A paper which analyzes the elements of individualism and collectivism that exist in the controversial topic of cloning.
Cloning In many controversial topics around the world, such as abortion, gun control, legalized drugs, the death penalty, and cloning (to name a few), we can find differing positions, and opinions. Many of these arguments, can be narrowed down to two different views, or constructs: individualistic and communitarian (an image of collectivism). An individualistic viewpoint “stresses the rights of the individual as a unique being” (class review). A communitarian viewpoint is more concerned with the good for the greatest number, “even if an individual must suffer or sacrifice” (class review).
These different elements do not necessarily label the people as opposed to, or in favor of the topic here. They just show where your motivations lie, is your involvement for self fulfillment or for the good of society? Within the contents of this paper, I will analyze the elements of individualism and collectivism that exist in the controversial topic of cloning. When Dr. Ian Wilmut, a 52-year-old embryologist at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh announced on that he had replaced the genetic material of sheep’s egg with the DNA from an adult sheep, and created a lamb (Dolly), the topic of cloning “created” many new questions of its own. None were as controversial as: Will they apply this to humans as well? According to Dr. Wilmut, the answer was “there is no reason in principle why you couldn’t do it”(clone humans), but he added, “All of us would find that offensive.”(Wilmut as quoted by NYTimes, Daniel Callahan, 02/26/97).
From an individualistic viewpoint, those in favor of cloning human beings, do not see it as morally, or ethically wrong. Many see it as an opportunity to have children, or possibly to “re-create” a child who is dying from a terminal illness. Using a deterministic argument, many infertile couples are worried that any “government restrictions on human cloning might hurt their chances some day for bearing children through new medical technology” ( Newsday, Thomas Maier, 03/14/1997). In a form of expressive individualism, Tom Buckowski, from Studio City, California said, “It’s my body, my choice, right? But what if I want my body cloned and warehoused for spare parts? Upon what basis can government decide what I can or cannot do with my body?”(Los Angeles Times, 3/07/1997). In both examples, the predominant voice is that of the first language of individualism. The first language refers to the “individualistic mode that is the dominant American form of discourse about moral, social, and political matters” (Bellah et al, Habits of the Heart, pg.334).
Anita Manning, a writer for USA TODAY revealed another individualistic argument in favor of cloning. In her article “Pressing a “right” to clone humans,” Manning interviews a group of gay activists, who see “breakthroughs in animal cloning technology as a path toward same-sex reproduction.” With their argument of genetic determinism, many individuals state that now that the technology is available, its use is inevitable. Randolfe Wicker, a New York businessperson, founded the Clone Rights United Front after reports of the successful cloning. He said “we’re fighting for research . . . and we’re defending people’s reproductive rights.” These examples show a very individualistic language use in favor of cloning, ironically many people who fight for the rights of individuals, form collectives to do so. In his Tuesday, February 25, 1997 article Should We Fear Dolly? James K. Glassman, a writer for the Washington post has more of a “republican” voice when discussing his favorable views on cloning. A republican voice, or second language is one that sees the benefits for society as a whole, over the consideration of the individual, though not exclusively. He points out “treatments to cure human diseases,” and the ability to produce organs for transplanting as benefits for all of society.
Also, with a deterministic voice, he points out that while cloning people is against the law in other countries, it is not in the United States. He said “I don’t think it should be certainly not at this stage . . . Trying to stop intellectual progress, in any form, is a terrible mistake.” Furthermore, “the technology is not, in principle, policeable. In other words, you couldn’t really stop research on human cloning if you wanted to.” Glassman’s language is distinctively more communitarian than my previous examples, though they all favor the technique of cloning. Most of the “scientific community” (a collective) favors the cloning of animals.
Many, including Dr. Wilmut, argue that the potential for medical and scientific advances to be enormous. He said any rush to judgement could “lead to overly restrictive limits on related but less controversial areas of research” (The Washington Post, Technique’s Use With Humans Is Feared, By Rick Weiss, Monday, February 24, 1997). With an appeal to higher authority Dr. Wilmut, and other supporting scientists argue that society as a whole can benefit from the techniques involving animal cloning. These include improved livestock herds, opportunities for research on disease, and production of protein enriched pharmaceuticals.”
When discussing the cloning of animals, the language of the “scientific community” is ultimately communitarian. Yet when the discussion shifts to the possibility of cloning humans, the water becomes a little “muddier.” Through my readings I got the impression that the topic of cloning is a little too hot for scientists in favor of human cloning to say so (for now anyway). By contrast to favoring cloning (human or animal), those who oppose it, mainly have communitarian concerns. The most prominent collective opposition to cloning was from the religious community. Evoking biblical and republican themes (second language, Bellah et al), many said, “who has the right to play God by creating life, and what are the moral obligations of the creator?” (Albany Times Union, CLONING BOTH LAMB AND TYGER, by William Safire 02/27/97).
Religious authorities, including Pope John Paul II have completely denounced human experiments. The Pope said “the temple merchants of our age who make the marketplace their religion, until they trample the dignity of the human person with abuses of every kind. We are thinking . . . about the lack of respect for life, which has become at times the object of dangerous experiments.” (Pope John Paul II as quoted by Associated Press Monday, 03/03/1997). Moral theologian Gino Concetti, who is close to Pope John Paul II, said “the creation of human life outside marriage goes against God’s plan . . . a person has the right to be born in a human way and not in the laboratory.” (Associated Press Monday, 03/03/1997). “One may not, even for a single instant, even for a good purpose, use a technique that is morally flawed,” declared the Rev. Albert Moraczewski, a theologian with the National Council of Catholic Bishops. “Cloning exceeds the limits of the delegated dominions given to the human race.”
By appealing to a higher authority and voicing the biblical language, the concerns of the religious community are clearly societal, and not individualistic in nature. They use paternalistic, degenerative and guilt by association arguments to condemn the possibility of human cloning. Although many religious collectives condemn human cloning, some favor it. An article on the TIME magazine web site stated, “the Jews and Muslims maintain that cloning of people was not only permissible, but might even be a moral obligation to help infertile couples have children.” Another interesting quotation was from Rabbi Moses Tendler, a Talmudic scholar and biologist at New York’s Yeshiva University. He argued with a quotation from Genesis. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth.” Then he continues, “and master it.” These arguments, come from religious groups, with emphasis on individual and communitarian gains. Both use a biblical voice, and an appeal to a higher authority, but the first example is more individualistic in nature and the ensuing more communitarian. Read how can diversity benefit society
In America, President Clinton has imposed a ban on federal funding for human cloning experiments. Using a biblical voice he argued that he was trying to stop “people from playing God.” He said “there is much about cloning that we still do not know. But this much we do know: any discovery that touches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry, it is a matter of morality and spirituality as well.” Everyone in government did not share President Clinton’s communitarian concern over the cloning of humans. Sen.Tom Harkin expressed his deterministic views when he said that he opposed any limits on cloning. “What utter, utter nonsense to think that we can stop cloning . . . human cloning will take place in my lifetime and I welcome it” (USA TODAY ).
Although president Clinton and Senator Harkin hold political positions (for the people), both use dissimilar language when discussing cloning. The president’s concerns are communitarian. He uses biblical and republican languages (second language), when arguing his position. Senator Harkin is clearly more individualistic, and uses the first language of Americans. In a country where there is so much diversity, we learn quickly that personal, familial and social views will always differ. One benefit of living in a democracy is that we allow our different voices to be heard. The controversy over cloning humans or animals is no exception. Your voice may be individualistic, arguing for your right at the chance of having a child, or communitarian, claiming it is the hand of God that should create humans. The important thing to keep in mind is that we need to be willing to take responsibility for our decisions, no matter what they may be. Ultimately, what we need, is to figure out a way to balance our individualistic tendencies with our collective ones. If we can do that, we are being fair to ourselves, and society as well.