Re: Cloning and Halacha

elisheva hannan crowell (elisheva@unm.edu)
Mon, 2 Jun 1997 17:22:06 -0600 (MDT)

On the subject of clones and souls (neshama).

It is important to understand the definition of cloning. A clone is any
individual organism whose genome is identical to that of another. Plants
reproduce by cloning quite often--as do lizards and fish. Although it is
not common in mammals, identical(monozygotic) twins are each clones of the
other. I hope that we are not seriously going to deny that one of the
twins has not been ensouled! I am not a rabbi and claim no special
expertise in Halachah. However, I believe that we would be treading on
seriously dangerous ethical ground if we insist that clones have no souls!
Is it possible that the definition of a clone has been confused with that
of a cyborg?

The importance of the cloned sheep is not that it is a clone. Rather, it
is that the genetic information was taken from a differentiated cell (a
cell that "knows" what kind of cell it is--this happens after the 16 cell
stage in development) and placed in an ovum (which is not differentiated).
Still the cell developed as if it were not differentiated. This has
important implications for cancer research because the onset of cancer
occurs when a cell de-differentiates ("forgets" what kind of cell it is)
and begins to divide uncontrollably. The actual process of cloning in the
lab has been done many times with other organisms than human--human
cloning would not be ethical and is not done. The process is risky and
expensive, but there are many natural clones out there (grass plants,
aspen groves, bluetail lizards, etc.:)

Elisheva Crowell
Department of Biology
University of New Mexico