Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Tue Mar 18 01:01:03 CST 1997

On Mon, 17 Mar 1997, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:


> I'd have to agree.  From what I've read of the cloning process, I don't
> see how this is any different from donating blood or even a kidney.  If
> the person you donate blood to goes off and commits crimes you can hardly
> be held responsible can you?  In this case you have donated a whole body.

Would you consider the action of having a child through your wife similar
to donating blood or a kidney? I think there is a huge difference. In
donating a kidney or blood, your donation is for the benefit of a
pre-existent body. In having a child, you are creating a new body, in some
sense. The same distinction holds for a possible clone of yours. You have
donated genetic material, but you have not donated the whole body. The
resultant pseudo-foetus still has to develop into a biological human
being, and that body has to come, just like any other child, from food.
According to your line of argument, if you have a child through regular
sexual intercourse, all you have done is donate semen, and you have no
further connection to the human being that is your child. And if you are
going to have a child, aren't you responsible for its well-being till the
child reaches majority? How is the situation with respect to a clone any
different? Isn't all this vastly different from simply transplanting an
organ into another body?

> The personality in that body will have no more relation to you than any
> other random one.

In the ultimate analysis, there are no separate personalities and hence no
relations, but that is not going to change the vyavahAra overnight. In
this world, a clone must be held to have some relation to the original,
no? Your statement seems to trivialize the whole issue.

> If you choose to raise the clone it may have some
> feelings for you much as a son or daughter would (and if you reciprocate
> you would also then have the obligations of a father or mother) but you
> could just as easily choose not to without any moral qualms.

This sounds too glib to me. I do not have any scientific problems with
cloning, but it is nonetheless troubling as a matter of principle, and
there are no easy answers.

Assuming that human cloning is a not-too-distant possibility, the real
problems with cloning are not in whether there is a religious prohibition
against it, or whether science is overstepping its bounds. The real
problem is also not in whether your clone will go ahead and commit a
thousand crimes, or how its actions will affect your own karma. To my
mind, the real problems are in the implications of cloning for human
self-identity, human responsibility, free will and choice. Under what
circumstances should a man/woman opt to be cloned? I see these as problems
because the vast majority of human beings have constructions of
self-identity that are fundamentally different from the advaita viewpoint.
Advaita would view these as fundamentally flawed, but the fact remains
that human society is based on such constructions of self-identity,
however flawed they may be, which have to be taken into account to provide
answers to these kinds of moral and ethical questions.

It is not a question of choosing or not choosing to have feelings for a
clone, imo. Before this, there is the question of choosing to be cloned in
the first place. No guru will give you sanction to just walk away from a
child you have fathered, even if you choose not to have feelings for it. I
should think that a clone is in a similar position as such a child. Can
you choose to raise a clone, and let fraternal feelings develop in its
mind, but choose not to reciprocate these feelings? I think not. If you
don't raise the clone, why are you going in for cloning in the first
place? Who is going to raise the clone? Are you saying that if someone
else wants to have a child but cannot, and requests you for DNA so that
they can raise a clone of yours as their own child, it would be okay with
you? Is this what is similar to donating blood or a kidney? How about
other options, e.g. advising this someone else to adopt one of the
numerous orphans in this world, or having a child yourself and giving it
away to this someone else to be adopted? Under what other circumstances
would you agree to be cloned?

To me, these questions sound enormously complicated, and I doubt if there
is a single answer that can apply to all cultures or societies. Let us not
pretend that cloning is much simpler than it really is. Any serious
discussion of the philosophical and religious ramifications of cloning
human beings has to address all such questions. Specifically in the case
of advaita vedAnta, any answer to questions about cloning has to take into
account all four purushArthas - dharma, artha, kAma and moksha. The logic
of moksha does not always hold true for questions relating to dharma,
artha and kAma.


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