Late last year, a group of South Korean scientists claimed to have
“succeeded in cultivating a human embryo using human cells in one of the
first cloning experiments of its kind” — Reuters lingo for “Ohmigosh!
They just cloned little Jimmy!”
You read right. A medical research team at Kyunghee University
Hospital in Seoul has succeeded in making people in a way not envisioned
by Mother Nature. The team “cultivated” the embryo, which “If implanted
into a uterine wall of a carrier,” said researcher Lee Bo-yon would form
a human “that would have the same gene characteristics as that of the
I’m reminded of the passage in Aldous Huxley’s classic, “Brave New
World,” in which all the properly incubated little bottles of embryos
move about on the conveyor belt. Gives one a feeling of progress. Of
course there are always ethical questions involved — especially when
whipping up an extra set of humans out of spare DNA.
Horrible things could happen — for instance, what if Alan Dershowitz
wanted to be cloned? Or maybe worse, with foreign affairs what they are
today, what if there were 2,300 Slobos and Saddams running around? One
shudders to think.
A friend gave me pause when he suggested that researchers may be able
to resurrect certain people using their discovered DNA. Aside from
being able to bring Sally Hemings back to life to answer this Jefferson
issue once and for all (that’d be alright), one is reminded that
self-proclaimed Emperor Bokassa I, tyrant of the Central African Empire
(circa 1970s), could also be brought back to life.
Bokassa, for those who’ve forgotten, was a cannibal; he kept people
in his fridge — at least the choicer parts. With the increased
interest in Afrocentrism, this regenerative debacle could loom large on
the bioethical horizon. Even so, a few points of light: for one, with
human cloning, Bokassa can have his meals mass produced and genetically
engineered to suit his particular tastes; that way, he would no longer
be enslaved by his taste buds to ravage the countryside in search of a
succulent drumstick. Point two is that Bokassa might well be a
potpourri of genetic wealth considering how many people he had eaten
over the years — this might help the genetic stagnation that occurs in
Of course there are other positive things to be said for cloning.
For starters, by having yourself cloned, you are no longer required to
sit through grueling tax audits or musical recitals by untalented
stepchildren; just have your clone do it. Next, clones can be
cultivated and kept for spare parts. Lose an arm in a car wreck? Just
harvest an appendage from your clone. No more hitting up family members
for extra kidneys; plan ahead and grow your own organs. HMOs will
probably make it mandatory.
Next to benefit is the economy, which will boom with a whole new
array of service industries revolving around clone-upkeep. There will
be clone-sitters for when you and the wife want to go out for the
evening. Hairdressers will have twice the work as they try to keep you
and your clone looking the same. Self-help gurus will make millions
writing mass-market paperbacks about improving your relationship with
your clone. Titles could be “When Your Clone Won’t Talk,” “Codependent
Clones,” and “How to Win Clones and Influence Poseurs.”
Existing volumes could easily be revised for special clone editions.
“Self-talk Solutions” and “What do You Say When You Talk to Yourself?”
both by Shad Helmsteder would work well almost as is. And “Just Jump
out of the Jar” by Zig Zigler works really well recalling the incubator
bottle scene in “Brave New World.”
Minority clones could be had for Caucasian students who can’t get
into big universities that uphold various affirmative action policies.
And people with minority clones could write shocking autobiographies
like “The Other Me is Black,” or “When I was Asian.”
Geraldo Rivera could benefit greatly; one of his selves could go on
being the raucous talk show host that he still secretly longs to be
while the other pretends to be a lawyer.
An incredible boon to medicine could be seen as well. Researchers
could completely solve the problem with internal validity in medical
studies, because clone subjects would be genetically identical; this
would rid the study of added personal variables. This means you could
carry on a study in which you smoke 15 packs of cigarettes a day and
expose your doppleganger to your exhalation to see if he croaks from the
after burn; if he does, it’s a pretty safe bet you would too.
Still there are concerns — both legal and ethical. What about all
the criminals who will have instant rock-solid alibis? Is a clone
enough like you to take your history exams and not call it cheating?
What about spouses — if you accidentally kiss your wife’s clone by
mistake can she file for divorce, and will she get your stuff or your
More disturbing is the government angle. According to a Reuters
report on the subject, “Some Korean lawmakers have said they would
support limiting the research and development budgets of state-supported
researchers if they continued cloning experiments.” Which means the
government will only allow scientists to clone people who like the
government. Genetic dissidents would be cast into the DNA disposal and
never heard from again. Maybe it is like Brave New World after all.
As soon as the Kyunghee University Hospital changes its name to
CENTRAL KOREAN HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE and the United Nations
changes its motto to COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY, we all had better
sell our Ford stock and head for the hills.
Joel Miller is the Assistant Editor of