Just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should be done.
That elementary message seems to be lost on the scientists who are in a race to clone a human being. Cloning is not just another step along the trail to scientific knowledge. It is a giant leap into uncharted territory, and that alone should give people pause.
For hundreds of thousands of years, mankind reproduced in only one way, which makes the rush toward genetic revolution unseemly and unwise. Artificial insemination has been used for less than 100 years by humans. In vitro fertilization is barely more than a generation old -- the first "test tube baby" was born in 1978.
No comparison: But those procedures, as radical as they may have seemed at the time, were only variations on the basic biological theme of reproduction. By whatever method the sperm and egg happened to get together, there was still a sperm and egg involved. The resulting child was a unique combination of traits from the biological mother and biological father.
With cloning, it only takes one to tango.
Scientists are divided over whether a cloned child would be destined to mature into a carbon copy of its donor. And they are divided over whether a cloned child would be likely to be a healthy child, or whether it would have the kind of genetic or physical abnormalities found in animals that have been cloned. Virtually all agree that the road to the successful birth of a human clone would be littered with failures.
That should give anyone pause. But since it hasn't, Congress should act now to declare a moratorium on human cloning. Not a ban, but a moratorium of at least five years.
That would give scientists more time to conduct cloning experiments with lower mammals and to arrive at a better understanding of the mechanics and physical hazards of cloning.
Time to think: It would also give ethicists time to seriously debate the implications of cloning. In turn, the public at large would have an opportunity to develop a better understanding of a process that until a very few years ago was the stuff of science fiction novels.
In the meantime, of course, scientists in Europe could be merrily experimenting with cloning, discarding their failures along with other laboratory byproducts as if changing the way a human being is produced is no different than trying to produce a fatter chicken or a blight-resistant grain.
If so, that will be their loss, even if they win the race to produce the first clone.