October 2007. People are intrigued and repulsed by the idea of cloning humans. They sometimes express doubts that a cloned baby would have a soul, because the whole idea seems so offensive. They suppose that God would “refuse to cooperate” with cloning by never infusing a soul into a cloned human embryo.
Yet back in 1978 when the first human baby was created in a Petri dish by in vitro fertilization, one might likewise have argued that such an immoral action would result in God’s not infusing a soul into any baby that was manufactured in laboratory glassware. We currently have more than one million babies produced this way, all of whom do have souls infused by God.
Likewise even though we readily see how dropping nuclear bombs on cities of innocent people would be gravely offensive, we know that God does not “refuse to cooperate” by suddenly suspending the laws of physics that permit such bombs to detonate. Clearly, God chooses to respect the laws of physics he has established, and likewise he remains beholden to the powers of biology that he himself has set in motion, even if it is true that those same powers can be used for offensive ends by man.
Apart from purely miraculous interventions, which appear to be quite rare, God does not step in and break the humanly-initiated chain of causality which allows sinful actions and evil choices to play out with all their consequences. He invites us to make moral and upright choices ourselves, so that evil in our world might not spread further, but he doesn’t actively prevent us from doing evil by abrogating physical laws or refusing to ensoul embryos.
Human cloning, in the final analysis, is simply a technique for making an identical twin of someone, and while all of us have met various sets of identical twins over the years, none of us has ever met a pair where one of the twins lacked a soul. By similar reasoning, it is clear that the idea of a “soulless clone” is little more than an urban legend. Yet the mere discussion of a “soulless clone” serves to remind us how strikingly immoral human cloning really is, even as the mass media and various lawmakers vigorously promote a form of cloning known as therapeutic cloning.
The procedure for cloning is fairly simple in concept — it involves taking a nucleus (the “full genetic package”) from a body cell, like a skin cell, and transferring it inside a woman’s egg, after the egg’s own nucleus (the “half genetic package”) has been taken out. The presence of the “full genetic package” creates a new human embryo. That newly cloned embryo can either be killed in the laboratory for research, or allowed to live and grow by implanting it into a uterus, resulting in the birth of a cloned baby. That baby would be an identical twin of the person who donated the skin cell, in the same way that Dolly the sheep was the identical twin of her mother who donated the mammary cell used to start the process off. Grave ethical violations are always involved in both forms of cloning: “reproductive cloning” and so-called “therapeutic cloning.”