English 165LB: Literature & Biotechnology (W11)

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Cloning discussion thread

Posted by rraley on January 26, 2011

// If you want to post about VAS, use one of the previous discussion threads. Let’s start the topic of cloning here.

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20 Responses to “Cloning discussion thread”

  1. Katherine Courtney said

    While reading, “never Let Me Go,” a lot of questions came up. While Ishiguro answered a lot of them, he did not answer all of them. One of the questions is, why can the cloned students, such as Kathy and Ruth, not get pregnant? I only got from the book that they were clones, not anything more. So I found an article from the University of Connecticut on the reproduction of cloned cows. http://news.uconn.edu/2001/jun2001/rel01060.htm. It is evident that these cows can reproduce. So, I don’t understand why the students at Hailsham biologically cannot?
    Also, what happened with the getting cut question? Tommy hurt his arm and then got it bandaged up. He was told by another student that his skin will “zip” apart if he bends his elbow. Ishiguro never answered if that was true. If it was, why would their skin do that? Aren’t they just exact replicas of who they were cloned after?
    Last but not least, we never learn who they were cloned after. The students believed they were cloned after junkies. Ruth was convinced she was cloned after a prostitute or someone in that category because of her sexual urges. Yet, Ruth and Tommy both admitted to having them. Did that mean they were all cloned after the same kind of person or was it just a part of their “differentness” in being cloned?

    • Dana Reinhart said

      In response to Katherine’s post about “the getting cut question”:

      I think the issue of Tommy’s elbow “zipping apart” was just a way for the other students to mess with him. At least in my opinion, Tommy’s elbow could no more zip apart than my own. However, by making a joke about their insides becoming exposed to the outside world, the students may have been trying to alleviate their anxiety about their future donations. I think that by joking about “unzipping” parts of their bodies, they were trying to come to terms with the scary thought that one day some doctor with a scalpel would essentially do just that.

    • Stephanie Bell said

      In response to the question about why they aren’t allowed to reproduce:

      I think that it will be simply a decision by Ishiguro to not allow the students to reproduce, and somewhere unwritten we must assume that as part of the cloning process the ability to reproduce was taken away. I think the reason for this is it would raise more questions about the social problems caused by cloning. If a clone is able to reproduce then somewhere down the line, when cloning has become a large scale operation it would alter the gene pool. This would mean that our genetic diversity would be reduced and it is of course this diversity which allows humans to survive in different conditions.

      • Jonathan Berthet said

        Great question about why they can’t reproduce.

        I think that the author can be making two statements:

        1) By focusing on keeping the clones as the ‘end of the blood line’ and also the only ‘exception,’ he wanted to emphasize their significance and uniqueness. He also probably wanted the reader to feel that there was no continuation of the clone, but really, an end to life.
        2) Going off what was mentioned in class on Tuesday, the purpose of the book is not to continue a seemingly ‘natural’ form of life in order to create life. Instead, by forming relationships and experiences with the world does one ‘create’ life.

    • Loryn Ferreira said

      I thought about that exact same question and came up with a possible reason for why Ishiguro made his clones non-reproductive or infertile.
      Most biologists would agree that there are 6 main characteristics of life: cells, organization, energy use, homeostasis, growth, and reproduction. The clones were stripped of the last characteristic of life to reinforce that they are essentially ‘not living’ or at least not viewed as living by the scientists who created them and society in general. Going off what Jonathan Berthet mentioned, the clones are supposed to be ‘an end to the bloodline’. Taking away their ability to pass on their genes and last names basically takes away their purpose as a human individual. After they die they leave nothing behind (except their vital organs).

      • Dana Reinhart said

        I definitely agree that taking away the clones’ abilities to reproduce serves to make them seem less like true, living people. Also, I think it may help keep the clones docile in regards to their eventual completion. If they were able to have children, I don’t think they would be quite as accepting of the fact that their sole purpose in life is to donate their vital organs. The possibility of having a child, of creating a normal family unit with all of the love and bonds that entails, would give the clones too much of a purpose in life, too much of a reason to live for them to calmly agree to complete.

    • Nicole Loskamp said

      In response to the question of why the clones cannot reproduce, it is important to remember these clones were created from their “original” for the purpose of harvesting usable organs. They were never meant to be actual human beings, so it is vital they cannot reproduce for that would make them much too human. Also if the clones were able to have children who would the children belong to? It is clear the clones do not have ownership of their own bodies, so would they have ownership of their babies?
      Ishiguro describes the”completion” of the clone as their end because they are not living, therefore cannot “die”. Since the argument here is that they are not living they are not able to create life.

    • Eric Higinbotham said

      I thought that the author intentionally left the identities of whom the main characters were cloned after ambiguous. Because the navel is narrated by an unreliable narrator, it can be assumed that not all the truths of the novel will be revealed. We, the readers, are in the same boat as the narrator, and there is no way that we can know anything more than she knows. If she doesn’t know whom she is cloned after, then neither should we.

      I would speculate that the originals entered a program of sorts that paid them to use their DNA for cloning. But that’s just an uneducated guess.

  2. Eric Perez said

    Upon nearing the end of Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, many questions arose that never were resolved when I finally finished it. As i was nearing the end it was actually causing frustration because the characters seemed to totally neglect to acknowledge some obvious ways of resolving many of the books conflicts. First of all, the fact that the clones are unable to reproduce, in my mind, signifies some sort of genetic manipulation by the clones’ creators. If these individuals can remove the ability of reproduction, why not remove their ability to be conscious beings? Or although this seems to be a stretch why not have other kinds of animals simply grow human organs? This would totally eliminate the need for Miss Emily to feel the obligation of making the short lives of these soon to be donors more “humane.”
    The most frustrating aspect of this novel was the clones’ attempts to escape “completion” for a few more years by deferring the time they have to submit to donations. Talk of postponing the time of donations was among many characters in the novel but in the case of Kathy and Tommy I especially felt frustrated by their inability to see that Kathy has the freedom to travel where ever she wants and can take Tommy with her. If they so greatly wanted to escape donation to live happily ever after why didn’t they just run away? There was no evidence in the novel that there was any ways of differentiating clones from normal human beings so what would stop them from functioning as normal humans?
    Even though they were told from as early as they could remember that they were made especially for that purpose, it is hard to believe that not one of the clones ran away or even attempted to escape their hopeless fates.

    • Hayley Gordon said

      It was almost unbearable reading about Kathy and Tommy when I plainly saw escape as an option. However, I realized they were highly socialized to accept their fate. Kathy relates multiple incidents when she would have feelings or instincts about something before it happens. For example, she feels she will never reproduce before she learns anything about the subject and later this fact is confirmed. I believe this instinct is from the socialization process at Hailsham. The students were unconsciously prepared for their fate. Kathy acknowledges this because she remembers already being prepared to accept this fate she mysteriously already knows. I don’t know if you can really socialize the will to live out of people in this world but I think Ishiguro is trying to send a message about the power of socialization. I believe it was harder for Kathy and Tommy to simply accept it wasn’t their duty to donate than to lay out the plans for escape.

    • Jaclyn Gold said

      “First of all, the fact that the clones are unable to reproduce, in my mind, signifies some sort of genetic manipulation by the clones’ creators.”

      To respond to your statement, I am not a biologist but I assumed that this had to do with the process of mitosis vs. meiosis. Even though their bodies were the same as humans, they might have just lacked reproductive organs. Having said that, I still believe it was quite possible for the creators to purposefully leave these organs and meiosis processes out. Having a solid family and children would most likely create a need to stay alive in my opinion. They would have reasons to abandon their “duty” as carers and donors.

  3. Victor Banuelos said

    Reading Never Let Me Go I notice he brings up the humanity of the clones throughout the book. That aside from certain biological aspects like not being able to have children they behave exactly like regular people. This moral dilemma often comes up in works dealing with cloning as the primary issue being addressed to the crowd. Films like “Moon” or even cartoons like John Weldon’s “To Be.”

    Check it out, its only 10 minutes long and pretty entertaining too.

    • Jaclyn Gold said

      The Prestige:
      **THIS IS A SPOILER! [the whole blog post]

      Your short video reminded me of the ending of The Prestige, especially with the two doors Alfred Borden uses.

      After reading so much about cloning as a means of curing diseases and having spare body parts for one’s self and other humans, it is strange to think of cloning as a way to achieve personal success in magic tricks and allusions. Alfred Borden created one clone to assist him in his magic shows, accepting that his life would now be shared by a genetically identical human. I enjoyed, though, that both Alfred and his clone fell in love with different women, because I do think that being genetically identical does not make a clone and his model the same person. I believe each individual is partly shaped by environmental factors and his blank-ish slate.

      Robert Angier created a countless number of clones to use in his performances. I find this particular line chilling: “It took courage to climb into that machine every night, not knowing if I’d be the man in the box, or the Prestige.” Robert yearned for the astonishment of a crowd so much, he was willing to have himself killed, night after night, to get an applause. He says shortly after, “You never understood, why we did this. The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something really special… you really don’t know?… it was… it was the look on their faces…” Alfred used cloning as a way of fulfilling his life through his work. This raises a lot of questions in my mind. Is the reason Alfred or Robert used cloning for their work any different than using clones for spare body parts? Alfred’s life was centered on his work; without it, he would have very few reasons for living. He would think of his life as a complete waste and failure. This is why he so inhumanely allowed murders to occur around him, as much as they terrified him. But who are people to draw a line and say that cloning is okay in some circumstances and not others? What is the point of having a cloned body part to save your life if you are unable to fulfill your life’s aspirations? I don’t know if I am articulating my ideas clearly, but what I am trying to say is Robert’s clones were just as important in his life as a clone’s body parts would be to save his life.

  4. Alexis Gibson said

    The concept of human cloning seems to generally incite fear and even abhorrence. Laws forbid it, religious leaders rail against it, and society seems to shun it. Never Let Me Go paints a disturbing image of an alternative to our past in which human cloning is essentially organ farming. The society in the novel questions whether clones are fully human, and Madame’s “Gallery” is used, as Miss Emily puts it, “to prove [the clones] had souls at all”. A Number envisions an equally unnerving reality in which a father abandons his son in favor of an undamaged copy and “a number” of Bernard’s genetic identicals roam the world. It is difficult to find an example of literature praising the rewards of creating a copy of one’s self. As a generality, our society values individuality and human uniqueness in a way that would delegitimize both clones and their “originals”. In pondering human cloning philosophically, a few questions seem to repeatedly come up: Would they have “souls”? Would they be different than their “originals”? Would they be human?
    These kinds of questions are quite far removed from scientific facts. It is almost comical that there is such a fear of cloning when we already have clones walking among us: identical twins. Debate about souls aside, it is invariably shown that identical twins are different from one another and quite human. A clone would be no different than an identical twin born at a later time. The only debate I have with reproductive cloning is that it could stagnate evolution (the exact same genes copied through generations does not increase genetic diversity). But aside from that, why couldn’t it just be an alternative method of reproduction?
    Nevertheless, society as a whole seems to be against human cloning. There even seems to be a certain amount of fear associated with identical twins, for that matter. With that, here is Stanley Kubrick’s quintessential vision of creepy twins from The Shining (1980):

    *If you do not like horror movies, this is probably the scariest and goriest part of a fairly terrifying movie.

  5. Marthine said

    Just saw this on NPR’s website: The article begins, “Biologists… have found that heightened individuality is an integral part of life in large groups of social animals.”

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/02/22/133972711/i-rodent-making-a-case-for-unique-prairie-dogs?ft=1&f=1001

    Interesting — how do we define nature and culture in this scenario? Are animal groups a kind of culture, each with their own logic?

  6. Chayanm Garcia said

    A journal from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA presents a journal titled “Headless Clones and HMOs: A Modest Proposal on the Future of Human Organ Farming,With an Addendum on Educational Reform” which has very interesting and controversial approach to this whole topic of human organ farming that Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” highlights.

    http://www.swarthmore.edu/Humanities/pschmid1/array/Gnarl3/organs.html

    This article presents an approach that tries to eliminate the feeling of guilt and inhumanity when using clones as some type of biological incubating machines; the solution would be to create this biological constructs without heads. Even though this approach does have some kind of validity regarding the lack of a brain and a central nervous system of this biological constructs, I can’t explain why it is that I do not feel completely comfortable with this idea. There’s something in me that sees this as “wrong” (maybe it’s just disgust).

    I’ve picked a couple of passages from this article in order to highlight some of the socioeconomic and ethnic discrimination and injustices are outcome of this inevitable technology. The most troubling part (for me personally since I come from this underprivileged communities) is how these underprivileged and desperate targeted communities/public have no way of knowing or having a clear sense of the type of consent they give these private/public institutions due to the complexity of such when undergoing through these medical experiments in order to create some type of income to survive.

    “Such a level of service, of course, can be afforded only by a few. Others, known as Secondary Subscribers, can afford only to rely on Labs that merely store human organs culled from the general population and organized by blood type and other factors so that the best approximate genetic fit may be found.”

    “Organ Donor Centers are prominent in impoverished urban and rural sites throughout the country; in fact, there’s a clear ratio between a low number of banks and supermarkets and a high number of Donor Centers, Blood Banks, and Check-Cashing Services.”

    “And it was this same industry that realized how to make the huge indigent customer base work for the system, rather than against it: instead of being a drain on resources, due to their demands for free medical care, the poor have now been converted to a System asset: it is this group that supplies the bulk of implant organ stock.”

  7. E Finley said

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110313/ap_on_re_us/us_cleansing_trees

    I just found this article online and at first glance, it seemed pretty harmless. What’s wrong about wanting to protect a beautiful tree that will eventually aid with cleansing our environment of greenhouse gases? This might be stretching things a little far, but I definitely saw parallels between the cloning of trees in this article and the uses intended for them, and the cloning of humans in Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go.” Certain sentences in the article, such as one that mentions researchers “rushing to collect their genetic material and replant clones in an audacious plan to restore the world’s ancient forests and put them to work cleansing the environment”, reflected views seen in the novel about how the clones are cultivated to essentially “restore the world” as well.

    Obviously, this topic of cloning has begun to permeate our society pretty quietly due to articles like this that shed a very good light on the potential outcome of this procedure. I think people are in for a rude awakening when they realize that, because of their passivity regarding these ethical and political issues, the world has turned into a place they don’t recognize anymore.

  8. Natalie Seitz said

    I found this article online at cnn which basically states that there is a race to make the first healthy, cloned baby. The main issue in the article is the fact that a religious sect says they have already done so, a baby girl named “Eve”.

    http://articles.cnn.com/2002-12-27/health/human.cloning_1_first-human-clone-brigitte-boisselier-claude-vorilhon?_s=PM:HEALTH

    I find that there are several disturbing elements to this article. Firstly, it was written in 2002, at a time that I was completely unaware human cloning was truly being experimented with. Furthermore, it states that up until this time every cloned mammal had serious birth defects, making me wonder how this could be legal at all. There are enough issues surrounding the idea of genetically modifying babies so they will not have birth defects, so how could they choose to purposefully make one that probably will?
    Even if the cloned child is perfectly healthy in every way and they go about raising it as a typical human being, what about the psychological issues that come with the idea of not being an original?
    This made me think back to Never Let Me Go because although I understood the majority of the time that these students were in fact clones, since you are never confronted with their models then it is easy enough to view them as the originals. However, I am now not sure whether Ishiguro’s portrayal of the clone’s acceptance of their life would actually play out in real life. In the novel the clones are almost preprogrammed to deal with the fact that their life has a purpose, and that is to donate and then complete. But what about this cloned baby “Eve” who was merely brought into the world in an effort to beat out other genetic scientists?

    The other disturbing part of this article is the idea that this company, Clonaid, originally wanted to clone a child in an effort to reach immortal life. They hope to one day clone adult humans and then transfer their brains into these clones, thus being able to live forever. I found this particularly strange for a religious group to be attempting but I also wondered how this could ever be possible. Your brain ages along with your body, many times its functions slow down and memory begins to fade, so the transfer of your brain into a new body wouldn’t really work would it? And even if this was accomplished, would the clones be sterile or continue to reproduce and cause the world’s population to consider birth rate, death rate, and those who cannot die naturally? Although this seems like a ridiculous concept, I find it almost more upsetting that there are real companies who are attempting to make this a reality.

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