We, the undersigned, welcome announcements of major advances in the cloning of higher animals. Throughout this century, the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences have placed important new capabilities within human reach. On balance, these advances have contributed to enormous improvements in human welfare. Where novel technologies have raised legitimate ethical questions, the human community has in general demonstrated its willingness to confront those questions openly and to seek answers that enhance the general welfare.
The cloning of higher animals raises ethical concerns. Appropriate guidelines need to be developed that will prevent abuses, while making the benefits of cloning maximally available. Such guidelines should respect to the greatest extent possible the autonomy and choice of each individual human being. Every effort should be made not to block the freedom and integrity of scientific research.
No one has demonstrated a present capability to clone humans. Yet the very possibility that contemporary achievements may open a path toward cloning has sparked a hail of protests. We view with concern the widespread calls to delay, defund, or discontinue cloning research which have come from sources as disparate as President Bill Clinton in the United States, President Jacques Chirac of France, former Prime Minister John Major of Great Britain, and the Vatican in Rome.
We believe that reason is humanity’s most powerful tool for untangling the problems that it encounters. But reasoned argument has been a scarce commodity in the recent flood of attacks on cloning. Critics have delighted in drawing parallels to the myth of Icarus and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, predicting terrible consequences if researchers dare to press on with questions whose answers “man was not meant to know.” Behind the most vituperative critiques seems to lie the assumption that human cloning would raise moral issues more profound than those faced in connection with any previous scientific or technological development.
What moral issues would human cloning raise? Some religions teach that human beings are fundamentally different from other mammals—that humans have been imbued with immortal souls by a deity, giving them a value that cannot be compared to that of other living things. Human nature is held to be unique and sacred. Scientific advances that pose a perceived risk of altering this “nature” are angrily opposed.
Deeply rooted as such ideas may be in dogma, we question whether these should be used to decide whether human beings will be permitted to benefit from new biotechnology. As far as the scientific enterprise can determine, Homo sapiens is a member of the animal kingdom. Human capabilities appear to differ in degree, not in kind, from those found among the higher animals. Humankind’s rich repertoire of thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and hopes seems to arise from electrochemical brain processes, not from an immaterial soul that operates in ways no instrument can discover.
The immediate question raised by the current debate over cloning is, therefore, do advocates of supernatural or spiritual agendas have truly meaningful qualifications to contribute to that debate? Surely everyone has the right to be heard. But we believe that there is a very real danger that research with enormous potential benefits may be suppressed solely because it conflicts with some people’s religious beliefs. It is important to recognize that similar religious objections were once raised against autopsies, anesthesia, artificial insemination, and the entire genetic revolution of our day—yet enormous benefits have accrued from each of these developments. A view of human nature rooted in humanity’s mythical past ought not to be our primary criterion for making moral decisions about cloning.
We see no inherent ethical dilemmas in cloning non-human higher animals. Nor is it clear to us that future developments in cloning human tissues or even cloning human beings will create moral predicaments beyond the capacity of human reason to resolve. The moral issues raised by cloning are neither larger nor more profound than the questions human beings have already faced in regards to such technologies as nuclear energy, recombinant DNA, and computer encryption. They are simply new.
Historically, the Luddite option, which seeks to turn back the clock and limit or prohibit the application of already existing technologies, has never proven realistic or productive. The potential benefits of cloning may be so immense
that it would be a tragedy if ancient theological scruples should lead to a Luddite rejection of cloning. We call for continued, responsible development of cloning technologies, and for a broad-based commitment to ensuring that traditionalist and obscurantist views do not irrelevantly obstruct beneficial scientific developments.
The signers of the Declaration are Humanist Laureates of the International Academy of Humanism:
Pieter Admiraal, Medical Doctor, The Netherlands
Ruben Ardila, psychologist, National University of Colombia, Colombia
Sir Isaiah Berlin, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Oxford University, U.K.
Sir Hermann Bondi, Fellow of the Royal Society, Past Master, Churchill College, Cambridge University, U.K.
Vern Bullough, Visiting Professor of Nursing, California State University at Northridge, U.S.A.
Mario Bunge, Professor of Philosophy of Science, McGill University, Canada
Bernard Crick, Professor Emeritus of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London, U.K.
Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate in Physiology, Salk Institute, U.S.A.
Richard Dawkins, Charles Simionyi Professor of Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University, U.K.
José Delgado, Director, Centro de Estudios Neurobiologicos, Spain
Paul Edwards, Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research, U.S.A.
Antony Flew, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Reading University, U.K.
Johan Galtung, Professor of Sociology, University of Oslo, Norway
Adolf Grünbaum, Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, U.S.A.
Herbert Hauptman, Nobel Laureate, Professor of Biophysical Science, State University of New York at Buffalo, U.S.A.
Alberto Hidalgo Tuñón, President, Sociedad Asturiana de Filosofía, Spain
Sergei Kapitza, Chair, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Russia
Paul Kurtz, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, State University of New York at Buffalo, U.S.A.
Gerald A. Larue, Professor Emeritus ofArcheology and Biblical Studies, University of Southern California at Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Thelma Z. Lavine, Professor of Philosophy, George Mason University, U.S.A.
Jose Leite Lopes, Director, Centro Brasiliero de Pesquisas Fisicas, Brazil
Taslima Nasrin, Author, Physician, Social Critic, Bangladesh
Indumati Parikh, Reformer and Activist, India
Jean-Claude Pecker, Professor Emeritus of Astrophysics, Collège de France, Academy of Sciences, France
W. V. Quine, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Harvard University, U.S.A.
J. J. C. Smart, Professor of Philosophy, University of Adelaide, Australia
V. M. Tarkunde, Reformer and Activist, India
Richard Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Rochester, U.S.A.
Simone Veil, Former President, European Parliament, France
Kurt Vonnegut, Novelist, U.S.A.
Edward O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Sociobiology, Harvard University, U.S.A.
*Affiliations listed for identification only.