Professor of Comparative Religion and Physics at Dalhousie University
In a certain way, psychologically and socially, we humans clone ourselves. Look at teenagers, they all wish to be the same way, to imitate each other. That to me is a more serious issue—how our propaganda, our social-psychological manipulation through the media, actually makes people behave as if they were clones.
Work in this field can’t really be stopped. This research will be carried on underground—in much the same way that chemical warfare technology and nuclear research have been. There are people with enough knowledge to do this all over the world. Enough knowledge, but maybe not enough conscience. Like the Buddha himself said, we are all driven by fear and desire.
I am not extra worried about these new developments. But we need the development of conscience among the scientists and political leaders. As our knowledge grows, it is not accompanied by conscience or compassion, and I think that is a serious need. This new development only points this need out more. Even the underlying philosophy of science research doesn’t make any room for conscience.
So sooner or later, this will blow up in our faces. It is knowledge without conscience. There are, of course, exceptions—some scientists have great consciences. But spiritual training of the scientist, in general, is what we need.
Geshe Michael Roach
Abbot, Diamond Abbey
New York, NY
It’s a different mindstream. But other than that, what’s the problem? I’m not sure there’s a conflict with Buddhist ethics here. It may even be a virtue to create more life. By having collected similar karma, the clone’s mindstream would seem to be similar, to be the same person. But it’s two different beings.
Professor of Japanese Studies and Fellow at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania
Buddhists, I think, have a viewpoint different from the theistic religions when it comes to issues of what may or may not be done in science. To them the risks of “playing God” by cloning will not be crucial. More important for Buddhists would be the sense that we avoid research likely to result in cruelty to individuals or in more general misery than already exists in our world. It’s the compassion matter again.
Chair, Religious Studies at Naropa Institute
Cloning, per se, is an interesting prospect with no real philosophical problems for Buddhists, since we know there is no such thing as two identical, existent beings, and that the genetic makeup is only an outer physical manifestation of the person. Mind is always fresh and unique. As for the uses of cloning, it all depends upon one’s motivation. If we have the benefit of others in our hearts, such as healing or extending life, cloning could be quite helpful. If we wish to become rich and famous, or to extend our own personal agendas or lives, there could be quite a problem. It all depends.
Student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Better to work with ourselves first, and our duplicates later.
Rita M. Gross
Professor of Comparative Studies in Religion at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and author of Buddhism after Patriachy (SUNY Press)
Eau Claire, WI
This time, instead of focusing on the question “Can we do it?” let’s focus on the question “Should we do it?” Why would anyone want a genetic clone? In any case, a genetic clone would not have the same karma as its genetic double, and the fact of all-pervasive impermanence would still apply both to the genetic original and to its double.
Sojun Mel Weitsman
Abbot, Berkeley Zen Center
Scientific, technological curiosity cannot be squelched. You cannot put the genie back into the bottle. But whatever is produced will have to be dealt with. Although replicas bear certain identical characteristics, it is not clear how something can be exactly duplicated in this non-repeatable universe, especially such a complete organism as a human being. Although a human may start out with the same identical genetic patterning as someone else, his conditioning will most likely develop a unique personality. It brings up the question: if I had my life to live all over again, would I do it in exactly the same way? Or is my clone’s experience the same as mine? When my clone drinks wine, do I get drunk?
Anyway, our clones will hold us responsible for tampering.
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