Baker, M. R. "Cloning humans." Nature 387.6629: 119.

Baker, M. R. "Cloning humans." Nature 387.6629: 119.

In this short contribution to the world's leading and most cited scientific journal, Nature I discussed the ethics of Human Cloning. An expanded discussion will follow here, but the correct citation remains the citation above.

The argument, which I extend here boils down to three rules:
  1. That origins don't affect humanity or rights - where you come from or indeed how you were made does not in any way affect rights. What you are affects your rights. This is an extension of the currently accepted norms relating to prejudiced including racism and sexism.
  2. The second rule is that what you are is not limited to your physical media. What you are is a product of heredity (including your your genetics) and experiences.
  3. As evolved organisms we protect and propagate our genes. Overlapping heredity - a commonality of genes increases our "instinct" to preserve other organisms and therefore or emotional empathy or belief in the worth of another organism. Thus siblings and children share significant genes with us and typically come up highest.

    As Haldane famously commented "Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins." . W.D. Hamilton expressed this later 1964, with his theory of kin selection. Hamilton observed that in the struggle for reproduction there are sources of the individual's genes other than the individual-- the kin. In sexually reproducing organisms (e.g. humans), offspring share 50% of genes with each parent, ditto with siblings, 25% with grandparents and aunts and uncles, 12.5% with cousins, etc. Hamilton defined fitness as the passage of one's alleles to the next generation, regardless of whether the alleles resided in the individual or the kin. He defined this "inclusive fitness' as the sum of the individual's own contribution and the contribution of relatives divided together by the average contribution of the population.

    Other humans share significantly and so we value their lives, with other mammals sharing less than humans (98%  for Chimpanzees), but more than non-mammals (36% for fruit flys) and a ranking correlation between perceived life value and genetic overlap is generally found.

    Conversely our tendency to share with non-related entities relates to behavioral empathy or  anthropomorphism. There is obviously more to this than  linear mapping to the number of entities conserved (so we don't value a few sperms more than one individual), but it does cover the basic mechanism.  

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