Send in the Clones – With Apologies to Frank Sinatra

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Clone Wars.”


What separates the animate from the inanimate? Why, an animating principle, of course!

What separates the animate from the inanimate? Why, an animating principle, of course!

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) Dolly the sheep, remember her? She is known because she was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. The cell was taken from the mammary gland of an adult sheep. Believe it or not, this is where she derived her name. One of the scientists involved in this, Ian Wilmut, said since Dolly derived from a mammary cell, and they could not think of a more impressive set of mammary glands than those of Dolly Parton, they named the sheep after her.

So, scientists do notice things outside their test tubes and petri dishes.

Dolly has three mothers, one provided the egg, one provided the DNA, and one carried the clone to term. Sounds like a pilot for a sitcom, right? “Post-modern Family”, maybe?

She was not the first animal to be cloned, but was the first cloned from an adult, differentiated cell, which demonstrated for the first time that a differentiated cell could revert to what is called the embryonic totipotent state, capable of developing into any part of an animal. Dolly was successfully bred, and produced a total of six offspring. She was euthanized at around age 6.5, roughly half the normal lifespan for her breed. She was severely ill with arthritis and lung cancer. It is not thought she developed either condition from being cloned, though there was some speculation that she might have been genetically six years old at birth since that was the age of the donor sheep.

The Daily Post prompt noted above asks, if you could clone yourself, how would you split up your responsibilities? This is a good question, not the least of which is the moral implications of such an action. The answer is, I would not clone myself, and here is why:

What is the difference between the animate and the inanimate? As Aristotle and Aquinas note in the graphic above, there is an animating principle. This is one of those things that sounds like they are using the term to define itself, and that usually means people don’t really understand the concept. So, here’s a thought: Why is there life at all, and how did it get started? The short answer is, “No one knows.”

So, saying that there is an animating principle at least acknowledges that something is different between a rock and a ladybug. What is that difference? One is alive, and one is not. What makes the difference? For lack of anything else, some sort of principle of animation is at work in the ladybug that is absent from the rock.

The Latin root for the word animate is anima, and is translated as breath or soul. Yup. soul. The Greek word is pneuma, and means, you guessed it, breath or soul. In traditional Chinese culture, they have a word for the animating principle also. Variously called “life force” or “energy flow”, the word is qi or chi, and you will never guess what the literal translation is. Yup, breath or air or gas.

Our word “soul” comes from an idea that seems common across a large part of the planet. An animating principle, generally recognized by the fact of some sort of air exchange.

What is the point of all this? Simply, some things are dead and stay dead. We have no examples of anything that has never been alive, coming to life. Life, so far as we know, always comes from life.

Some things are alive for a time, then they are not. The animating principle, though not often thought in this way in our American culture, is the soul. Some do say, “Their soul has left them” when people die. Many, such as atheists, will scoff at this statement. Replace it with, “Their animating principle has left them.” Seems obvious when put like that, does it not?

Something unique is involved in life, and for myself, that uniqueness is tied up in God breathing life into inanimate clay in Genesis.

The implications for me are as follows. A cloned creature, in as much as it is alive, has a soul. The Greeks, while believing that all living things, including plants, have souls, noted variations. There is the vegetative soul that animates plants. The sensitive soul which animates animals. And the rational soul which animates human beings.

The rational soul imbues a dignity into the human person. That means that humans cannot be considered as means to an end, as they are ends in themselves. Humans ought not be used.

Consider implications of cloning. Why not clone yourself (or compatible others) for spare parts? If the reader does not think that will happen once the technology is sufficiently advanced, than the reader is naive. I cannot use another human being, regardless of how derived, as livestock. But, someone will. Oh yes, someone will.

What about cloning and raising soldiers? Again, they would be human beings, used as means, instead of recognized as ends in themselves. And this would be an affront to all of humanity.

In both cases, I suspect the argument would be, “They aren’t really people, they are clones.” But, they would have rational souls, and would therefore be fully human, despite any wordplay. And, depriving them of their human dignity would deprive all mankind of human dignity. Rephrase the last line of Sinatra’s Send in the Clowns:

But where are the clones- send in the clones
Don’t bother, they’re here.

For these reasons, given the chance, I would not clone myself.


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