Bryan Caplan’s cloning confession

by on April 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm in Books | Permalink

I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally.  Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet.  Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son.  Seriously.  I want to experience the sublime bond I'm sure we'd share.  I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me.  I'm not pushing others to clone themselves.  I'm not asking anyone else to pay for my dream.  I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone.  Is that too much to ask?

The link is here and he is asking whether he should cut that paragraph from his forthcoming book on why people should have more children.  If you don't like his proposal for a cloned son, I will ask why you think your preferred degree of genetic similarity — between you and your next kid — is right and Bryan's is wrong.

1 Scondren April 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Well, I wouldn’t say his view is wrong (YMMV) but I’d plan on having kids when I’m married. And I’d like to think the woman I’m with has enough good qualities that I’d like to have a child that is part me and part them, rather than merely copying myself.

2 Sigivald April 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I don’t like or dislike his desire for a cloned son as such, but the idea that “the kid would love to be raised by me because I’d love to be raised by me” implies “and that preference is entirely genetic“.

I don’t think that follows at all; Bryan’s preferences in that area are almost certainly environmental, experiential, or epigenetic in origin, as far as I understand such things (or at very least there’s no particular reason to believe that a clone would prefer to be raised by their clone-origin).

3 Steve Sailer April 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Too bad Michael Jackson didn’t live long enough. I’m sure he would have wanted to clone himself, too.

4 MostlyAPragmatist April 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm

To each his own. 🙂

5 Rain April 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

The only reason I can think of not to allow this would be the stigma associated with it in society at large.

Media wouldn’t leave it alone, people who found it repulsive would hurl insults and threats, there would be accusations that it was just some experiment to reopen the nature/nurture debate (not that it was ever closed mind you, but people would think that way), and in general a large amount of froth and fervor over the event.

Better to wait until it’s somewhat mainstream, and the child won’t have all of that warping their position in life.

6 Michael B. April 20, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Self-cloning reduces the genetic diversity of the population and leaves a species more vulnerable to disease. Relatedly, it effectively ends the process of natural selection and any evolutionary development of humanity. The original will expect his clone to ameliorate all of the mistakes that the original made growing up, with attendant consequences (yes this occurs with parent-child relationships as well to some degree).

My preferred degree of genetic similary between myself and my immediate descendents (99.8% or something like that) is not far off from 100%, but that 0.2% makes all the difference for the future.

Also, how are anti-cloning arguments insulting to his twins? Do any of these arguments really take aim, even tangentially, at intra-womb processes? And is it possible to insult non-existent persons?

Take it out.

7 Matt April 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Perhaps I’m out of date, but my understanding was that existing cloning technology generally leads to severe health issues and decreased life expectancy in the clone.

8 Ryan April 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm

The sentence “I’m confident that he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me” is hugely problematic. There is no way to know that if you think that any portion of Bryan’s own preferences stems from his nurturing and not his DNA. Maybe a Bryan raised by Bryan would hate every minute of it. That said, the same applies to non-cloned children.

The better argument against cloning would be that a person who doesn’t exist can’t offer consent, so you can’t ethically experiment on them. This necessarily means that we can’t get human cloning to the point where it is safe enough to not be considered an experiment.

Hmm, does that argument hold water?

9 Hans April 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Would it be possible to clone yourself as a member of the opposite sex? This would only work for men, of course. You could substitute your Y chromosome for a copy of your X chromosome. Would sex with this female-you be illegal? Major ickyness ensues.

10 David L April 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Also–arguments about reducing genetic diversity, while theoretically valid, are null in practice because the population of people who a) desire and b) can afford this procedure will be miniscule.

11 David L April 20, 2010 at 6:06 pm

…human children have a natural right to be born of a mother and a father…

So, where exactly does this natural right come from? Nature presumable? How did you discern the existence of this right? Seems awfully absolute to have come from nature…

12 Andrew April 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Bryan is wrong. The government will probably require cloning.

13 Badger April 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I’m totally serious when I say that I wouldn’t like to have myself as a father. And that by itself makes me think that I wouldn’t like to have myself as a son.

14 ASB April 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I don’t think its right or wrong to have a preference about genetic similarity of marginal children, but the choice of how similar a marginal child is is a dire one.

15 Steve Sailer April 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I once pitched a screenplay to the old HBO comedy show about a sports agent, “Arliss,” in which one Arliss’s clients, a narcissistic gay track superstar modeled on Carl Lewis, wants Arliss to arrange for his cloning:

Arliss is setting up a grudge match race between a Carl Lewis-style track superstar and his arch-rival, an extremely juiced-up looking Ben Johnson-type. Client Carl shows up, accompanied by his best friend and sister Carol. Carl says he isn’t interested in reproducing the old-fashioned way, and asks Arliss to help him clone himself. Carol will carry the clone/fetus and raise the baby. Carol takes Arliss’s secretary Rita aside to suggest that they try to get the cloning over and done with real fast. She breaks down and says it’s a ruse she’s putting over on Carl because she’s pregnant — with Ben Johnson’s baby. Arliss asks in return to get the clone signed up for a lifetime deal, and is heartbroken when Rita breaks the truth to him.

16 David L April 20, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Michael B. –

1) Assuming for a moment that we are actually talking about guiding policy, not just how we feel about the issue, the probability that the procedure could become so cheap in the future that it becomes ubiquitous doesn’t merit targeting that possibility with policy now, any more than it makes sense to regulate granite based on the possbility that in the future someone might figure out how to derive weapons-grade nuclear fuel from it.

2) I didn’t argue that there was zero reduction in genetic diversity. I argued (and maintain) that there is a near-zero reduction in genetic diversity. Insignificant. Not worthy of the oxygen required to discuss it. Also, when you say “in place of, rather than in addition to,” are you purporting that we should evaluate the motives of the parents? Or require them to also have a child the normal way if they want to have a cloned child?

17 William April 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Though I wonder how Brian would feel if his wife also wanted to clone herself and raise in the same manner.

In fact, I think it’d be downright creepy after 20 years to see the 20-year-old near-version of your mate and life partner – consider all of the bizarre sexual feelings that would emerge. Good luck keeping your eyes off of your 22-year-old “daughter”, who happens to be genetically identical and looks almost identical to your wife did when you met her.

18 Steve Sailer April 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm

This cloning shtick sounds like a way for a guy to stick his wife with raising some illegitimate kid he fathered with a stripper — assuming the wife is particularly dim-witted.

19 Steve Sailer April 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Tyler:

Most people find one of Bryan to be plenty.

Steve

20 Penelope April 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Seems a mighty strange position for a libertarian to take. A parent who wanted to genetically reproduce himself would presumably want to duplicate not only the genetics, but also the child’s tastes, preferences, social behaviors, cultural attitudes, etc., as much as possible. Else why bother? Such a parent could turn out to be a major tyrant.

21 BKarn April 20, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Oh please, the world of full of egomaniacs already. This blog is full of them. If the internet has demonstrated anything, it’s this.

And I feel like there is a rather loud and constant wooshing sound above this thread.

“When single people, or an infertile couple, want to have biological children it is driven by vanity.”

I may have the wrong definition of vanity, because I’m having a hard time understanding this. I’m not driven to have or raise children, but I can’t quite get my head around the desire to do so being a “vain” one, or why the bad luck of being infertile changes the equation.

22 Yancey Ward April 20, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I find Caplan’s framing of his desire a bit odd, but if the propagation of your genes forward in time is the purpose of reproduction, then cloning yourself is the truest method of doing so. A free individual should be allowed to pursue this.

23 Query April 20, 2010 at 6:48 pm

How is it that Tyler can be both the smartest of the Cowen/Hanson/Caplan crowd and also the most down-to-earth/least egotistical?

Is it true-to-life or is it Hanson and Caplan filtered through Cowen’s eyes?

24 David L April 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Everyone is posting justifications for why they don’t want a clone… instead of arguing why why Bryan shouldn’t be allowed to have a clone. This is kind of embarassing to follow.

25 kebko April 20, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Man, Martin Kennedy at 6:20 is going to be really bummed if he finds out that he’s the product of a drunken evening with a party full of sailors from parts unknown. At least if he was a clone, he’d know he wasn’t a “mistake”. That seems like it should be in the “pro” column for Bryan.

26 Ken April 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm

David L wrote: “This is kind of embarassing to follow.”

I agree that the arguments are poor. However, they do manage to provide valuable data for the original question, from Tyler’s post:

“and he is asking whether he should cut that paragraph from his forthcoming book on why people should have more children.”

As the responses show, people find the cloning concept icky. Whether or not that attitude can be justified, the inclusion of cloning in the book will impact the book’s reception, and more broadly the public perception of Caplan. That will probably adversely impact sales, and thus reduce the revenue from the book. The material on cloning should thus be left out.

Of course the notoriety might increase sales, in the manner of Bill Murray’s delighted “You can’t buy publicity like this” in Scrooged. In this case I consider that a less-likely outcome, although I could certainly be wrong.

27 Mike April 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm

That’s so narcissistic. It’s like he doesn’t realize the child will be someone else.

28 Steko April 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm

“If you don’t like his proposal .. I will ask why you think your preferred degree of genetic similarity … is right and Bryan’s is wrong.”

Two fallacies here, Tyler’s straw man that desired genetic similarity is the only objection and the justification Bryan is making by reasoning from his specific case (which sounds all hunky dory) to the general (which can be more problematic).

Onyx Mousse has the first half of it exactly right with this bit:
“2) any such cloning procedures can not be developed without experimenting on human children, with the experimental ‘subjects’ suffering the consequences of inevitable ‘trial and error.'”. There’s a real danger that an unregulated cloning industry will turn into a little shop of horrors.

Now, even if the safety of the technology becomes settled, the other half of this problem are the substantial ethical issues involved in cloning people. Right now reproduction is a bit of a crapshoot. With cloning you know exactly what you will get (morphologically) and the magnitude of this difference cannot be underestimated.
Is it ok for Disney to pay the parents of a child star to have her cloned so that show can continue without the kid aging?
What if Bryan’s true desire for a clone is because he turned up a genetic marker for bone marrow cancer?
If you have a known genetic predisposition to lose your kidneys around age 45, would it be ethical to produce a clone (which would share a super close bond and be extra-likely to donate) in your 20’s? Two clones?

Finally, have you seen Bryan Caplan’s homepage (http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/)?
For the aesthetics of the web alone I think we need to prevent Bryan from cloning himself.

29 lemmy caution April 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm

There may be practical problems with cloning:

Opponents of human cloning argue that the process will likely lead to severely disabled children.[11] For example, bioethicist Thomas Murray of the Hastings Center argues that “it is absolutely inevitable that groups are going to try to clone a human being. But they are going to create a lot of dead and dying babies along the way.”[12] In other words, because of the difficulty of cloning any living animal, it is likely that there would be a great number of failures in the creation of a living human clone, such as clones without viable immune systems or other gross genetic failures.

Though apparently this isn’t what killed dolly:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_%28sheep%29

If it is safe, then I agree that the state shouldn’t intervene. Although, I wouldn’t want to be married to anyone who wanted a clone. It is freaky.

Can anyone make a convincing argument about what it would feel like to be born a clone? How about how it would feel to be the first clone? Being born and raised in a condition unlike any other human being in the history of humanity suggests to me that there is a good chance the person may be an extremely demented, troubled, existential mess. Is it right to bring someone into existence under such odds? How would you feel to know that you were a clone?

Clones are just time shifted identical twins. Identical twins don’t freak-out; I doubt that clones will either.

30 Alex April 20, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Why just clone yourself once? I’d do it, thousands of times!

31 Steve Sailer April 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I don’t have a problem with cloning in the abstract, but I do have strong concerns about the specific type of person (e.g., Bryan) who would want to get himself cloned.

32 CJ April 20, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I agree with Mike and anondos. And Alex.

How would a cloned child feel about his/her/its’ place in the world? Unlike everyone else, the child would have a very strong model of what was right and or wrong for it to try. And yet it wouldn’t actually have the same memories and experiences to really understand where those rights and wrongs came from or what they mean. It seems like it could give a child an identity complex. Most children have issues like that sooner or later, but I have to think it would be worse with clones. This seems unfair to the child.

In broader society, think of science, policy, and engineering–in short, progress. A lot of progress comes one funeral at a time, as people with strong stakes in some older idea or regime die. What happens when the people at the top of whatever hierarchy–ideas, politics, economics, whatever–can potentially have a little version of themselves to anoint and carry on their legacy?

So I guess I’m concerned about the same thing in both cases, how a cloned child turns out relative to their parent. In one extreme, the child wants to explore and not be like the parent, which seems like a situation that would be particularly unpleasant and frustrating for a clone. Not to mention the parent, if the parent wanted a clone that deviated only so far from the path the parent chose. (Having the clone travel down paths the parent wanted to travel but couldn’t for whatever reason is one thing. Traveling down paths the parent views as reprehensible is another.) In the other extreme, the clone is essentially a copy of the parent. But what if society as a whole really just needed that parent to go away?

These are both problems that every child deals with. But clones…well…it seems like it could be an order of magnitude worse.

33 BottyGuy April 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm

As i learned from This American Life cloned animals don’t come out true to the base model (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/22/arts/television/22heff.html). I would be disappointment if my cloned child didn’t turn out as swell as I am, and jealous if he turned out better. Better to not know.

34 matt wilbert April 20, 2010 at 8:54 pm

He shouldn’t have a clone because his expectations seem misaligned with reality. He thinks that he would have a more “sublime” relationship with his cloned son, but there isn’t any reason to think that. He thinks his clone would love to be raised by him–that seems pretty unrealistic too, as most children don’t love being raised by their parents, except possibly in hindsight. Based on this, I’m not sure he should be a parent at all, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he has different expectations for his twins than he would for his clone. He should not, and that is why he should not have a clone.

I’m not sure why this shouldn’t be allowed, or why he should cut the paragraph from his book, other than to avoid ridicule. If that is what he wants, that’s what he wants. I just think he isn’t the right guy to have a clone.

35 liberalarts April 20, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Ok, here is an argument. Allowing cloning would require a major shift in society’s social welfare net, and I am talking about the popular kind of social welfare. Reproduction is currently a crap shoot and all are allowed to participate. Society subsidizes the expensive childhood education of children with autism, mental retardation, etc., and society pays for adult care for many of these same people, along with others who develop severe (genetically based) psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia. If people can clone as part of their reproductive freedom, then they would have the right to intentionally have very expensive children for society. So allowing Bryan to begin cloning would require extending that right to everyone, and thus either (i) society has to quit taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, or (ii) society would have to quit allowing reproductive freedom, or (iii) society would have to treat clones differently from standard children.

36 lorena April 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

shorter Bryan: i love myself so much i need to have another one of me around.

37 Prolorn April 20, 2010 at 9:46 pm

While I haven’t read all the comments, I think third one posted (from Sigivald) pretty much nails it:

“I don’t like or dislike his desire for a cloned son as such, but the idea that “the kid would love to be raised by me because I’d love to be raised by me” implies “and that preference is entirely genetic”.

I don’t think that follows at all; Bryan’s preferences in that area are almost certainly environmental, experiential, or epigenetic in origin, as far as I understand such things (or at very least there’s no particular reason to believe that a clone would prefer to be raised by their clone-origin).

Posted by: Sigivald at Apr 20, 2010 5:39:07 PM”

Caplan’s conception of personal identity is somewhat confused, in all honesty.

38 bill April 20, 2010 at 10:09 pm

“…I will ask why you think your preferred degree of genetic similarity…”

I don’t have one? I have a vague idea of what my kids will look like, but beyond that, I have no expectation. That someone would is oddly disturbing.

39 Steven Schreiber April 20, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Bryan doesn’t really know that he wants to clone himself. What he wants is, in essence, having twinship with your son.

But it’s far from clear that you’d have that or that it would be good for you. The dynamic is very different both from twins and from normal parent-child relationships. It could be profoundly good but it could also be profoundly horrible. In fact, my instinct says that it will be profoundly horrible: a lot of the behaviors we engage in are about creating an identity separate from our parents, a task made all the harder by genetic identity.

Even without that instinct, we have reason to be wary: downside risk potentially envelopes his, and the child’s*, entire life. The gains, however, are simply additional to an already good life and counterbalanced by the utility of having another 99.8% similar child or an adoptee.

So I object that he shouldn’t yet want to clone himself. He should wait until some other potentially unlucky sucker takes the plunge and see how it goes. I see no reason to be an early adopter, and make a commitment to the idea, of one of the few things which could ruin your life in a moment.

*No Parfit arguments are available because a clone is not egg-sperm dependent in the way a natural person is. We really can, for the clone, say it would be better to have them earlier/later.

40 Max Kaehn April 20, 2010 at 10:37 pm

The main problem I see with raising your own clone is remembering that your clone is likely to be less like you than your own identical twin would be (whether or not you had one). Your clone may differ because of anything from epigenetics (e.g. DNA methylation) to prenatal hormonal influences to nutrition to upbringing. A young clone could very easy get to hate their original if they were subjected to “How could you be failing math? I got an A in math when I was your age and you’re me!† year after year; and if you think parents trying to relive their youth through their ordinary children are a problem, just think of how bad it would be if the parent identifies with their child because they’re a clone. Someone able to set aside their ego enough not to inflict that kind of treatment on their clone doesn’t strike me as likely to try to raise their own clone in the first place.

41 aH April 20, 2010 at 10:55 pm

When there’s a family history of some sort of genetic inheritable disease– BRCA genes, Huntington’s genes, etc… Some people want to know what’s likely in store for them. Some people really very much don’t. And as of now, people are given that choice. Foreknowledge of diseases, health problems, or other concerns that affected their “parent” may be something that some people are glad to have, while others would find it very uncomfortable… And we don’t know if that’s nature or nurture. Someone who clones themself might be the kind of person who would want to know, but how do you make sure the clone baby also wants to know?

42 JD April 20, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Tyler:

I get from your comments to your own post that you are frustrated that people aren’t responding to Caplan’s argument for human cloning (argument: `because I want to’). But you’ll just have to accept that the commenters find that `argument’ to be a minor secondary feature of Caplan’s paragraph, taking a distant second place to the overwhelming, juvenile, and kind of repulsive, narcissism so proudly displayed. I mean, seriously. That’s pretty breathtaking.

The argument against is that Dolly the sheep was the first survivor of 277 attempts ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_(sheep) ) and unless we’re willing to have 277 stillborn, then horribly deformed, then only somewhat horribly deformed, and then seemingly ok but dying suddenly child attempts so that the 278th can live the unseemly, uncomfortable spectacle of being mistaken by Caplan for himself and groomed and fawned over appropriately, than we should probably wait a few decades first.

43 Brett April 20, 2010 at 11:29 pm

My main problem with this comes from the perspective of the clone/child. Could you imagine living your life knowing almost exactly what you will look like as you age, knowing what diseases you will encounter, knowing when you will likely go senile? (or worse, bald!)

Why would knowing how certain genetic factors are going to play out in your life if you live a certain way be a bad thing? We already can test people for certain genetic predisposition for disease – this would be a hundred times better, since you could then act to prevent many of these conditions (particularly if your father/mother has a predisposition to heart disease or cancer).

The main good argument I see against it is the issue of potentially having a number of “failed” clones before getting it right. I don’t particularly care about the “sexual diversity” argument – that’s only an issue if cloning becomes so wide-spread (and replaces normal reproduction as opposed to complementing it) that it starts affecting the whole human gene pool.

Personally, I like the idea of raising a clone son. I wouldn’t expect him to be exactly like me – different upbringing – but it would be fascinating.

Maybe Caplan could compromise with his wife by letting her have a clone daughter, with a third child (assuming they don’t already have children) being a mix.

44 mtraven April 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Caplan really puts the Ass in Asperger’s.

45 John April 21, 2010 at 12:38 am

His genetic line is so advanced that it needs to stop evolving and let everyone catch up.

(I’m assuming that cloning leaves no room for evolution, but don’t know the science. Is that right?)

46 anonymous April 21, 2010 at 1:53 am

Way back in 1997, future notorious patent troll Nathan Myhrvold was making a similar argument in Slate, equating opposition to cloning with racism.

47 Doug April 21, 2010 at 2:36 am

I’m with Bryan. I want to raise my own clone too.

I would wait until the technology is proven and safe, and advanced enough that I could make him three or four inches taller with thicker hair.

48 Ray April 21, 2010 at 3:46 am

Bryan Caplan appears to know as much about cloning as he does about the 19th century.

49 londenio April 21, 2010 at 4:52 am

1. Caplan should be allowed to clone himself. But he should be discouraged to do so. Particularly because. The premise that you can be a better father to a genetically identical child is likely to be false.
2. Caplan’s wish can also be re-stated as “I don’t like my wife’s genes as much as I like my own”.
3. This wish reminds me of Dr. Evil and Mini-me.
4. Another risk is to discover that your child is much less special than you think you yourself are. A bit like the Prague Rabbi and his Golem.
5. I think the Carl Lewis story should be produced.

50 Andrew April 21, 2010 at 6:12 am

So are we discussing restricting cloning in general, or restricting cloning Caplan in general?

First, all the discussion of not liking the wife’s genes is wrong and irrelevant. Our kids are not equal traits us and our better half. That is why non-identical twins are not identical. It is why all our kids aren’t hermaphrodites. He also hasn’t said anything about not want also to clone his wife. He’s talking specifically about the experience of having a clone. That being said, I believe you have kids when you have something worthwhile to reproduce. I also expect my kids to have a good chance at being even be better than my wife or I individually. That’s not really possible with a clone.

Well, I’m not an expert but we are learning that more and more of who we are is epigenetics versus genetics. I’m sure we will figure out what cells to capture perfect genetic material from, but it will probably be a side-benefit from genetic therapy and anti-aging engineering. So, the kid would be at least as different from Bryan as identical twins. The ones I’ve known were fairly different even with the stigma of growing up as an identical twin and the expectations they would be the same.

That leads me to the societal problem. Will the kid grow up with the expectations that he will be a mini-me Bryan Caplan?

51 Sonic Charmer April 21, 2010 at 6:26 am

I don’t concede that it is necessary to ‘argue against’ Caplan’s wish to have a clone in order not to like it. To whatever extent it’s Bryan Caplan’s right to clone himself, it’s my right to find it, and the desire to do so, hella creepy.

52 babar April 21, 2010 at 6:47 am

ok, one other thing comes come to mind.

this is kind of disgusting, but here it is:

if he cloned himself and raised his clone with someone whom he was sexually involved, and if at least some sexual cues and preferences are inherited, why wouldn’t that person be inclined to have sexual relations with the clone and vice versa?

isn’t that enough reason to stay away from this?

53 David April 21, 2010 at 8:02 am

“Frankly, I don’t think the anti-cloners really believe their own arguments. Suppose my cloned son actually existed. If he met you in real life and quoted your words back to you, would you stand by what you wrote?”

The part about how bad people might use their clones to extend their own life? Yup.

I sorta figure you’re not one of them, but of course, that’s an unverified working theory. ;->

54 Master of None April 21, 2010 at 8:34 am

My first reaction was the “natural selection” argument, i.e. that this would effectively stop evolution, therefore decrease probability that the species survives.

However, in reality, as long as a significant proportion of the population is reproducing traditionally, shouldn’t we be ok? (i.e. the clones would die off anyway, given their lack of evolution).

The real question is why Bryan would put his descendants at a genetic disadvantage, which they must surely be, given that genetic diversity was withheld.

55 albatross April 21, 2010 at 8:50 am

If a desire for genetic similarity with your kids is evidence of some kind of unhealthy narcissism, what can we say about the large number of infertile couples who choose to have fertility treatments rather than to adopt?

Some of Steve Sailer’s points, above, are well-taken. But they apply almost as strongly to biological vs adoptive kids as to clones, and they go both directions. For example, my oldest son is amazingly similar to me in all kinds of ways, presumably through some combination of similar genes, assortive mating, and being raised by me and my wife. This means that I have to watch out not to leave stuff out of his upbringing that he needs (and I needed) but don’t find all that much fun or interesting–he won’t push for most of those things, since he also usually doesn’t find them so interesting. But it also means that there are times where he’s having some problem, and I just *get* it, in ways my wife doesn’t.

I’m not sure whether the overlap is ultimately more good or more bad, but I am pretty sure the answer isn’t straightforward.

56 m April 21, 2010 at 11:05 am

I agree with the first comment. My wife is far and away better than me in almost every respect and I think I would be robbing my offspring if I didn’t give them access to her genes.

Another reason I wouldn’t do it is because it’s far better for children to be raised in a 2-parent, mixed gender home. By simply cloning myself and raising the child alone, they wouldn’t get that benefit.

However, I wouldn’t force my preference on Bryan. And I certainly don’t think it’s an ethical issue. Anything that can be done to help parents who struggle to have children of their own is a good thing, in my book.

57 Jason Kuznicki April 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I wouldn’t want to raise a clone of myself, because I am almost certainly a carrier for a variety of very annoying genetic diseases that run in my family.

It’s lucky, in fact, that I’m gay, because if I were straight I would have to wonder about the ethics of passing on a hearing impairment, celiac disease, and the defective teeth I inherited from my mother.

Let my ideas propagate. Let my genes die off, and good riddance to them.

58 MC April 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Too bad. I used to like Caplan. Now I know he’s a narcissistic creep.

59 TheDarkestPassenger April 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I like Prof. Caplan’s ambition, and who would a father or mother care for more than literally their own clone? But in reality, even if humans could do this reliably now, your clone in this context would still be your biological child however its constiutent parts were constituted and brought into this world.

A clone is you only in genetic terms, and not in terms of life experiences. That’s what’s going on in your own private wetware, and no one else can experience that in quite the same way. Two biological twins (I’m presuming the same holds true with identical triplets and quadruplets) can experience emotions similarly, but those emotions will never be identically felt even by twins. And the loss of one child even when that child’s a twin doesn’t make a family grieve any less at the terrible loss.

Biological twins are supposed to have strong psychological bonds because of their genetic connection to each other, but having a clone of your own to raise as your child still isn’t really comparable to growing up with a twin sibling. It’s you rearing a younger, genetically identical version of you. That version of you will always be separate and never a true twin in the sense of time’s arrow and shared life experiences.

Within the next 20 years, we may opt for cloning as the population naturally reduces if governments cannot develop successful economic incentives to persuade familes to have bigger families to support having a sufficiently large population of adults to tax to pay for Social Security and other retiree-focused benefits. Cloning may become a necessity.

And the first cloning, I suspect, will just be to fix shortages of replacement organs for the human body. We’ll clone your heart or kidney, and replace the old with the new, so you don’t have to take immune system-compromising implant rejection suppression drugs to receive an implant.

60 Alison Cummins April 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Deliberately creating a human being for the purpose of having a relationship with it is creepy – especially at a time when we can expect the child to will grow up to live their life making more difficult choices than the ones we have had to make. While I understand the attraction of a “projet de famille,” it’s not like there’s a shortage of human beings to have relationships with. This applies no matter how the new human being is brought into existence or who it is genetically similar to.

Anyone who thinks cloning is desirable is signalling that they are misguided about the nature of parenthood. Embarking on parenthood means being willing to embrace uncontrollable, unforeseen outcomes. Any child might be born disabled, or become disabled at some later point. The ability to accept some unpredictability in the genetic makeup of the child – the usual knowledge of who is contributing to it with uncertainty about what exactly is going to be mixed and matched – could be thought to be demonstrating a minimum amount of the flexibility required to be an effective parent.

Given the strong and widespread ick response, I’m not sure legal restrictions are necessary, but I don’t think they would impose undue hardship either. So I don’t have strong opinions about legislation in this area.

61 David April 22, 2010 at 5:21 am

Considering that all successfully cloned mammal species to date have suffered very high rates of maternal death, miscarriages, disabling birth defects, and significantly reduced life expectancies, I think Bryan is seriously limiting the liberty of both the woman who carries the clone, and the clone itself.

62 m3 real April 22, 2010 at 7:24 am

I am fully serious when I say that I would not like to have myself as a father. And that by itself makes me think that I wouldn’t like to have myself as a son.

63 bmarshall April 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Wanting to clone oneself is no more arrogant than the desire to produce offspring naturally. By nature alone we are arrogant in the desire to procreate as well as our embedded fear of death which by design ensures our survival as a species.

Ethics and morality are not natural, as in they occur due to the advanced thought process capable of humans, not because nature decided we should develop them, but are a by-product of nature deciding we should be capable of higher thought function. Whether it is either of those things to clone or not to clone, does not matter.

Someone said they themselves would not like to be raised by themselves and thus felt they would not like to raise themselves and are basically saying that they feel they would not make a good parent in any circumstance whether the child be cloned or produced naturally.

Genetic engineering of a human and believing said human would be the same as the donor is preposterous for several reasons. Genetically the human would be the same and so what if it is. Its environment and experiences from the date of conception would never be identical, ie. mothers womb environment, diet, emotional stimuli, family dynamic, home environment, etc. If Bryan would start out hoping for a clone to have the same personality, emotional response, problem solving ability, interpersonal relationship ability, etc etc., I am afraid he would be sadly mistaken and disappointed with the outcome. You would find this clone to age and mature in its own unique way as we all do and be something completely similar, but different in however many ways a person can be measured.

64 me April 23, 2010 at 2:43 am

I think that’s a fine idea. Note that there is a lot of scientifically valid evidence that points at the birth mother (and the hormonal influence she exercises during the growth period of the baby) playing a significant role in the child’s development (as Robert Sapolsky points out, the genes are the blueprint, the rest is done by the environment), so the similarities between Bryan and his clone would probably suprisingly few.

To counter the genetic diversity argument – evaluating the fitness of a gaggle of clones of the same geneset and using that to determine sexual reproduction likelihood would result in better genes in the population a few generations down the road by averaging out the influence of the individuals environment and would therefore increase overall fitness.

65 John Howard December 30, 2010 at 1:00 am

Wow, there were lots of great insightful comments here!

It’s crazy that we should have to justify prohibiting cloning, rather than making would-be cloners justify cloning. There is no need to clone anyone, no right to clone. It’s a waste of energy and money and the least amount of prudence calls for us to prohibit it now, in case there might be any risks or flaws or downsides to allowing it. Then, he can try to argue why we should let him clone himself, and we can tell him to justify the waste of energy.

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