poly: the repugnance for cloning

From: Damien Broderick <damien@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au>
Date: Sun Jan 11 1998 - 05:09:59 PST

I'm taking the liberty of reposting something here that I just sent to
another list, because I think it's an important issue.

At 03:10 PM 1/10/98 -0500, [an extropian] wrote:

>I also think that the word "cloning" has a negative semantic value.
>Pro-cloning people should publicly redefine their position with a much
>more acceptable catch phrase, like 'artificial twinning', 'assisted

Yep, but lose that nasty `artificial' instantly! We all know how hateful
`artificial' things are - like dental fillings and cars and clothings...
Actually, I suspect most people here are closing their eyes to the real
complexity of this kind of reaction. Rather than simply rail against the
evil Luddites, it might help to understand what mental templates or gadgets
are being activated against cloning. The so-called `Yuck factor' is not to
be despised but understood. It helps save our lives or at least our
comfort quite a lot of the time. Hence it's largely out of our control,
once the switches have been set in infancy. Consider the fact that you
happily swallow pints of your own saliva every week, and even scoff down a
juicy mouthful from your kissy friend (if you're in luck), but would you
drink a warm cup of your own spit? I didn't think so. Yuck!

And the rhetorial move I outlined at the start - mocking the fear of
artifice when everything in life is imbricated with it - is pretty suspect
in turn. It's based, I suspect, on the false premise that most people *do*
relish these innovations. On one level, yes, you'd be mad to wish to stand
out in the snow if you could come inside and sit in front of the glowing
heater. But most of these benefits have endlessly irritating side-effects
- the dread and discomfort if not pain of the dentist, the annoyance of
washing the car and paying for the damned thing and keeping it fed and
putting up with the cretins on the road and where the hell will I park...
Behind that is the deep yearning, perhaps, for the signifiers of our ESS -
the savanna landscape, the pulse of a slow hunting/gathering cycle, the
familiarity of a genetically bonded band where our inborn device for
scoping out what's on everyone else's mind works best.

On top of that, there really *are* plenty of reasonable objections to
people producing `assisted twins' that are not of the same age, but of
different generations and clearly meant to be subject to all manner of
unprecedented psychological pressures from their 40 or 50 year-older
brother or sister slash `parent'. Bad enough to be T. H. Huxley's son
(although okay to be his grandchild), which almost ruined Leonard Huxley as
I recall - imagine the horrors of being his *cloned child*.

There's more involved in these apparently stupid reaction than can easily
be dismissed, I'd submit.

Damien Broderick
Received on Sun Jan 11 02:28:43 1998

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