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Philosophy scholars share views on cloning

Recent claims in the news of human cloning are “pushing the frontiers of publicity'' when it should be human knowledge that is furthered, Dr. Loren Lomasky said yesterday during a taping of The Editors.

Dr. Lomasky, a Bowling Green State University philosophy professor, and Dr. Eric Snider, head of the University of Toledo's philosophy department, discussed the ethics of human cloning with Thomas Walton, vice president-editor of The Blade. The show will be broadcast at 9 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

While Dr. Lomasky cautioned against a Frankenstein-flavored view of all scientific advances, Dr. Snider warned that in the case of human cloning, the costs are incredibly high.

“This will require human experimentation,'' Dr. Snider said.

For every animal cloned, there have been hundreds of failed attempts. Most embryos never develop. Those that do seldom result in a live birth. The few animals born live often die soon afterward. There are significant birth defects. Clone No. 1 in 1997, Dolly the sheep, is prematurely aged and arthritic. These are the risks that human cloning will encounter as well.

But research in animals moves forward rapidly, with successful cloning of cattle, mice, pigs, goats, cats, and rabbits. While neither philosopher believed the Raelians' recent cloning claims, Dr. Lomasky said such an event is “close to our grasp.''

“Increases in knowledge are to be welcomed,'' he said. And attempts to legislate against cloning not only stifle advancement but impinge on individual liberties.

“New things make us uncomfortable,'' Dr. Lomasky said. Recall the outcry accompanying announcements of the world's first “test tube baby” in 1978, Louise Brown, Dr. Lomasky said. Now, such births are commonplace.

Still, Dr. Snider said, people must consider the burden on any child created by cloning.

Both men noted that cloning does not guarantee carbon-copy babies. Human personality, skill, and character are formed by everything from fetal environment, to parental teachings, to the neighborhood a child lives in.

Should cloning become practical and legal, Dr. Lomasky sees little chance of it becoming too popular. “Probably it's not going to be a significant competitor to sexual reproduction, which has its own charms,'' he said.

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