The Eternal Struggle Between “Could and Should”

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November 22, 2013 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

I’m convinced that Jurassic Park is an incredibly, if not accidental moralistic movie.  There are plenty of life lessons to be learned from watching Steven Spielberg’s greatest cinematic achievement.  Two such quotes “Life finds a way” and “You were so concerned with whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think whether or not you should”, both frantically exclaimed by Jeff Goldblum, standout the most as being simultaneously poignant yet realistically simple.

The first quote is, scientifically speaking, the most accurate statement that has ever been uttered.  Life has proven to be the most resilient “thing” that has ever been conceived of in the entirety of existence.  There are things like rocks, stars, and other junk that while having been around longer than life, remain to be stagnant and constant.  A rock doesn’t change, it will always be a rock.  Life, by contrast exists in a myriad of different forms that adapts to its surroundings.  Over the course of billions of years, life has proven to have found a way.

The second quote deals with basic human ethics, since as people we tend to be caught up with what we can do, instead of what we should do.  You could pick on some defenseless kid, but should you?[1]  Of course you could sleep with her best friend, but should you?[2]  The reason why we’re more inspired by what we can do instead of what we should do is because the “could” is a manifestation of power, whereas the “should” is a display of a morality that typically involves a form of restraint.  To be able to do something, and then carry out with doing it, is a display of the power that someone wields.  The “should” usually involves someone’s better judgment in opposing the “could”.  It acknowledges the presence to utilize power, but it denies it employment.  To create an absolute and simple diametric paradigm, the “could” is the temptation, while the “should” is the contemplation of a higher ethic.[3]

Now, I realize that these two quotes apply to the cloning of dinosaurs for reasons that are purely for entertainment.  But, it got me thinking about human cloning, and the only think I can come up with, (partly in conjunction with watching Jurassic Park) is that it scares the shit out of me.[4]  It’s quite possible that human cloning is the one issue that I have the biggest ethical gripe against.  We just shouldn’t fucking do it.

Granted, it assumes that human technology has progressed to the point where cloning a homo sapien is actually feasible, which it most likely is, but cloning is a can of worms that humanity should steer well clear of.  If necessity is the mother of all innovation, then it is the “could” that is the mistress of innovation.  It is the “could” that has supplanted necessity has the driving force of invention.  If there’s something that we as people could do, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it.  This is a paradox unto itself because it assumes that morality and higher rationality is merely a self-constructed concept that is susceptible to altered pre-conditions that can be manipulated so as to approve any action imaginable.  Essentially a gigantic carte blanche to do anything, it assumes that might, indefinitely and irrevocably, will always make right.

Regardless of how you think people, and by extension life in general, came about, whether you ascribe to the religious notion that God created all there is, or you align yourself with the scientific notions of various theories, you cannot argue that there was only one intended way to create life.  And, I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that one way was working fine.  Be it God or nature, procreation has been the only way to conceive a life, and I think to circumvent that is akin to trying to breathe underwater.  There’re just some rules of nature that cannot and must not be broken.

To be able to control life, by making it, is, I think, a far more dangerous and potentially disastrous power to exert, then is the power to take it.  I’m not saying it’s right, or that it’s commendable, but every other animal kills their own kind; it’s just a fact.  But no other animal has tried to outwit nature by trying to replicate itself without fucking.  By being able to clone a live human, it puts the power of God (both literally and figuratively) in the power of flawed humans, who by nature or design aren’t fit to wield such magnificent power, especially power that is rife with the potential for misuse.

Taking it to an extreme case, if we could clone a live body, what’s to say we couldn’t clone a dead body back to life.  This is probably an impossibility, but say that we could successfully replicate dead tissue back to into live tissue.  Should we then resurrect the dead, and continue to destroy boundaries that were previously set up for us?  Should we continue to spit in the face of nature by making death optional?

What does that say about humanity then if people can be manufactured in a Wal-Mart factory in Saigon?  Successful cloning would diminish our intrinsic value as human being that have been bestowed to us as the pinnacle of life.  There’s no doubt that the value of a human life would begin to deflate if we could bastardize and commoditize the synthesis of life.

What about the clone itself?  They themselves, would probably be stigmatized by society as being unnatural and repugnant.  And to know that your existence is not your own, that not only were you manufactured in the least natural way possible, but that every cell in your body is merely a duplicate of someone else’s would be the very definition of psychological damage.  They wouldn’t feel like people because they have no intrinsic originality, nor do they have an existence that isn’t inevitably tethered to someone else.

The counterargument is that there is a ton of good that could come from it.  I agree to an extent.  Theoretically, I have no problem with cloning an organ, or a body part if the host needs a replacement.  If someone has a heart problem necessitating a transplant, and the technology existed to clone a new, healthy heart for this person, then I think that would be an example where cloning technology would be useful.  It would eliminate the risk that the new organ would be rejected, and it would be solely used by the person who’s tissue was being cloned in the first place.  The most important aspect though, is that they wouldn’t be cloning an entire entity capable of doing thinking, rationalizing, and feeling.  It’s kind of like replacing the batteries to the remote control.  I don’t throw the remote away if I can replace the battery, but once it’s time to get a new TV I don’t buy the exact same remote that I had before.  Better yet, cloning an organ for someone in need of a new one vs. cloning an entire human is like curing malaria.  Instead of eliminating mosquitoes, we found a cure for the disease instead.  It’s not as drastic, but it yielded the same results.

To be honest, I sort of shocked by my own stringent opposition of cloning.  I knew that I could never support it, but I didn’t think I’d be this opposed to it.  It just seems wrong on so many ethical levels.  It’s the epitome of playing God, which as people is something we should never even attempt.  It’s giving nature and life itself the finger by going about reproduction in a totally synthetic and unreasonable way.  It lessens our innate humanity by devaluing the 1/1,000,000 chance that we each had of being conceived, if we can simply replicate ourselves.[5]       Human cloning has become such a hot topic that some countries such as Australia, Romania and Canada have laws prohibiting the cloning of humans or the pursuit of human cloning research.[6]  It’s an issue that will have to be dealt with at some point in our lifetimes as the technology has already gotten to the point where we think we could do it.  And even if we could do it, human cloning is something that humanity as a whole has to decide upon whether or not we should do it.  It’s Pandora’s Box all over again.  This time around let’s human we’re start enough to not even open the lid.


[1] Absolutely not.

[2] Completely circumstantial.

[3] I should have just used the terms “id” and “superego” from the beginning.

[4] Why I think about human cloning at all in the first place is beyond me.

[5] If you really think about it, there was a greater chance of us not being born than there was of us being born.

[6] Naturally enough, Americans can’t decide how we feel about human cloning.

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