Here are two truths Christians should keep in mind when thinking about such issues.
A human’s worth is not tied to traits
One appeal of cloning for reproductive purposes is to preserve desired characteristics.
When age wears down a desired specimen or death steals it away, a younger model can simply take its place.
People.com has gone so far as to call Streisand’s cloned dogs “refurbished” pets.
This could be a slippery slope as it relates to human cloning.
As technology continues to advance and people gradually warm to the idea of cloning, Christians should be wary of procedures that could seek to create human life with a checklist for certain characteristics.
A biblical worldview sees a person’s value tied to the image of God—not the image of another human being.
The destruction of human embryos is the destruction of human lives
Creating embryos for the purpose of birthing offspring can lead to the destruction of embryos that are deemed “poor quality” and unlikely to result in pregnancy and birth.
When birth is a goal and procedures are costly, low-graded embryos are often seen as a liability and are discarded.
When human cloning or any reproductive technology is being discussed, Christians should always ask, “Could this in any way result in the intentional destruction of embryos?”
If the answer is yes, the ethical call is easy, says Joe Carter of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“Because human life begins at conception, embryo destruction is immoral since it is the destruction of a human being,” Carter says.
From the sheep pen to the doghouse to the nursery?
What started with cloning livestock in Dolly the sheep has moved to cloning man’s best friend in Streisand’s Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett.
Cloning pets could be a stepping-stone to get society closer to accepting human cloning.
If it does, it will be helpful for Christians to have some ethical non-negotiables in place to contribute to the discussion from a biblical worldview.
- Latest human cloning research elicits Christian opposition
- Americans’ moral views continue to drift away from Christian values
AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor for Facts & Trends.