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Human Cloning: Why is there a fuzz (Lee Silver)

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Should human cloning be banned? That was the question for debate at Boston University earlier this month The school of scholars of communication hosted this event which featured debate teams made up of scholars, ethicists, and students. Tonight's question is: Should human cloning be banned? You know, when the human the tragedy that inevitably accompanies any war, even if it's just one the life and death of a single sheep partly seems to matter. But when the sheep is named Dolly and she is the only successful clone out of 277 attempts, and one whose relatively short life was crowded by frailty and illness, mankind is bound to take notice, and think, and debate, as we do tonight. Tonight the issue will be debated by some of the nation's foremost thinkers on the subject assisted by Boston University student debaters. ...now for professor Silver. Thank you very much. I'm coming to speak to you tonight as both, a geneticist and a parent. I think both of those jobs provide me with some insight on this debate. And the first thing when you have a debate you have to do is you have to get your facts straight. And unfortunately the facts about Dolly, most people don't understand at all. Dolly was the product of a single experiment that used 277 cells which produced 30 embryos, which were put into 13 female sheep which produced one pregnancy which gave rise to Dolly. Dolly was a success from one experiment. Dolly grew up and during her life her most serious health problem was that she had arthritis. I have arthritis. Are we going to tell parents? two parents, who have a dominant form of arthritis, that they can't have children because their children are going to have arthritis? Now just about a month ago, Dolly who was kept inside of a stall her entire life, unlike normal sheep who are kept out in the open, Dolly got a lung infection because she was kept inside all of the time and she was put to sleep! That's the fact! The newspapers are all telling us that she died because of arthritis, or because of premature aging or because of this lung condition. She was put to sleep because she had a lung infection. There was no premature aging, no one evidenced a premature aging in Dolly, I had the pleasure of meeting Dolly a couple of years ago and she run up to me because I had food in my hand. And she knocked me over. She was quite, quite, a vital animal. And what about this notion that cloning which uses somatic cells is using old DNA? Well, most of you in this room actually have somatic cells in the most of cells of your body, you also have germ cells, or either have sperm, if you are guys, or you have eggs if you are women. And guess what, the DNA in all of your cells is the same age. If you are women you produced your eggs while you were fetuses 20 years ago, and that DNA is 20 years old. It's been sitting there until you decide to have babies until you're 30 or 35 you're going to be making babies the old fashion way I presume with DNA that's 35 years old. Well you guys are keep on making sperm over and over again, the DNA is been dividing for 35 years. So it doesn't make any sense to say that DNA in my somatic cells is somehow older than the DNA in my sperm or eggs? So where does all this exaggeration come from? Ok, now first I have to tell you Dolly was the first cloned animal, there've been thousands of cloned animals, and it is a fact that cloning doesn't work very well in animals. About 30 to 40 percent (this is the fact) of the animals have serious health problems. This is clearly not a technology that should be used on human beings at the present time. But why the exaggeration? Why is everybody exaggerating what happened to Dolly? Exaggerating the harms that are going to be for humanity if we allow cloning to take place in the future and only when it's safe and effective, which is the only time that I think that it would be allowed, it should be allowed with human beings. Well this whole notion that cloning is a threat to humanity. Why is it a threat to humanity? Well, from the right side, it's a threat to humanity because we are playing God basically, this is something that God should be doing, God is the being that should create human beings and we shouldn't be here creating human beings, that's on the right side. On the left side, I've heard people say "well, we shouldn't be interfering with mother nature". Sort of the feminine version of the masculine God on the right side. So people are just sort worried about scientist getting involved in this process. Now 25 years ago, there was the birth of a young baby girl named Louise Joy Brown, she was the first test tube baby, she was born after ten years of experiments, a hundred and four failures which means there was nothing, nothing that was born, she was finally born after ten years in experiments. Since that time the last twenty five years over a million babies have been born to couples who were desperate to have children, who have given pleasure to those children. I don't know if the technology has been around long enough for someone of you here might be test tube babies, but if there are test tube babies in here, you look around, you are not going to be able to find them, Ok? because they don't look any different from you. 25 years ago the bioethicists thought that test tube babies were a threat to humanity and these babies were seen as products, and they were going to be used as products, and be observed as well and worked and be treated as normal human beings. Guess what... they treated perfectly normally. Now let's get to cloning. What can cloning do? Well, it actually can do very much, all that this technology will be able to do, if and when it becomes safe and effective, I don't know if that would happen, but technology has a way of getting rid of technical difficulties, it might happen someday, if it was safe and effective, what would it produce? It would produce a child that had the same genetic information as somebody else, it wouldn't be a copy of that other person, it would not be identical to the other person, would be basically a later born identical twin. Twins, actually there are millions of twins alive right now on the world, they are perfect clones, they are perfect clones that have usually grown up inexactly the same environment and they usually follow different paths in life. So we know that genes are not determining our outcoming life, we know that there are many other factors that are important in determining where are you going to go on life. And here's my parental perspective, let's say that a women decides that, she is a 35 or 40 years old, she has no man in her life Ok? and she wants to get pregnant and have a baby. I have friends like, this so it is not just a hypothetical situation. And what she can do right now, she can get a sperm donor to inseminate herself to bring about the birth of a child, the children to raise herself. In the future if cloning become safe and effective she's going to be able to say to herself "why should I put unknown potentially disease causing DNA from some man I can care less about into my baby when I don't have to? Why not just use my own cells to create my child?" What she is going to get, she is going to get out of the process a child and if we fast forward to fifty years in the future she may be walking down the street with this child, and you will have no way of knowing that that child is a clone. There's no biological tests that you can do on that child to prove that it's a clone. The only way you will know that a child is clone is if you compare the DNA of the child to the DNA of the mother, and so that the DNA match, that would show it was a clone. So how can you think that I could say "well, wouldn't it be identical to the mother?" Well, you know what? Every single day of the year, around the world, there are children born, who just by chance, happen to look very much like one parent, and just by chance happen to behave like one parent. We call them a chip of the old block. And in the future if this father or this mother is walking down the street with a child of the same sex and the kid happens to look like the parent you are not going to know he's a clone, there is no way you are going to be able to tell that is a cloned child, or that child just happens, by chance, to be very, very much like one parent and looks or behave or... relative to that other parent. So why is cloning looked so terribly? Well, people say, that what it's going to do is parents are going to try to force the kid to go down a particular path in life. Now I can tell you as a parent, I have three children and none of my children listen to me when I try to tell them what the right thing is to do in their lives and there's no reason that a cloned child is going to listen to his parents or her parent, either. Kids are going to grow up and follow their own path on lives and there's little that I can do as a parent to try to force my kid to go in a particular path unless I slave the child, to which we all agree is an unethical thing to do. So this is really the important point I want to make: cloning is heavily, highly, over height and exaggerated. All it's ever going to do is give an unpredictable, uncontrollable child to parents who might want to have a child, who wants an unpredictable and uncontrollable child? Every parent who has ever chosen to have a child knows that that's all they are going to get is an unpredictable, uncontrollable child and yet we are driven, I don't know why, to want to have children and in some specific very tiny number of cases cloning will allow future parents, if it is safe and effective, to be able to reach their dream of having a genetically related child. Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 59 seconds
Country: Chile
Language: English
Views: 167
Posted by: nmercam on May 28, 2010

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