Human Cloning: In Our Image
If ever there was a time to develop an opinion of human cloning, it is now, before the hare of science races ahead of the tortoise of ethics once again.
There is no halachic stipulation regarding human cloning. Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, who specializes in Jewish medical ethics, writes:
There is no clear consensus yet in Jewish law regarding cloning. Since the technology to clone people is not yet a reality, the issue is an academic one, not a practical one. For this reason, Jewish law, which relies strongly upon precedent (much like secular law), has no actual cases that have been decided…Many technical issues of Jewish law will have to be resolved before a final consensus is reached.
We need to reexamine our ethical standards, and to measure scientific and technological advances against those standards. Otherwise, we are susceptible to the “do first, ask questions later” syndrome.
A pros vs. cons analysis of cloning does not answer the question, “Is cloning good or bad?” What are the underlying assumptions made by those advocating human cloning? If substantial ethical objections can be made to these assumptions, then it matters not whether there are more benefits to cloning, but whether the principles behind the procedure are right or wrong.
Unchecked and unhindered knowledge has the potential for great destruction. Cases such as the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are, at the very least, reminders that there can be serious consequences to human life when new technology is unleashed.
The Hebrew Scriptures advise us to look before we leap toward slippery slopes of consequences we cannot predict: “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Proverbs 19:2).
Some prefer to measure the worth of an action or issue with the ruler of utility—the idea that something is good if it allows for the greatest good for the greatest number of people. While this reasoning is often suitable, history shows us that such thinking can be dangerous for cases such as cloning. People in the minority can be subjected to anything—the worst possible oppression or even death—if it is beneficial to the majority. Reprehensible movements in history such as Nazi Germany and U.S. slavery were justified using this way of thinking.
Those who believe in God as the creator of life also believe that people are created in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). The Talmud tells us, “To save one life is as if you have saved the entire world” (Sanhedrin 4:5). If we believe that, then we cannot condone human cloning or any technology that threatens to destroy life on its way to achieving a “greater good.”
If cloning sounds reminiscent of eugenics (attempting to scientifically improve the human race according to arbitrary standards), that’s because it is. The underlying assumption is that people are more or less desirable depending on their DNA. Why would someone want to risk producing a physically disabled child or a child with slightly less intelligence, when they don’t have to? The assumption is that a child or person with any sort of deficiency is doomed to a life less abundant, less fulfilling and less happy.
But consider the contributions of Stephen Hawking, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, or of a deaf man named Beethoven, or of Albert Einstein, who may have had Asperger’s Syndrome. Each might beg to differ with the assumption that the quality of his life is less than anybody else’s.
The advent of human cloning demonstrates that we are desperately searching for solutions. We are on a continual quest for perfection, whatever we deem that to be.
But even if we could attain physical perfection through genetic manipulation and cloning, we could not attain moral perfection. When we were created, it was in the image of God. When God fashioned Eve’s flesh from Adam’s flesh and her bone from Adam’s bone, He created something beautiful and unique; He did not intend for us to be copies of each other.
But sin entered our world and corrupted our nature. (It should not take much more than looking at the world around us to convince us of this.) Even if we have the best intentions, we cannot always be trusted to temper our knowledge with wisdom.
So it seems that rather than cloning ourselves, we should be seeking a solution to becoming better people. But how? God has given us a way to be transformed and renewed through the only perfect person who ever lived, the one known as God’s only begotten son, Yeshua (Jesus).
God commanded us to reflect His righteousness, to be holy as He is holy, but He knows we all fall short. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Scripture tells us we need new hearts, as King David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” Psalm 51:10
Yeshua offered those who follow him, not a genetically engineered organ replacement, but a supernatural restoration. Through accepting Yeshua’s sacrificial death as the atonement for our sins, we are seen as righteous in God’s eyes. When He looks at us, He sees precious individuals recreated in His image, the way we were designed to be before sin entered our world. Interested in the new heart and new life Yeshua offers?
Sources: Daniel Eisenberg, M.D., “The Ethics of Cloning,“ 2002, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/clone.html
Aaron Abramson is the leader of the New York branch of Jews for Jesus. Aaron brings a global experience to us. He was born in the US but grew up in Israel. He has a bachelor of arts degree in Biblical and Intercultural Studies from All Nations Christian College in England. Aaron is currently in a graduate program at New York University. He is married and has three children.