Scientists Report First Successful Human Cloning Attempt

It was four years ago that while presenting a talk called “Human Cloning: Truth vs. Science Fiction,” I predicted that scientists would successfully clone human beings within ten years. It appears that I was correct. NPR is reporting that a team of scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University have worked out the necessary steps to clone a living human embryo that is able to live long enough to produce embryonic stem cells. They have published their research in this weeks issue of Cell.

I argued in that talk that my primary concern about human cloning is not that it’s “playing God,” but that we will dehumanize the new human being we’ve “created” in the lab. Notice the way the NPR article talks about the living, human embryos that were created, the same embryos that because they were able to live for several days, made the experiment a success:

The experiments involve creating and then destroying human embryos for research purposes, which some find morally repugnant. The scientists also used cloning techniques, which raise concerns that the research could lead to the cloning of people. (emphasis mine)

The pro-life argument is that human beings are valuable, or “persons,” from the moment they begin life as a unique organism. This article only uses the word “person” to refer to human beings that are cloned and then allowed to live until birth. But this is begging the question. The entire ethical issue rests on whether or not human beings are valuable or “persons” from the beginning of their biological life, or if that value only comes at some point later in development. There’s not much to debate as far as ethics is concerned if the embryo being cloned has no intrinsic moral value.

You have to scroll down to the bottom of the article to read the worst assertion from the lead scientist:

But Mitalipov dismisses those concerns. He says the embryos he created aren’t the equivalent of a human being because they weren’t fertilized naturally.

Don’t miss this. The sole reason given that the cloned human embryos aren’t valuable is because they weren’t fertilized naturally. Why in the world should I believe that matters?

What does his argument imply about the people that were conceived using in vitro fertilization? At precisely what point did they become “people?” They were never conceived naturally.

It appears to be a variation of the “appeal to nature” fallacy. Usually an appeal to nature is an argument that something is good or right when it’s natural. Here Mitalipov seems to be arguing that something is only intrinsically valuable if it was conceived naturally.

It is not sufficient for scientists to simply dismiss the arguments about the substances of persons from philosophers such as J.P. Moreland, Francis Beckwith, Patrick Lee, Robert P. George, and Hadley Arkes.

As if this fact changes anything, the next sentence in the article says,

And his experiments with monkeys indicate that it’s unlikely that they could ever develop into a healthy baby.

Let’s assume for a minute that he’s right. Even if he is, it’s morally irrelevant. Just because you are creating living human beings that aren’t healthy enough to live long, does not make them non-human. It simply makes them unhealthy or damaged.

Here’s the central question for us to consider before we can make a determination of the morality of cloning, embryonic stem cell research and abortion: are all human beings  intrinsically valuable because of the kind of thing they are, or are we merely instrumentally valuable based on what we can do functionally? I contend that the best philosophical arguments support the intrinsic value of all human beings, partially because if human beings are not intrinsically valuable, the concept of “equal human rights” is a myth. And if human beings are intrinsically valuable because of the kind of thing they are, that value is not lost simply because the human being came into existence through asexual means, or because the human being is killed in the first few weeks of life.

Question: What are your concerns regarding human cloning? Leave a comment below!


Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh has worked in the pro-life movement since he was 18. A sought-after speaker, Josh has spoken for more than 23,000 people in six countries and in 22 of the 50 states.

Josh’s primary passion is helping pro-life people to be more persuasive when they communicate with pro-choice people. That means ditching faulty rhetoric and tactics and embracing arguments that hold up under philosophical scrutiny.

He has publicly debated leaders from Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Georgians for Choice, and one of the leading abortion facilities in Atlanta.

Josh also wants to bring relational apologetics to the pro-life movement. “Some pro-choice people will not change their mind after one conversation on a college campus. Some of them will only change their mind after dozens of conversations with a person they trust in the context of friendship.”

Josh is formerly the host of a globally-heard podcast turned radio/TV show, Life Report. He now hosts the Equipped for Life Podcast. He’s also written dozens of articles for and the ERI blog.

He directed the first 40 Days for Life campaign in Fresno, resulting in up to 60 lives saved.

Josh has been happily married to his wife, Hannah, for 15 years. They have three sons, Noah, William, and Eli. They live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

David Bereit, the National Director of 40 Days for Life, sums up Josh’s expertise this way: “Josh Brahm is one of the brightest, most articulate, and innovative people in the pro-life movement. His cutting-edge work is helping people think more clearly, communicate more effectively, and — most importantly — be better ambassadors for Christ. I wholeheartedly endorse Josh’s work, and I encourage you to join me in following Josh and getting involved in his work today!”

Please note: The goal of the comments section on this blog is simply and unambiguously to promote productive dialogue. We reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, disrespectful, flagrantly uncharitable, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy.