Cloning and the Working Class
This paper will attempt to address what is perhaps the single most life altering issue facing
our societies today. It is life altering in the utmost sense of the word, literally altering life as we
know it. Life on this planet has undergone some significant changes since the dawn of civilization;
the discovery of fire, the wheel, the industrial revolution, and the list goes on. The industrial
revolution brought perhaps the most significant changes to society as a whole, for it was at this
point that we moved from a fuedal society to a capitalist society. Industrialization took the men
off the land and put them into the positions of wage earners working for someone else, merely
supplying labor. Women on the other hand, were forced into the home looking after the child
rearing and looking after the man so he was able to go out into the world to sell his labor, the
domestication of women so to speak. This was never a healthy system as it made very clear the
divisions between those who had and those who had not, a division between the owners of the
means of production and the working class. Out of this division has arisen conflict, for it was
inevitable that the working class would come to resent the opportunities denied to them but so
freely given to others. The world has seen the result of this conflict in the form of tax revolts,
revolutionary wars, and misguided attempts at Marxism. These conflicts and revolutions have had
their effects on society but nothing significant or long lasting has prevailed. There is a new type of
revolution on the horizon which has the potential to not only change society as we know it, but if
we are not very vigilant in its use, has the potential to change the species itself. This new
revolution is a technological revolution of a different order, for this new technology tinkers with
the very heart of the species, the human Genome. Cloning, the reproduction of the ideal or
altered genome, has the potential to radically change life on earth.
Genetic engineering was the natural precursor to cloning. This involves the alteration of the genetic makeup of a plant or animal. The DNA string can be manipulated in such a way as to
give plants or animals characteristics not common to that particular species. Most of our food
crops have been genetically engineered. The gene responsible for making a scorpion sting
poisonous has been placed into cotton and corn to make them invulnerable to insects which feed
upon them. When an insect bites the altered plant, it dies instantly. Genes from a flounder which
allow it to survive in sub-freezing temperatures have been spliced into tomatoes so they may
withstand frost. Most of us are not aware of these advances as there are no regulations in place
obligating anyone to label their products with regard to any genetic alterations. Practically all
grain crops have been altered in some way so as to be unsusceptible to the blights and insects that
used to torment grain producers.
What is cloning, who will benefit, and what is the prevailing ideology attached to it? With
regard to ideology, there is no one prevailing ideology, but rather a plethora of ideologies
emanating from a myriad of social, religious, and special interest groups. Oddly enough the one
institution which seems not express any formal ideology would be any specific government.
Governments seem to be very hesitant to take any kind of stand on this blooming technology
other than some token and quite meaningless guidelines set down by Great Britain and Australia.
Is this lack of control the result of political weakness or is it that the governments are waiting for
the technology to prove itself before adopting and promoting any ideology of its own? Or from a
more sinister standpoint could it be that governments feel quite confident that the same people
who want this technology are the same people who are responsible for the placement of, and have
the protection of these governments.
This is not a new technology, but has been with us for some time. It has existed in nature for as long as humans or other mammals have been reproducing, as in the case of identical twins,
which are clones in the truest sense of the word. Frogs were successfully cloned as early as
1953(Dixon, P., 2000) and identical twins have been made in the lab by mechanically splitting a
fertilized egg, although these eggs were never allowed to grow and develop.
There are two ways to make a clone. There is the forced splitting of a fertilized egg as
mentioned above, and the more talked about and controversial method of nuclear transfer. The
latter involves removing the genetic material from an ovum and replacing it with the genetic
material from whatever source you choose. The ovum is then "jump started" with a small
electrical current to start the process of cell division. It is this technology that would enable one to
mass produce a super strain of cow, plant, or human. It is this process which scares most of us
and titillates a few. This process is very closely related to "stem cell" research which is enveloped
in storm clouds of its own, but on the face seems quite benevolent and is often used to cloud the
issue of human cloning. Stem cell cloning is the growing of specific cells in the lab such as liver
or spinal tissue which can be grown from the cells of the recipient so as to negate the need for
immuno suppressant drug therapies. This research gets dragged into the cloning debate with good
reason as we will see later on. Stem cell research and cloning are at the focal point of scientific
research and much controversy.
Two questions need to be asked regarding these technologies: Who stands to gain and
who stands to lose? The religionists, the moralists, the feminists, the reactionaries, and of course
the scientists all want to answer these questions for us in their own way with their own ideologies.
The problem with analyzing and comparing any of these to the reality is that as of today there is
no documented or publicized reality, only imagination and speculation. What we have going for us here is the nature of these technologies, what drives them, and how they fall prey to human greed
and man’s continuing inhumanity to man.
Cloning first came to the world’s attention in 1997, when Dr. Ian Wilmut announced the
birth of Dolly, a sheep cloned from her mother’s tissue using the nuclear transfer method. Dolly’s
birth was significant, but the timing the announcement of her birth even more so, for Dolly was
born seven months before the announcement was made to the public. This highlights one of the
dark sides of the cloning debate, the time lag between developments and their being made public.
Why does this lag exist, and what purpose does it serve, or more concretely, who does it serve?
The cloning of mammals stopped being science fiction with the birth of Dolly, and the cloning of
humans is the next logical step. Claude Vorilhorn, a brilliant and well backed scientist based in
Nevada has started an organization named Clonaid dedicated to the development of human
cloning. Clonaid hopes to announce the birth of a cloned human late in 2001, or early 2002, a
clone of a 10-month-old child that died tragically (ABC News). Clonaid would not reveal the cost
of this procedure, but did indicate that it was very high. This raises a question posed by the
moralists which we will address later, regarding the right to self-determination.
Cloning is here now, and it is no longer a futuristic topic for the genre of science fiction.
What is the prevailing ideology around cloning? At this point it would seem there is no one
ideology that prevails over any other. There are several groups in society promoting an ideology,
each with it’s own agenda, and each wanting to preserve or improve the status of the part of
society that each represents. We will look at some of the dominant ideologies and determine what
the group promoting the ideology stands to lose or gain from cloning.
Where does the ruling class stand on cloning? While no one person or anyone directly representing the ruling class has stepped forward and made declaration of their position, it would
be fair to say that big business speaks for this group. Big business wants this technology to
develop. Multi nationalist corporations are already making big dollars using this new technology.
The Monsanto Corp. is one of the forerunners in the field of bioengineering food crops. Their
position was made clear last year when they filed suit against a Saskatchewan farmer whose
canola bean crop was cross-pollinated (naturally) with their genetically engineered canola crop
from a neighboring field. They wanted compensation for their pollen, and were granted that suit
by the courts. The value of the tiny little pharmaceutical company that funded Dr. Wilmut
increased by sixty million dollars the day after Dolly’s birth was made public (Dixon, P., 2000).
Corporate giants like Monsanto promote their developments as the solution to world hunger, with
the development of stronger and higher yielding crops that are resistant to the blights and insects
that make production in certain parts of the world problematic. This argument is a fallacy and
smoke screen at best. At present the only thing in the way of feeding the world’s hungry is
corporate greed. A case in point would be the recent Y2K bug at the turn of the century. It was
estimated that world wide, some nine billion dollars were spent to cure the Y2K problem which
resulted only as a result of corporate shortsightedness. Did no one think we would see the year
2000 when this software was developed? The cost of eliminating world hunger at the time was
estimated to be one third of that. It is not hard to see where the priorities of the corporate giants
lie. It is not in eliminating world hunger. Canada alone has the agricultural resources to feed the
world, if those resources were turned to that end. How much of Canada’s agricultural land is
dedicated to the production of grain for alcohol, tobacco, or lying under the concrete tracts of
suburbia? The feminists are in general against any further forays into reproductive technologies.
Andrea Dworkin offered up her viewpoint on this new method of reproduction, and although it
may be a bit extremist, it makes the point. In Right-wing Women Dworkin classes men’s control
of women’s sexuality and reproductive roles as the brothel model and the farming model.
"The farming model relates to motherhood, women as a class planted with the male seed
and harvested; women used for the fruit they bear, like trees; women who run the gamut
from prized cows to mangy dogs, from highbred horses to sad beasts of burden." (Pg.
She goes on to say in a later writing
" . . . it is shocking to see a new desperation in women to be married mothers--to be in
the most protected social circle–so as to not be exiled into the desolate dystopia of the
pornographically liberated woman. Married infertile women turn themselves into lab rats
to achieve a technologized pregnancy. The process is painful and humiliating by all
accounts; there is failure after failure; the woman’s desperation to conceive grows with
the physical torment of being worked on; and her sense of needing a baby more than she
needs her own life can push her past decency, into the wombs of other women, less
valued, women who will do (the new) reproductive prostitution because they need the
money, the food, the shelter, all of which will be provided for the duration of the
pregnancy. A live birth means the end of care and attention, thus the common
extortionate refusal to give up the baby. The stand in, of course, may feel love. Her body
has fed the fetus; she has shared her blood, experienced morning sickness and an assault
of hormonal change and disruption. She has carried the fetus inside herself, in her body, and then she is supposed to move on, childless from that pregnancy. This is cruel. This is
wrong." (Clones and Clones, 1998)
While Dworkin’s views may be a bit extreme, they are not totally without foundation, as
men’s domination and control of women has proven, particularly when it comes to reproductive
technologies. Cloning may be the absolute power over reproduction that men have always
wanted. In a world where cloning works, only compliant women may have status or even be
allowed to live.
Probably the most prominent and widely dispersed ideology is that promoted by the
moralists and religionists. Religion is still a very big part of our society today and still carries
much political weight. One of the quandaries facing George Bush today is the polarized position
of his two strongest supporters, big business and the religious right, the latter opposed to any
funding or political support for further research and development of cloning technologies. The
religionists will fall back on the claim that only God can create life, or at least now only God has
the right to create life. The Catholic church has condemned cloning as immoral, but most rational
thinkers would not grant any validity to any support offered for that argument as the Catholic
church calls any kind of assisted reproduction immoral. None of us will be much aided by those
familiar religious factions who think like "certainty factories" with their quick ready-made
pronouncements of right and wrong. Rather a more rational and thought out debate would
address some more universally ethical and moral issues.
Do we really want to proceed so quickly with a technology that is so clearly market driven
without serious ethical and moral reflection? Of course we do not, we cannot, for the cost may be
too high and the damage realized only after it is too late. In a world that is already moving toward the "Global Village," do we want to proceed with a strategy that has the potential of eliminating
any differences altogether, moving toward what Foucault termed the reign of "more of the same?"
We should be alarmed at the lack of any ethical consensus as to what constitutes a person as
human. Again we must not allow a market driven desire for profits drown out the voices of the
ethical. Do human beings want to become a manufactured and marketable commodities? Does the
current debate include the less powerful cultures of the world, or is this strictly between the
"have" nations? Will the development of this technology widen the gap between the rich and poor
nations? Finally, and on the other side of the issue, can we afford not to develop any technology
which has the potential to reduce or eliminate so many of the ills known to mankind? Cloning and
the manipulation of the human genome may be the keys to solving the cancer riddle, or the aids
epidemic, and the list goes on, but the work must be debated and tightly controlled for any good
to come of it.
The only group whose ideology promotes the full scale development of this new
technology is big business. Those in power would have us believe that the ability to clone will
benefit all of mankind making the world a better place to live with world hunger eliminated,
disease eradicated, and a stronger more robust species to face the environmental and social
challenges of the future. But I do not believe that this group has anyone’s but their own best
interests at heart. This group is not known for using any kind of ethic in moving toward its goals,
only bottom line thinking, coupled with a means-end approach. There has already been established
a market for body parts as well as a market for reproducing lost loved ones as the Clonaid project
demonstrates. The desire for profit would make these technologies available only to the rich and
powerful and the working class would still be in the position of not having the resources to take advantage of this new technology serving only to widen the gap between rich and poor and
leaving one more reason to cause tension between the two.
Cloning is an issue of the most public kind as it threatens so many of our traditions and
institutions. We are on the brink of the most life altering event in the history of the human race.
This could actually signal the downfall of the species in a worse case scenario, or forever change
how society functions at best. Cloning has the potential to bring an entirely new class of person to
the existing structure; the "C" class if you will. Will clones be granted special status for their
genetic superiority, will only clones be allowed to marry clones so as to protect the man-made
gene pool? If ever there was a time when society as a whole needed to question and examine what
is happening, now is it. The problem here is we can only speculate and imagine what will be. With
so many ideologies afloat how is one to know or even be informed as to what is happening in this
race to perfect the human race.
I believe that cloning or stem cell cloning of body parts serves only the ruling class, due to
the extremely high cost of any procedure associated with this technology. The issue has been
clouded for good reason, to cover or detract from the social ramifications of cloning. From any
readings on the issue, it seems the working class has the least say in the debate. The only group
that remotely represents the working class that has promoted any ideology of their own is the
feminists, with their strong opposition to cloning. Where is the voice of the working class in this
debate? Why have we not adopted any one ideology or seem not to take interest in what could
have such an impact on our lives? Has the working class become so accustomed to having no real
say in what happens to them that they have resigned their fates to others? Maybe in the day to day
struggle to keep their heads above water there is no time for, or interest in, such philosophical debates as these. A recent Internet survey showed only 6 percent of those responding to be in
favor of further research into cloning. I would consider this medium the most available as far as
responding to a question such as this and 6 percent is extremely low, yet there is no public outcry
demanding strong controls for further development of this most scary technology. But one thing
is for certain. We cannot stand by and let those with only their selfish interests at heart determine
the fate of so many without somehow getting involved.
Dixon, Patrick, 2000. Human Cloning
Dworkin, Andrea, 1998. Clones and Clones. Nussbaum and Sunstein
Dworkin, Andrea, 1983. Right Wing Women. Coward-McCann