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Playing God with the Human Race
by Irene Monroe

What does human cloning have to do with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people? In my opinion: everything. With the recent news about an otherworldly group called Raelians — and its Frankenstein-esque laboratory, Clonaid — scientists, ethicists and theologians are once again thrown into the incendiary debate about human cloning.

Ever since Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, in which her protagonist, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, accidentally creates a monster, the idea of playing God, or co-creating with God, raises the fear and fury among liberals and conservatives alike.

Who decides which humans are cloned and for what purposes? …in our desire to make a better human being, will we invariably find ourselves slipping into the dangerous area of desiring to make a master people — or a master race?

The concern of just how far we humans should tamper with ourselves undoubtedly raises scientific queries, but the most pressing concern is a moral one: Who decides which humans are cloned and for what purposes? While all roads to hell are paved with good intentions, in our desires to cease aging, death and dying, what eternal road to perdition might we find ourselves traveling on? And in our desire to make a better human being, will we invariably find ourselves slipping into the dangerous area of desiring to make a master people — or a master race?

Catholic theologian James Carroll raises that concern when he said, "The revulsion prompted by cloning points to its problems — the very asexuality of this kind of reproduction; the prospect that cloned human beings will, by constitution, be physically or socially inferior to others; conversely, the possibility that the genetic manipulation of cloning science will bring about a super-species… the commingling of biology and computer science to create a ‘trans-human’."

While this debate may not seem particularly relevant to LGBT issues, the debate is integral because it raises not only the question whether LGBT people will be cloned, but also whether we will exist as one of the many diverse faces of human life and of God.

Given this country’s vicissitudinous climate concerning queer civil rights, from time-to-time we find our lives as LGBT people precariously hanging on a thread, and sometimes free-falling into an abyss of ultraconservative politics. In lives that at times seem precarious, I also worry in the human cloning debate whether our inimitable being and essence as LGBT people can ostensibly be redesigned, if not completely decimated, in a Petri dish.

Eugenicists, who many people believe play God with the human race — because their primary focus is the study of hereditary improvement, especially of human improvement by genetic engineering — raise for us LGBT people grave concerns about what they think about our genetic makeup.

In an essentialist argument where biology is believed to determine one’s destiny, all people who are marginal to mainstream society — women, the physically challenged, people of color, LGBT people, etc — must tune into this debate about human cloning.

In an essentialist argument where biology is believed to determine one’s destiny, all people who are marginal to mainstream society — women, the physically challenged, people of color, LGBT people, etc — must tune into this debate about human cloning.

Some views hold that LGBT people are genetically flawed, from a scientific point of view, and an abomination before God, from both religious fundamentalist and conservative points of view (which are a lot more pervasive in religious thought then we like to think). In this view, our unique way of being sexual and loving in the world is not only looked upon as an aberration to human sexuality, but we can also ostensibly be viewed as an abhorrence to human life itself, who might need to be exterminated.

With science having an authoritative voice in society, any counter moral and religious arguments on our behalf lose footing. We like to believe that the field of science is objective and value-free of human biases and bigotries. However, scientists are human beings who analyze and interpret their datum from their subjective and often times politically-motivated viewpoints.

A classic example of how politics informs science is Nazi Germany’s extermination plan for gay men. Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code differentiated between the type of persecution that non-German gay men and German gay men received because of a quasi-scientific and racist ideology of racial purity. Richard Plant makes this point in The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals, when he stated, "The polices of persecution carried out toward non-German homosexuals in the occupied territories differed significantly from those directed against Germans gays. The Aryan race was to be freed of contagion; the demise of degenerate subjects/ peoples was to be hastened."

When we miss the essential point that all of human life is varied, precious, limited, and of equal worth, we ignore the unique gifts that each life brings to the world. However, in our effort to make the perfect human being or perfect race of people, we view our limits as human beings as a negative that must be improved upon if not removed.

"If limits are… the essence of human personhood, what sort of creature do we have when such heretofore basic limits begin to fall? Isn’t it in learning to cope with our limits, whether mortality or, say, emotional hypersensitivity, that we become who we are? What are human beings becoming?" Carroll asks.

What we are becoming in our experimentation with ourselves, with Clonaid or other human cloning laboratories around the world, is to not be another Nazi Germany.

Clonaid began its life inconspicuously in a mailbox in the Caribbean. Now, Clonaid is conspicuously housed on a sprawling Canadian compound in Quebec near the Vermont border call UFO-land. Founded by His Holiness Rael a.k.a. Claude Vorilhon, a former French journalist and racecar driver and author of Let’s Welcome Our Father From Space. Rael has 55,000 adherents who believes, like he does, that all human life derives from aliens out in space.

At present, no one believes Clonaid’s claim that they have cloned a baby girl named Eve, and that another cloned baby belonging to a lesbian couple in the Netherlands is on its way. Their science fiction aura and evolutionary theory leave little room for credibility.

While the debate about whether Eve exists or not is an important one, the larger debate about the bioethics of human cloning must not escape us… In our search to scientifically advance and improve ourselves with human cloning, let us not shortchange ourselves or God’s tapestry of us.

While the debate about whether Eve exists or not is an important one, the larger debate about the bioethics of human cloning must not escape us. I also hope this debate will not lose what we will do with the variety of human lives before us. In our search to scientifically advance and improve ourselves with human cloning, let us not shortchange ourselves or God’s tapestry of us.

If we do, Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein, serves as a caveat for us, because it not only shows us what monsters we can make, but it also shows us what monsters we can easily become.


Irene Monroe is a regular contributor to A Globe of Witnesses. Her monthly column is Queer Take. Irene can be reached by email at revimonroe@earthlink.net