The the trouble trouble with with cloning cloning

By Doug Powers

According to USA Today, a pet-cloning company called “Genetic Savings and Clone” in California has created two cats. The company says that the clones, Tabouli and Baba Ganoush, are similar to the clonee, Tahini, in every way – including the propensity to become incredibly nervous when driven near a restaurant that serves Middle Eastern food.

This news comes just a couple of years after researchers at Texas A&M successfully cloned a domestic cat, named “CopyCat.” The researchers had already cloned a pig, a bull and a goat, and now, odds are, they’re working on duplicating a can of Carpet Fresh.

There are several things about cloning, from functionality to practicality, that I just don’t understand. Maybe, in a way, I don’t want to.

Some scientists say that the cloning of cats goes far beyond some frivolous scientific game just to see if they can do it. Cats have a feline variety of AIDS that they say would be a good model for studying AIDS in humans. Fine and dandy. But still, why spend countless years and millions of dollars tinkering with complex genetic code when they could just put out a can of tuna outside the door and have cats by the bushel?

Cats cloned as pets are going for around $50,000 a piece, which is bound to make “Genetic Savings and Clone” the most lucrative feline business, without Andrew Lloyd Webber’s name attached to it, in the world.

Where will cloning lead? The natural, or unnatural, next step may be to clone humans.

The Raelian cult, which believes that alien scientists created life on Earth, made news last year after deciding that the world was suffering from a goofball shortage, and claimed to have successfully cloned a human being. By “successfully,” I assume they mean that the baby bears no resemblance to any of the weirdniks in the Raelian cult. Credibility problems being what they are, we’ll have to figure that the claim was just the Neptunian lager and tinfoil hat talking, and assume human clones have not yet been produced.

Human clones are definitely on the way, but the justification for the creation of clones is where the argument runs into problems. Some scientists say we could be saving our own lives by creating embryos of ourselves with perfectly matched cells to be implanted in our bodies, with the healthy cells overriding our diseased cells. Detractors say that creating embryos to save our own rear ends is nothing but cannibalism. The pro-cloners say that the embryo isn’t a person at all. The anti-cloners say it is. Clonemayto, clonematto.

Perhaps the most hideous of cloning scenarios is the possibility of cloning ourselves so that someday we could be our own organ donors. If you have a clone that knows he’s around for that purpose, chances are he’s sleeping with the lights on and a tire iron under the pillow. How’s that going to work, anyway? Am I going to be at a baseball game with my clone, turn to him during the seventh inning stretch, tell him “Sorry bud, but I’ll be needing that heart now” and expect him to just hand it over? Besides, if we were genetically identical, wouldn’t his heart be bad, too, assuming he had the same taste for fried cheese and bratwurst?

Something people often assume is that their clone would be exactly like them. This wouldn’t necessarily be the case. Genetic predisposition is no match for environment. If you cloned, say, Ted Kennedy, chances are he would have the same features, but despite all the genetic similarities, life doesn’t live in a vacuum. Environment can trump genetic preprogramming. Just because Ted’s clone would be genetically a perfect match, that still doesn’t mean that the clone couldn’t turn out to be thin, Republican, and be able to drive safely across a bridge.

The next time somebody says, “Imagine how far we could advance the world if we could clone Einstein or Copernicus,” remember that cloned copies of these geniuses, due to upbringing and environment, could turn out vastly different. Don’t be shocked if Einstein’s clone is intellectually and physically lazy, getting up off the couch only for “gettink zee beer and zee Prinkles,” and Copernicus’ clone only uses his mathematical ability to figure out how many Nextel Cup Series points Sterling Marlin has.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have to put a saucer of milk on the porch to attract a few “cloned” cats … I hear they’re worth 50 grand each.