The Scoop

Think Twice

By Bob Harris

SCIENTISTS announced last week that they’ve cloned the first adult mammal. Human cloning will surely follow. We’re facing some big new questions. Since cloning will be expensive at first, won’t only rich people be cloned? Will Donald Trump breed in the wombs of 289 Puertoriqueñas from Bayonne who need the money? Is it possible that 100 years from now entire cities will be named Perot and Forbes?

If not, won’t clones still be considered status symbols, displayed at cocktail parties and on the cover of InStyle magazine? Or will the replication of the rich simply dilute their wealth? Will a black market arise, where the poor can get a back-alley clone?

Will actually being a clone therefore carry a certain élan? Or will it be more déclassé, like owning a print of an oil painting instead of the original?

Once cloning can begin in utero, how will we tell clones from originals? Dental records? Tattoos? Certificates of authenticity we carry with our driver’s licenses?

Will clones be subconsciously considered disposable? Will killing a clone carry less of a stigma than murdering the original?

How long until some rich guy creates lobotomized “spares” to replace his own aging human body parts? Will wealthy parents hire surrogates and have their children in batches of four and five, so there are extras if one gets hit by a car?

What Social Security numbers would clones get? Will we just add a letter to the donor’s number, starting with A for the first clone, B for the second, and so on?

Since most replicants will be born into wealth, will we see outbreaks of envious blue-collar clone-bashing? Will clones, like other oppressed groups, develop a system of non-verbal behaviors–e.g., wearing lapel pins shaped like rubber stamps–to signify their status? Will clones start a support group (ACNE: Adult Children of Nobody, Exactly) and a distinct vernacular (“eclonics”)?

In school, why shouldn’t clones be allowed to copy on exams?

Since only a small percentage of clone-fertilized eggs survive the process, how long until pro-lifers begin bombing chemistry labs?

Since DNA can be furtively collected from things like used Kleenex, how long until someone is cloned against their will? Will it be a crime? With what punishment? Who will get custody of the clone?

Will professional sports have strict anti-cloning rules? If not, how much will Michael Jordan’s toenail clippings be worth?

Will cloning a second set of kids become a custody option in divorce proceedings? If someone who has been cloned dies without a will, who gets the stuff? The family or the clone? If a clone has déjà vu, how can he tell?

If one accepts the Catholic notion of new-soul-at-conception, when exactly does a clone’s soul form? If without conception there’s no new soul, does the clone timeshare with the original? What happens if the donor is saved and the replicant isn’t? If clones have no soul, can they sing gospel music convincingly? Since DNA can be recovered from the dead, what’s the status of the clone’s soul then?

Since clones can be born to a virgin mother, will they therefore be holy?

How long before someone attempts to validate the Shroud of Turin by scraping off some DNA, raising the kid, and seeing if he can transform water into wine? If a Jesus clone goes to church, will he sit in the audience or onstage? When he starts advocating humility, pacifism, and aid to the needy, how long before he gets crucified? Since DNA evidence will become all but meaningless, what will Barry Scheck do for a living?

If a woman has a ménage à trois with her husband and his clone, has she violated her wedding vows? Is a child sired by the clone illegitimate?

Masturbation isn’t generally considered a crime. How about touching your clone in a sexually arousing way?

And how long until cloning is outlawed by male-dominated legislatures–just as soon as they realize that women no longer need them?

From the March 6-12, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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