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Will human clones have a soul? This question is producing a great deal of anxiety these days, especially since Great Britain, Holland and now New Jersey have legalized the cloning of human beings. Obviously, before answering whether or not a human clone will have a soul, we must define what a “soul” really is.
Unfortunately, science has not yet provided a way to answer this question. Rather, this is a question traditionally answered by theologians. For example, the Bible teaches that a person is characterized as a “living being” (Gen 2:7) with a transcendent component called spirit or soul. The spirit is the part that lives on after the body dies. Also according to the Bible, the body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26). It is therefore reasonable, at least to my way of thinking, that once we are physically alive we are also a living soul.
This then brings us to the age-old question “When does life begin?” For that answer we can safely turn to science and medicine where the answer exists without debate. Science and medicine tell us that we are physically alive and fully human from the moment of conception – forming a complete (though immature) individual that is sexually distinct with the ability to self-direct our own growth and development.
Would a clone, then, have a soul? The answer is yes. Unquestionably, a child created by any means, whether natural or artificial, is still completely human. For example, would anyone hold that a child conceived by in vitro fertilization, or ivf, is deprived of a soul? If that were true and a soul-filled human being could only be produced by traditional and natural means, much of the world’s population would be lacking a soul and consequently be sub-human.
Similarly, human cloning can most easily be understood as a form of artificial reproduction much like ivf. In effect, cloning is the artificial production of identical twins separated by time and an alternative gestational environment. Therefore, in the same way that identical twins or identical triplets each have their own soul, so will a cloned human.
Even though twins or cloned humans will have identical genetic makeup, there is no doubt that a personal identity is determined by far more than their genetic material.
Cloned human beings will in fact be even less similar than identical twins because while clones share the same nuclear DNA, identical twins have the same nuclear DNA, the same mitochondrial DNA, and they share the same conditions during the period of gestation.
Of course, this exposition is not intended to advocate human cloning. To the contrary, human cloning is nothing short of human experimentation. The success rate of cloning animals ranges from 0.1 to 3 percent. This means for every 1,000 tries, there are between 970 and 999 failed attempts. Of those born, problems often occur later in development.
Additonally, there is an inherent devaluation of human life in the mechanical processing and mass production of embryos created by any artificial means. This is easily evidenced by the more than 400,000 neglected and forgotten embryos held in frozen storage in our ivf faciltites.
Finally, unlike other ivf procedures that mimic natural conception through technology, cloning endeavors to create life through a procedure that is completely unnatural. Cloning creates a new life from the genetic material of a single individual rather than two people. In this attempt, man is not merely trying to mimic God’s creative genius; rather, he is attempting to replace God as the giver of life through a unique process of his own making.
So although human cloning is fundamentally immoral, we can safely conclude that cloned human beings if created will have their own soul and would be deserving of all the same dignity and respect given to any other human life.