A Thoughtful Look At Human Cloning

Human cloning is now here.  What’s a Christian to think about it? And how should we respond?  Join me for look at three ways I believe a Christian can respond to human cloning in a thoughtful, compassionate, and Christ-like manner. (Recorded January 11, 2002)

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Hi this is Eric Elder and Welcome to The Ranch.

Human cloning is now here. What was once the stuff of science fiction has now become a reality. A few months ago, a company in Massachusetts announced that they had successfully cloned the world’s first human embryo.

Although the embryo only lived for a few days, it signaled that the next step towards creating a fully developed person through the process of cloning is much closer than many people thought possible. In fact, it is conceivable that within the next year or two, the first human clone could be born.

While this news may come as a shock to many people, it is the culmination of over 50 years of cloning research, beginning with the cloning of frogs in the 1950’s. The successful cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996 demonstrated for the first time that cloning was possible in mammals, and could eventually be applied to humans as well. That eventuality is now here.

In our time together, I’d like to describe and discuss human cloning so that Christians can understand and respond to it in a thoughtful, compassionate, and Christ-like manner.

Before we go further, I’d like to give you a minute to pray. I’ve included a scripture from Psalm 139 a little further down on this page. While I play the piano, take a minute to read the scripture and ask God to speak to your heart through our time together.

Scripture (Music: Exodus XV written by Frank Gallio)

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

What is human cloning?

The word clone basically means to make a copy of something. In the case of humans, a clone is someone who has the same genetic makeup as someone else. The word clone may conjure up images of gray-faced people walking and talking more like robots than humans. But in reality, it’s much more useful and appropriate to think of clones the same way we think of identical twins.

When we think of identical twins, we don’t think of one being the original and the other being a copy. Both are fully human, with their own personalities, interests, and lives, but both happen to share the same genetic makeup. The main difference between identical twins and clones is that while twins are conceived and born at the same time, clones could be conceived and born years apart.

Scientifically, what makes cloning unique is the actual process of conception. Whereas the usual process for creating a human embryo involves uniting a sperm with an egg, cloning can bypass this process.

The reason this is possible is that every cell in our body contains the full genetic code which describes the rest of our body. A skin cell, for example, not only defines the color of your skin, but also contains the genetic information which defines the color of your eyes, the length of your bones, and the shape of your mouth.

Every cell in your body contains this full set of instructions which define your physical body.

Every cell that is, except for two: a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm. These cells are unique in that they contain only half the genetic code required to define a person. During fertilization, when a sperm comes in contact with an egg, the two strands of code intertwine, forming a new life with a full set of body-building instructions: half from the mother and half from the father.

Cloning, at least in the process used a few months ago, began with a women’s egg. Because the nucleus of this egg contained only half of the necessary genetic instructions, scientists removed the nucleus, thereby removing those instructions. They then took the nucleus from another cell, in this case a skin cell from an adult, and they transferred it into the egg. The egg was then given an electric stimulus, which initiated the growth process. The egg, now with a full set of genetic instructions on hand, had the potential to grow into a fully developed human being.

(Note: Although they tried this process with skin cells, none of those cells began the growth process, but when they tried “cumulus” cells, which are found near a woman’s ova, a few of those began to grow.)

This process was similar to the one used to successfully clone Dolly the sheep five years ago and other animals since then. Although the human embryo in this case lived only a short time, it was long enough to demonstrate that this technique could potentially be successfully applied to humans as well.

With the rush to be first in this rapidly expanding field, it is only a matter of time before someone, somewhere will implant a cloned embryo into a woman’s womb. Nine months after that happens, the world may see its first human clone.

How can Christians respond to cloning in a thoughtful, compassionate and Christ-like manner?

Let me share three ways that I think we should respond.

First) Recognize that as amazing as our scientific achievements are, they still pale in comparison to the incredible achievements of our God.

On one hand, cloning is an incredible scientific achievement. Years of research and millions of dollars have gone into understanding the inner workings of cells, genetics, and the reproductive process. For man, this is an amazing accomplishment.

On the other hand, cutting and pasting cells in a lab is a remarkably crude way to create a person, compared to the intimate sexual experience God has designed between a man and a woman. While we can marvel at what scientists can do, we have to marvel much, much more at what God has done.

God says in the Bible in Isaiah 55, verses 8 and 9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

This reminds me of the story of a group of scientists who got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God.

They picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”

God listened patiently to the man and when the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well! How about this? Let’s have a man making contest.”

To which the man replied, “OK, great!”

But God added, “Now we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”

The scientist said, “Sure, no problem,” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go and get your own dirt!”

As Christians, we can marvel and wonder at what man is able to achieve. But we must also keep it in perspective with the matchless gift of sexuality that God has already created.

Second) Recognize that God is very interested in abundant life, but unfortunately, cloning leads to abundant death.

The first words God spoke to the first people on earth were these in Genesis 1:28a:

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

If cloning were to advance the cause of life and help husbands and wives be fruitful and multiply when they couldn’t have children any other way, cloning could possibly help people to fulfill this command.

Unfortunately, when scientists have tried to clone animals, only 1 or 2 out of every 100 attempts are successful. 80 out of 100 die before they take their first breath, and those that are born often have to be killed soon after their birth because they are so deformed that it would be wrong to let them live. This means that 98 or 99 of every 100 cloned animals die prematurely. If a company came out with a new drug that killed 98 or 99 out of every 100 patients who used it, the government would quickly tell that company to never sell such a product again.

It took 277 attempts to create Dolly the sheep. That means that 276 sheep died in the process.

Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists who helped create Dolly, said it would be “criminally irresponsible” to try to clone human beings. Mr. Wilmut said that another sheep they cloned appeared to be born perfectly formed, except that it hyperventilated because the arteries leading to its heart were too small. He wondered out loud what the fate of a child would be that had to pant all of its life because of a scientific experiment.

Just a few days ago, he even said that Dolly has prematurely developed arthritis and may therefore have to be put to sleep because of the pain. Even in the rare case that cloned animals are born successfully, they are still not living full lives.

In its current state, cloning is not a technology that leads to abundant life, but to abundant death.

Third) Recognize that God is very interested in people’s healing, but that He calls us to lay down our lives for others, not ask them to lay down their lives for us.

God doesn’t want us to suffer from incurable diseases any more than we do. Jesus spent much of his life healing people. The Bible says in Matthew 4:23 that

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

Some scientists believe that we will be able to find cures for diseases by using cells from cloned babies. Unfortunately, to get the cells they need, scientists have to kill the cloned babies within just a few days after they have been conceived.

Jesus said in John 15:13,

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Love, as Jesus defined it, is laying down your life to save someone else, not taking someone else’s life to save your own. God has provided us with all kinds of cures to diseases that scientists have discovered to heal people. But God never suggests that we should deliberately kill people in order to find a cure.

President Bush was asked what he thought of the cloning experiments on human embryos. His answer is worth repeating. He said, “…the use of embryos to clone is wrong. We should not as a society grow life to destroy it. …this evidence today that they’re trying to achieve that objective, to grow an embryo in order to extract a stem cell, in order for that embryo to die is bad public policy. Not only that, it’s morally wrong in my opinion.”

As compassionate Christians, our heart’s desire should be to see people healed. But if we have to kill someone else in order to receive our healing, we don’t have the love of Christ in us at all.

Let me summarize these three responses again:

1) As amazing as our scientific achievements are, they still pale in comparison to the incredible achievements of our God.

2) God is very interested in abundant life, but unfortunately, cloning leads to abundant death.

And 3) God is very interested in people’s healing, but He calls us to lay down our lives for others, not ask them to lay down their lives for us.

Some people have asked, “Isn’t it illegal to clone a human being?” While several countries have passed laws banning or restricting human cloning, the process is still legal in 170 countries, including the United States. Although President Bush banned the use of federal funds for new stem cell research, private companies and individuals can still use their own money to experiment on human embryos.

My hope and prayer is that we will pass laws to prohibit cloning altogether. Not because it may be an “unusual” method of creating a new life, but because the technology at this stage inherently leads to the death and destruction of the vast majority of those new lives. I am also disturbed that people will be cloned for the sake of research, many of whom will die in the process, many of whom will be horribly and painfully deformed, and many of whom will never even get to take their first breath.

Will you pray with me right now? As I play the piano, will you pray that God will intervene on behalf of those facing destruction. Then let him speak to your heart. When I’m done playing, I’ll close our time in a prayer together.

Personal Prayer (Music: “Good to Me” by Craig Musseau)

Closing Prayer

Will you join me in prayer?

Dear Lord, we do ask that You would stop the destruction of children.  Lord, we pray that You would do it, and we pray that You would give us the strength and the wisdom and the understanding to know what we can do to help end this process that is killing people unnecessarily.

Lord I pray that throughout the world, Your Words would go forth, and people would hear, and they would know that You want this to stop.  Lord, I pray that this needless destruction of lives would not go one step further.

Lord, I thank You that You are an awesome God.  I thank You for the processes that you have put in place that are so much higher than ours, and so much more incredible than anything we could accomplish.

God, I also pray that You would put in our hearts Your love for people so that we would be able to clearly express Your heart to them, letting them know that You love them very much, that you died for their sins, that they can be forgiven and have a new life with You, both here on earth and in heaven forever.  We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join me again here at The Ranch.

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