Soaring Spirit with Tears


Cloning, Stem Cell Research,
and Genetic Engineering
Ethical and Spiritual Commentary

Yesterday, the news was blistering with the announcement of the birth of the first human cloned baby. The owner of the company that offers this service as well as her spiritual mentor gave ever so many interviews to the press over and above the initial news release and brief statements (in which Rael was not a participant.) I do not know why Dr. Boisselier chose to have Rael present during the interviews, perhaps because she wanted moral support, perhaps in order to fortify the religious position on cloning since the bioethicists would certainly waste no time in presenting their views . . . and the FDA has not approved cloning as a medical procedure for humans.

This said, this day absolutely had to happen. It had to happen because it would not be possible to prevent scientists from implementing their knowledge . . . and because science itself is so deeply wedded to materialism that attaining immortality through this particular mechanism would sooner or later not only be a goal but a potential.

The ethical arguments center mainly on the normality—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually—of the person created in this manner, the detractors saying that preliminary experiments with animals have not shown that the technology exists to create perfect examples of the species. Aside from this issue, there are few jarring ethical arguments.

I personally am not offended by human cloning nearly to the same extent that I am by experiments on animals, largely because of the consensual issue. I have consistently taken the position that my body is both my temple and my own. As a temple, I can build more than one copy from the same blueprint, and it is worth doing this if I can staff the temple. Whether or not I or anyone else can staff the temple remains to be seen. As far as my body being my own is concerned, I have much more resentment over the use of viruses to engineer food, the intrusion of vaccines into bananas and other articles of food, and the crossing of species by using cod genes to protect tomatoes from damage from cold. For me, these experiments cross the line because absolutely no safety studies suggest that the food created in this manner is safe to consume . . . or that the ecological systems of the Planet can be restored if the experiments prove to be a disaster. That they are likely to be a disaster seems almost certain.

Being a vegetarian, I bitterly resent the cross species experiments. Not accepting the germ theory for what it purported to explain throughout the 20th century is further basis for rejecting vaccines in my food supply. The list is long. I also resent xenohormones in my food, and there are truly profound spiritual and medical reasons for rejecting this contamination of the food supply that, in my opinion, are far more serious than the human cloning issues.

The question is whether we draw lines in the sand. If we do, where do we draw them? Can we stop science from creating more and more diabolical weapons? It seems we cannot so our power is focused on how to control the weapons once they are developed . . . and everyone on the Planet ought now to be actively involved in this issue because it is far more important than half a dozen cloned humans.

Cloning is obviously tempting. Our desire to perpetuate ourselves must be one of the many distortions of our identity crisis, but if one takes Rael at face value (which I am inclined to do), then cloning is, in his mind, the beginning of an efficiency measure. He believes we will be able to download all of our experience into a new form and that growth of the form can be accelerated so that the tedious process of learning what we already know can be obviated. This is obviously something to consider in an age when we stand on the brink of truly amazing Galactic travel in which wear and tear on forms may pose a risk to exploration, discovery, and long journeys. I'm sure he has other reasons as well.

The method of procreation in some species, and perhaps early on in the human species, entails a type of cloning. In fact, sexual reproduction involves what we might call cloning except that the egg and seed of two donors are used instead of merely one. It must be really frustrating to men that they cannot clone themselves, but it is truly amazing that women can. For me, there are deep reasons for a woman to seek immortality apart from male intervention; but I do not know if a woman can succeed.

Here is my proposition. Life comes from spirit and the form is material. Holding a form together without spirit is probably impossible. I am not suggesting that it is impossible to create the appearance of life for a short time, but I think this appearance is most often based on superficial observations of residual prana. By this, I mean that everything in Creation has a pranic component and, in some instances, this may separate gradually from the form. When this occurs, the appearance of life remains, sort of like using a respirator to make lungs work, but there is no spirit in the breath. Sooner or later, the appearance of life will disappear, but we all know of instances in which the refusal to accept this prolonged the appearance.

So now the question is who vivifies the clones? Since the technique for replicating my DNA is different from downloading my memory and perhaps different again from finding a soul to inhabit the clone, we simply have to watch. Again, however, I might propose that the queue for incarnating is likely very long and there are souls who will gladly venture an incarnation in a cloned form, and they may have a variety of different reasons for this willingness. Therefore, I am not offended by this; not a single nerve is pinched by the notion that a fully conscious incarnating individual would choose a cloned form over one that was produced through artificial insemination or normal impregnation. In fact, the desirability of such a form might surpass one from a drug addicted mother who was raped.

My questions concern the concept of immortality. In this case, we are talking about immortality of some DNA, not immortality of the incarnating individual, which, in my belief is guaranteed anyway. For countless millennia now, reproduction has involved a process of greater and greater diversification through the vagaries of the selection and mutation processes. If one feels one has achieved a perfect form, then the desire for greater mutation ceases to exist even if the notion of perfection is subject to doubts.

Yesterday's press releases did not make it known who the mothers are nor what their reasons for cloning are. I suspect we will soon learn that all the participants are Raelians, and this will surely add to the drama.

With stem cell research, I am stymied by the religious objections and wish to submit some of my own views.

Since Edward Jenner first inoculated humans with cowpox, we have been introducing foreign substances into our bodies on medical pretexts, i.e., as differentiated from food taken as medicine or nutrition. We donate and transfuse blood. Very few are objecting to this even though it poses some risks as well as saves lives. We transplant organs. We simply have not harvested eggs from a woman for the purpose of growing new tissue or cloning. We think there is a line in the sand between donating a heart from a previous owner whose body has given up the ghost, an apt metaphor in this instance, and donating an egg for in vitro fertilization or use by a surrogate mother or a woman who wishes to clone herself (for whatever reasons she has.)

If you listen to Christopher Reeve on the topic of stem cell research, there really can be no resistance to the use of his wife's egg to help rebuild his own spinal column. The only ethical arguments advanced to-date are that women might be exploited for their eggs. Are men who donate sperm to sperm banks exploited? Granted, the method of harvesting is different, but so long as the process is 100% voluntary, there is no exploitation; and it absolutely doesn't really matter whether the person offering the eggs is paid or not for her eggs. The issue of payment is entirely separate from the issue of ethics. If there is no pressure on the donor and she offers her eggs lovingly, there is wonder at work, not exploitation. If she is paid and the exchange is fair, i.e., someone who is rich helps someone who is less well off, so be it. This is the way of the market, and there is a medical market whose realities are sometimes heart breaking and sometimes uplifting.

I personally am somewhat disgusted by transfusions and transplants so I submitted my hygienic resistance to Buddhist sages and was basically reminded that the opportunity to be incarnate is a precious opportunity and it should not be squandered. Therefore, if there is a way to prolong life that does no harm to others, one should support the prolongation.

So, what is most difficult for me to understand and accept is that the same religious and political groups that seem to support sanctions and war and capital punishment are opposed to stem cell research and cloning. I find these people irrational. They obviously do not understand life because on the one hand, they are willing to take life, but they are not willing to support the gift of life. I have therefore cast my vote in favor of these controversial new sciences because, in the end, I think they are more humane than they are offensive.

This said, I have no personal interest in cloning myself. I am committed, for the moment, to the much less efficient and often arduous method of repeatedly incarnating—and trying to recover lost memory—until my destiny is fulfilled.

Ingrid Naiman
28 December 2002




Poulsbo, Washington