Home Fiqh - Laws Human cloning from a religious point of view

Human cloning from a religious point of view

By: Bayynat editor

The following is an article by David Gibson published in the Huffington Post. The article tackles one of the most significant, yet controversial issues in the last two decades. Advanced scientific research and technology has facilitated cloning and turned it into a frequent experiment. However, the concept of creating another life is one that allegedly contradicts with the work of the Creator. Certain religious scholars have deemed it as an infringement upon the works of the Lord.

The edicts of the Shiite religious authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), often represent an advanced conception in the way Islam approaches prevalent cases. Certainly, it would not be an exaggeration to say that most of his edicts give rise to rich and controversy debates and discussions at both jurisprudential and intellectual levels. Those edicts obtain the enthusiasm of the enlightened persons and are ‘lapidated’ by ‘the people of caves and caverns’ as he calls them, as an indication to their feeble-mindedness.The attitudes of this religious authority - whose knowledge in jurisprudence, whose stupendous culture, and whose sobriety in dealing with cases of philosophy, life and the challenges facing Islam are unquestionable and indisputable - appear to be unfamiliar sometimes such as his recent opinion regarding the subject of cloning.Sayyed Fadlullah considered cloning as a scientific event that does not defy the religious doctrine believing in God as the One and Only Creator.

“News that scientists had for the first time recovered stem cells from cloned human embryos prompted dire warnings from religious leaders who say the research crosses a moral red line and could lead to designer babies.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, point man for the U.S. Catholic bishops on bioethical issues, said Wednesday (May 15) that “this means of making embryos for research will be taken up by those who want to produce cloned children as ’copies’ of other people.”

Human cloning “treats human beings as products,” O’Malley said on behalf of the bishops, “manufactured to order to suit other people’s wishes. … A technical advance in human cloning is not progress for humanity but its opposite.”

Critics argue there are other ethical techniques for creating stem cells that may help cure illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and diabetes and that the alternatives do not require cloning human embryos or destroying them. The most popular alternative is harvesting adult stem cells from the same patient.

“Given that science has passed cloning by for stem cell production, this announcement seems simply a justification for making clones, and makes reproductive cloning and birth of human clones more likely,” said David Prentice of the Family Research Council.

The cloning breakthrough was accomplished by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University and was announced Wednesday in the journal Cell. It followed 15 years of failed experiments and the infamous case of fraud when a South Korean biologist falsely claimed to have cloned human embryos.

To achieve their breakthrough, researchers had to refine techniques that had been used on monkey embryos: This time they were able to take DNA from a human patient and splice it into a human egg that had its DNA removed. The egg then grew into an early-stage embryo whose stem cells - a virtual genetic copy of the original patient - were then harvested.

Many Christian experts, especially Catholic bioethicists who believe life begins at conception, object to the destruction of human embryos for any purpose.

But they also say the new technique could lead to the cloning of replica human beings because it is similar to the process used to produce the cloned sheep named Dolly in 1996. That technique has since been used to clone a dozen other animal species.”

This moral scientific controversyneeds to be dealt with on a level of tolerance and understanding. His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein (ra), when the matter was brought to the table, pointed out to the fact that “scientists have discovered the divine law in creating living beings; and all the discoveries and inventions of human beings could not make a law, they only arrived at the laws deposited in the universe, and the human being does not possess the secrets and principles to create the law.”In an interview with “Al-Ra’y Al-‘Aam” (The Public Opinion), his Eminence emphasized the idea that “science is God’s gift for human beings. The problem does not lie in science itself; it rather lies in misusing it” and that “breaking away with established customs [or procedures] does not represent a human disaster. Islam regards the mind as the basis of responsibility and the foundation of the sane thinking. Nonetheless, the problem is that some people still live in the caves of backwardness and the caverns of the past; they do not understand the ground principle of Islam and so they lapidate everything new, accusing it of disbelief, atheism and deviation.” Fadlullah, furthermore, clarified that he supports neither the universalization nor the undermining of the cloning phenomenon. After having explained the advantages and disadvantages of cloning, he said that “this phenomenon will remain within its scientific limits and will not be allowed to become widely spread. Consequently, no danger, originating from these experiments, is threatening humanity. And it ought to be said that Islamic legislation maintains that once evil vanquishes good in any subject, transgression prevails, and vice versa.”

The Shiite religious authority disagreed with the Vatican that saw cloning as an abuse of the human being and an offense to his dignity; he wondered “why don’t we consider taking an eye, a kidney or a heart from a human being and transplant it in another as an abuse of the human being’s organs?”

On the contrary, Sayyed Fadlullah said that if cloning turned out to be a solution or a remedy for some of the human being’s problems, it would then redound to the benefit of preserving his dignity. He, then, called people to consult sociologists, psychologists and jurists rather than jurisprudents in order to identify the positive as well as the negative consequences of cloning. His Eminence explained further that “cloning does not cancel the individual human evolution in what the human being’s thinking can move towards new directions and emotions; and in consequence, there is no need to clone a new Hitler or a new Nero, etc… because the natural way of reproduction and the objective circumstances will make for us, in one way or another, examples [and examples] of them.