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Daddy Wants A Clone
Kyle Munkittrick   Apr 22, 2010   Pop Transhumanism  

Bryan Caplan says: “I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son.”

Tyler Cowen goads his readers with this paragraph from Bryan Caplan’s blog:

I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I’m sure we’d share. I’m confident that he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I’m not pushing others to clone themselves. I’m not asking anyone else to pay for my dream. I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask?

Then, Cowen being Cowen, he asks his readers to share their thoughts as to why or why not cloning should be allowed. His blog, Marginal Revolution, is known for having an impressive readership, but the vast majority of comments boiled down to simplistic and poorly constructed arguments. Anti-cloning arguments as drawn from the MR thread can be reduced to the following:

1. Yuk! a la Leon Kass. This is not a rational argument, but in fact is supported by the instinctual revulsion to the concept.

2. Caplan, as a stand in for anyone who wants a clone, is arrogant, vain, and an egomaniac.

These first two points aren’t even arguments, just gut reactions with no warrant.

3. Cloning reduces genetic diversity.

4. Cloning will be psychologically harmful to the child.

5. Cloning will be physically harmful to the child.

6. Cloning will complicate legal/domestic situations.

None of these cases hold water.

3a. Cloning no more alters genetic diversity than having twins does. Issues of genetic diversity would only arise if most births were of the same clone, not if lots and lots of different people each had clones. A population of 50,000 is sufficient for genetic diversity.

3b. It is reasonable to assume that a society in which cloning is perfected would have some degree of genetic engineering. If cloning is possible, then genetic safeties and enhancements are likely possible, further negating problems of diversity.

4a. Being a twin is not psychologically harmful. No precedent.

image4b. Any child raised in a neglectful, abusive, or manipulative household will be traumatized. There is no evidence that a cloned child would be any more subject to these problems than any other. Given the extra and deliberate steps necessary to create a clone, one might argue the child would be more wanted and cherished, therefore in an above average situation.

4c. The primary threat of psychological trauma comes from outside the family, among those who used arguments (1) and (2) to argue that cloning is inherently wrong. Those individuals who are disgusted by cloning would be the very people who would damage the child’s psyche through indirect insults, questioning the child’s humanity, and general revulsion.

5a. No sane proponent of cloning (and Caplan is quite sane) advocates the process if it is unsafe. Animal testing must be thorough, rigorous, and successes conclusive and easily repeatable. As with any other process, such as IVF, there will be risks early on, but those risks must first be at or below the level of standard, unassisted pregnancy before experiments on humans are even considered.

5b. Safe, successful cloning would, by definition, have no complications or affects on the child of note. If this is the case, cloning is no more physically dangerous than being a twin.

6a. Identity is not determined by genetics, identical twins prove this. The law would be no different than it is for identical twins. The clone would have a new social security number, new birth certificate, and the rest of the grid (school enrollment, passport number, drivers license, etc) would fall into place, entrenching and reinforcing the individual identity of that person, just as it does for all of us.

6b. Issues of “raising oneself” or “falling in love again with the clone of one’s wife” or abusing one’s clone as “masturbation” demonstrate not problems of cloning but the various strains of pathology running through the minds of commenters. Most of us have a friend who looks “just like” their parent did at a given age, with similar quirks, interests, physical affectations and behaviors. No one would make the above arguments in the later case. Gross oversimplification of psychology and parent/child relationships is required to even consider these points. I often am at a loss to address these arguments because they require such a demented and pathological view of humanity I feel there is no hope of convincing those who believe them.


There is one real moral objection to cloning: right now, cloning is an unproven and verifiably dangerous process. The chances of the child not coming to term at all, being born fatally deformed or under-developed, having life shortening and worsening complications, and/or being developmentally disabled are so high as to make it a crime to attempt to clone now.

Only a few clones of any species exist in the world currently. Until the process is proven safe, reliable, and to have no more risk of complications than “natural” reproduction among non-human species, it would and will be a moral violation to even begin experimenting with human cloning.

The process is so new, I suspect Caplan will not live to see a world in which cloning is safe enough for him to reproduce that way. But when the technology is ready and safe, then there is no reasonable moral or ethical case for prohibition of the process.

Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
Nicole Sallak Anderson is a Computer Science graduate from Purdue University. She developed encryption and network security software, which inspired the eHuman Trilogy—both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception are available at Amazon, the third installment is expected in early 2016. She is a member of the advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.


I read things like this with no ick factor just rampant confusion as to why anyone would feel compelled to remake themselves?  Cloning, while not a bad thing, to me raises a host of questions about why the parent seeks to replicate themself.  What is the driving factor to copy vs. procreate in a (more) genetically original form.  I don’t object I am just curious abou the drive behind such endeavors. 
Caplan says he would love to have himself as a parent.  Indeed, that may be so, but why is it that he fells the need to parent a duplicate of himself.  I am forced to question if it may be some deficiency he perceives in his own upbringing, or even a question of why he feels he would bond so much better with a clone vs the twins he already has?  These are all questions, not answers.  I wish I could pick his brain for answers.

Jenn, I wonder if the answer to your question has anything to do with this sentence:

“Tyler Cowen goads his readers with this paragraph from Bryan Caplan’s blog…”

Maybe it’s just about goading. Perhaps Caplan’s desire to have a clone of himself is less about having a clone of himself and more about goading those folks (usually on the religious side of the spectrum) who resist pro-cloning efforts.

Just a thought.

Such is connectedness… Even as I read this, I flip channels and what appears? Aeon Flux! Much psychological and ethical trauma concerning cloning! its only another movie yet “minds are unravelling”!

@Jenn: Your post raises legitimate and useful questions, but the problem is when those questions are used to prohibit others from acting. We don’t talk about laws around drugs or violence based on deep psychological motivation, we talk about direct moral consequences. Caplan’s reason for wanting a cloned child is irrelevant to whether or not cloning itself is moral.

@Frank: Agreed. The Caplan/Cowen/Hanson triumvirate are particularly good at triggering reaction so they can study and better understand that very reaction. I never know how often they’re experimenting on their readers.

I have three children, two of which are my biological offspring. When people ask me if I’ll ever raise more, I glide past the possibility of getting remarried and doing it the old-fashioned way. Instead, I toy with the possibility of raising a clone. I have no reticence about telling this to anyone willing to listen. Of course it’s easy to anticipate the sort of responses outlined by Kyle in his post. Pointing out that twins are are genetic clones usually serves to at least take the edge off these objections, if not silent them altogether.

I’m also careful to make the observation that the “clone” would be an entirely distinct person, and I wouldn’t even consider burdening him with my name. Then I stress that the clone in all likelihood wouldn’t even BE genetically identical to me since I would only be a TEMPLATE for the more advanced Mark 2 version (I’m halfway kidding about the “Mark 2” business). By this point, most people are so baffled they move on to talk about something else.


Actually that is the same tack I take on drug use and on a number of other issues.  I don’t want to limit peoples choices but I do question a number of things, and Reproductive motivation is always a question to me.  I do have children.  I do realize that a lot of people procreate with minimal contemplation.  And as a nurse I see the consequences of that frequently.  I am not saying lets legislate, or even disparaging choices.  I just am always curious about motivating factors.

Ummm… #1. Yuk constructive.  If you do more than one, you should probably implant chips with ID’s.  They ARE gonna get mixed up.
Oh..wait. That won’t matter anyway till you can tell them apart somehow then the problem solves itself.

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