Re: Count sheep, anyone?

Garry DeWeese (deweese@ucsu.Colorado.EDU)
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 17:16:36 -0700 (MST)

On Thu, 6 Mar 1997, Loren Haarsma wrote:

> A colleague of mine suggested a variation on this. Although it is not
> possible now, it may soon be possible to identify, and in certain cases
> activate, the control genes for developing certain specific kinds of
> tissue and organs. (More would need to be known about the external
> biochemical developmental cues as well.) Suppose this "cloning"
> procedure could be modified so that, instead of re-setting the *entire*
> embryonic developmental program, only a certain portion of it were
> activated by activating specific control genes. This could, in theory,
> be done simultaneously with implanting the donor nucleus into the
> enucleated egg. Now, instead of growing a whole embryo, you are growing
> only a portion of an embryo, producing a specific type of tissue.
> (Again, this is not possible yet, but I suspect it will be in a decade
> or two.) Would someone like to critique the moral status of *this* type
> of procedure?
I just had the same conversation with colleagues today. None of us could
see any clear violation of moral principles involved, although some
motives for engaging in such a project might well be questionable.

Back to cloning an entire human being: Janet Rice voiced an intuitive
"yuk" response ot the idea. But then I would think that many of us had a
similar "yuk" response when we first heard of in vitro fertilization a
couple decades ago, a response that is not shared by younger people who
grew up with the procedure. Moral intuitions are significant "data
points" but cannot be the final word.

If we assume that what is theologically significant is personhood, and
make the further assumption (which needs to be argued, although Aristotle
and Aquinas would agree) that personhood is a substance and not a
mereological sum (a collection of properties, etc.), then I see no reason
to deny personhood to a clone of a human. (This is using genus/species in
an Aristotelian sense, not the biological taxonomic sense.) A clone then
could simply be a thing of genus: person, species: Homo sapiens, albeit
abnormally generated. (This also lets us speak of different ways of being
a person--e.g. being a divine person, possibly being an angelic person,
possibly being a Martian person...). I think this view is compatible with
either the traditionally Protestant "traducian" position or the
traditionally Catholic "creationist" position regarding the origin of the

BTW, there is application here to recent posts by Glenn Morton, asking
what characteristics (making musical instruments, making clothes, making
"idols," etc.) define a human. IMO that is the wrong question, for that
assumes a human is a property-thing. The interesting aspect of being
human is being a person--i.e. being a certain kind of substance.

> I hope y'all think these questions are worth discussing here.
Very much!

Garry DeWeese