FFor some reason, which is hard to explain, my mind keeps wandering these days to cloning. I guess it all started when I read about the book that will soon be on the market revealing that an anonymous multimillionaire had paid to have a child cloned in his own image.
The author of the book says the millionaire, a lifelong bachelor, wanted to leave a son to posterity, but had found no woman whose genes he considered worthy of his own. He hired a scientist who took one of the man's own cells, had it hatched by a woman, cleansed it of all the woman's genetic material and then produced an identical likeness of the rich man. (I'm not making this up - it's all in the book.)
Reputable scientists have scoffed at the story, and so far neither the author nor the publisher has produced any proof that it really happened.
My concern is that perhaps it didn't this time, but who is to say in the future that it couldn't? Cloning could soon become as common as the Asian flu. Once we have the knowledge to reproduce exact duplicates of ourselves, with just one cell, it's a whole new ball game as far as the human race is concerned.
I wouldn't mind reproducing a thousand persons just like myself, because I think the world need them. But I definitely would be against one more Codsmather. He lives down the block and he's really a mess. He never washes his car, he lets his dog wander all over the neighborhood, his kids skateboard in the middle of the street, and, from the empty bottles in his garbage, he's really into gin.
There is something wrong with Codmather's genes, and if we permitted his cells to be cloned the neighborhood would really go to hell.
On the other hand there's Sara Lee, who works down the hall from my office. Sara Lee is beautiful, bright and a joy to behold. Everyone on the floor always said that it was a pity that there was only one Sara Lee to go around.
Columnist Novak just told me the other day during a coffee break, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a Sara Lee for everybody?"
I told him, "Some day when they get cloning down pat there will be."
Our coffee steamed with the thought.
But there are many things that enter into the moral aspects of cloning which we all must take into consideration.
If there was more than one Reggie Jackson would baseball be as interesting? Can the world afford two Ile Nastases or for that matter, two Robert Novaks? Would Farrah Fawcett Majors mean as much to all of us if there were 500 of her walking around at the same time? Is there a limit on the number of Billy Carters the country will put up with?
Once cloning becomes the "in" thing, teen-agers are going to want to try it. I don't know of any parents who could survive with an exact duplicate of the teen-ager they have now.
Another worrisome thing is that in the beginning, cloning is going to be very expensive and only very rich people will be capable of duplicating themselves. Therefore, until they get the price down, all we'll be able to reproduce wholesale will be oil and gas tycoons whereas they multiply, will lobby for higher and higher prices, with the excuse that they have so many more mouths to feed.
Once the middle class can afford cloning they will probably get Congress to pass laws forbidding poor people from doing it, because they won't want to pay the extra welfare costs.
The whole thing will be a shambles unless we start thinking it out today. Each person must search his own heart and ask, "Do I want an exact duplicate of myself to take my place when I'm gone, or am I willing to abort my calls for the good of mankind?"