Cloning and Genetic Engineering

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  • Anniversary Book Name: Divine Inspiration 1st Edition
  • Anniversary year: 2006
  • Page: 22-34
  • Year published: 2006
  • Contributed by: Too Siew Ngee


Definitions

Human Reproductive Cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of a human being, or a previously existing human being. The term is generally used to refer to artificial human cloning; human clones in the form of identical twins are commonplace, with their cloning occurring during the natural process of reproduction.

Human Therapeutic Cloning is using human genetic material to create tissues or organs used in medical therapies.

Human Genetic Engineering is the manipulation of genes to create a change in the ability of the human body usually outside the human’s normal reproductive process.

Plant Genetic Engineering is the manipulation of plant's genes mainly to produce a genetically superior plant.

Introduction

Due to the complex nature of the issues to be discussed, we will endeavour to minimise the scientific terminology used. We will also try to be as brief as possible, but in the process, we may over-simplify the scientific and philosophical details that are essential in the understanding of the relevant topics. Thus, we recommend that you visit the websites listed at the end of this article if you wish to learn more about the issues discussed.

It is worthy to note that apart from the genetic engineering of plants, the rest of the cloning and genetic engineering techniques are still in its infancy. There are no confirmed human clones created from current human reproductive cloning techniques. There are no successful human organs created from human therapeutic cloning techniques. There are no humans who were genetically engineered. The following article assumes that the above technologies are fully developed and available in the future and address the implications of these technologies to our Spiritual Movement.

Human Reproductive Cloning

In reproductive cloning, the genetic material from an adult cell is placed into an egg whose own genetic material has been removed. Under the right conditions, the egg with a complete set of genes would develop into an embryo. It would then divide into multiple cells and that embryo could be placed back into the womb of the surrogate mother to develop into a fetus and ultimately a baby.

These are some possible reasons why one would support the development of reproductive cloning:

  1. To exploit the capability to create humans with identical genetic makeup to act as organ donors for each other such as kidney and bone marrow transplants.
  2. Reproductive cloning would become just another reproductive technique along with sexual reproduction and in vitro fertilization (IVF):
    1. Sterile couples will be able to have children with the mother's or father's genetic pattern.
    2. Single, gay or lesbian parents will have the option to create children that are genetically related to them.
  3. Parents who have kept genetic material of their child may have the option to give birth to a genetically identical child in the event of the child's premature death.

Baitiangong Universal Spiritual Movement (BUSM) view on Human Reproductive Cloning

Since April 1999, Xian Sheng has emphasised that BUSM will not accept such technology, no matter what the advantages are for society. The main reason being Human Reproductive Cloning breaches the Divine Law of Nature.

  1. Breach of the Divine Law of Nature:
    1. We realise the Divine Law of Nature exists. Xian Sheng taught this concept to us as simplified in the following example: We realise that it is the Creator’s wish that we exist on Earth, this is because the conditions such as Earth's protective atmosphere, Earth's distance from the sun, Earth's temperature and other conditions, are suitable for human civilisations to grow and develop. We understand that the Divine Law of Nature provides us with suitable conditions.
    2. Similarly, we know that the development of our human body and abilities at the genetic level are provided for under the Divine Law of Nature.
    3. Human Reproductive Cloning interferes with the Divine Law of Nature. Human Reproductive Cloning would result in:
      1. Loss of genetic variations,
      2. The possibility of compromising individualities,
      3. Children having only one parent's genetic makeup rather than being genetically connected to both parents.
  2. The breach in the Divine Law of Nature will bring about adverse and stabilising reaction. An example of this is AIDS. Sometime in the late seventies, Xian Sheng read in the news about the acceptance of homosexuality in society, he said that the Divine Law of Nature will react by producing a virus that will counter this breach in the natural order. True enough the existence of HIV's was confirmed a few years after Xian Sheng's warning. Similarly, we believe that the cloned humans will be subjected to an unknown nature's adverse reaction.
  3. Single parenthood will flourish as reproductive cloning only requires the genetic material from one individual.
  4. The concept of producing a clone that can provide replacement organs to the cloned person can be avoided altogether as Human Therapeutic Cloning can meet the same objective. Furthermore, it is not necessary that the clone will agree to donate any organs to the originally cloned person.
  5. Bereavement is a part of our examination in life. We should learn to accept that the soul is more important than our physical body. Likewise, the loss of a loved one is actually not a loss at all. Upon the death of the body, the soul simply moves on to the spiritual plane. A clone of a loved one cannot bring the soul back. The clone of the loved one is certainly not the same person.
  6. Human clones may encounter discrimination and a pariah race created. Clones will be subject to a completely new physiological landscape and threat. The unknown negative social effects will unavoidably surface if Human Reproductive Cloning succeeds.
  7. Many perverse intentions and aspirations become viable such as cloning a famous personality with or without their agreement, cloning self with the gruesome intention of harvesting body parts from a slave clone, creating clones for the sake of continuing a physical legacy and more.

Human Therapeutic Cloning

Therapeutic cloning could be used to provide replacement organs or tissues.

Similar to reproductive cloning, DNA from the patient that needs the transplant is used. After insertion of the patient's genetic material, the cell would divide to form an embryo and its resulting stem cells extracted. Stem cells could develop into any tissue or organ that the patient can use as it would be compatible with the patient's immune system, so the patient does not need immunosuppressant drugs after the operation. The possibilities are endless as the spinal cord tissues can be grown using these techniques; thus allowing the paralysed to be able to walk again.

In a conventional organ transplant, immunosuppressant drugs must be taken for life to prevent organ rejection by the recipient body's immune system. These drugs have many undesirable side-effects such as making the body less resistant to viruses and diseases.

BUSM view on Human Therapeutic Cloning

Our Movement has no objection to Human Therapeutic Cloning because of these reasons:

  1. We understand that the soul will enter the fetus (a human embryo is called a fetus eight weeks after the egg is fertilised by a sperm cell) at around the third month of conception. Therefore, the embryos destroyed/discarded for research or therapy before this period would have no consequence spiritually. However, stem cells from late-stage embryos are not acceptable, as the soul had already entered it. Thus, stem cell extraction, in our context here, refers to embryonic stem cells.
  2. It is consistent with our spiritual teaching of doing good as it allows the patient to recover and have more opportunity to concentrate on passing their examination in life.
  3. Its organ transplant method does not depend on a donor, thus preventing the unethical practice of organ sale.

Human Genetic Engineering

Scientist realise that genes in a human cell have specific roles. Genes define most things about the body like bone structure, muscle layout, how we see, hear, think, what we look like, how fast we heal, how susceptible we are to diseases and so on. By manipulating those genes, they can eliminate diseases and create humans with enhanced ability such as being able to run faster or have superior physiological profiles. Some scientists even believe that enhance IQ is obtainable by manipulating the genes.

BUSM view on Human Genetic Engineering

Our Spiritual Movement rejects Human Genetic Engineering for the following reasons:

  1. If we genetically temper with our children or ourselves, it will affect our future generations. Therefore, we would have genetically modified our descendants without their explicit permission compromising the ethics of a free society.
  2. Genetic engineering has similarities with eugenics (the philosophy of improving the human hereditary traits; please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics). Obsession with eugenics can create people who are like Hitler, who believed that by eliminating Jews and Gypsies the world would be a better place to live in. Similarly, the capability of genetic engineering may fuel eugenic obsessions. That kind of obsession would create an irreparable rift in our society of haves and haves-not. The genetically superior would dominate and the genetically inferior (those who cannot pay for genetic modification) will slide into a society of invalids. The social ills caused by the above condition are innumerable. Joblessness, terrorism, crime and discrimination are just to name a few.
  3. We pray to the Creator to ask for the consciousness to give us a ratio of 1 male to 1.2 females. We do this based on Xian Sheng's wisdom that the best society should have that balance. The gender balance if left to the Divine Law of Nature will provide the best ratio of male to female. However, if we genetically manipulate the gender of our child, we would inadvertently interfere with the gender balance of the society. In places like India and China, male children is culturally preferred. If the adverse culture of gender preference were to prevail by exploiting genetic engineering, the gender imbalance would create a society that will drive males to take unreasonable or criminal measures in order to get a female mate. We would be faced with an uncontrollable social ill if that happens.
  4. Scientifically and philosophically, there are countless arguments against Human Genetic Engineering.

Plant Genetic Engineering

Scientist has learnt that certain genes have unique functions within viruses, bacteria, plants and other simple organisms. Using a special technique, they are able to extract genes from those organisms and place it into a plant gene. By normal pollination or other methods, the plant will grow to have the special qualities of the inserted gene such as being resistant to disease. Besides that, grain crops can be made to survive with less water, be resistant to insect damage, produce more grain or bigger produce per plant, grow faster and more.

After very detailed research and extensive testing, the genetically modified crops are now mass-produced. The population of Earth can benefit in this way:

  1. Poor countries can afford to feed their population:
    1. by preventing the needless loss of crops to diseases or insects and,
    2. without the cost and side-effects of insecticide.
  2. The efficient use of scarce land as production can be increased without requiring more land.
  3. Less resources such as water is used.

BUSM view on Plant Genetic Engineering

BUSM has no objection to Plant Genetic Engineering because of these reasons:

  1. It supports our spiritual teaching of doing good, as it allows humans to help themselves to fight starvation.
  2. More people will have a meaningful life in order to focus on passing their examination in life.
  3. With ample food, society can progress.
  4. Genetically engineered crops if properly researched and tested are safe to eat.

Conclusion

Xian Sheng encouraged us to be a political, economic, social, cultural, and spiritual person. We can exert our influence in these areas as follows:

  1. Politically we can vote for the politician who supports the right kind of cloning and genetic engineering. We can be politically active and join a political party that bans Human Reproductive Cloning and Human Genetic Engineering.
  2. If we as a human race collectively do not fund organisations that support Human Reproductive Cloning and Human Genetic Engineering, these organisations will have no economic means to proceed with their programs.
  3. Socially we can participate in learning programs about cloning and genetic engineering. We could learn from the Internet or from interest groups available in the country. Ultimately, after learning, we can be responsible citizens of this world by educating whomever we can about the problems involved.
  4. If in the event the undesired form of cloning and genetic engineering do succeed, culturally we can put in practice what we believe. We can decide not to genetically enhance ourselves or participate in any form of Human Reproductive Cloning or Human Genetic Engineering.
  5. The last and most significant effort we can all participate in it is the spiritual effort. We can pray to the Creator to give all of us consciousness so that we can realise that there is no need for Human Reproductive Cloning or Human Genetic Engineering. If the Creator wishes, no scientist will have the desire to proceed with such programs, no government will support such programs, and no financially able person would want the product of such programs.

External Links

Cloning in General

Definitions - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloning
An overview - http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml
Bioethics - http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/mcgee.html

Human Reproductive Cloning

Definition - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproductive_cloning
A detailed explanation - http://science.howstuffworks.com/cloning.htm/printable

Human Therapeutic Cloning

Definition - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapeutic_cloning
Supporting therapeutic cloning - http://www.txtwriter.com/onscience/Articles/theraputiccloning.html

Human Genetic Engineering

Definition - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_genetic_engineering
Supporting Human genetic engineering - http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3451 & http://www.alternet.org/stroy/16026/

Plant Genetic Engineering

Definition - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_engineering
Supporting plant genetic engineering - http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php
Against plant genetic engineering - http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/genetic-engineering