of public importance crops up, one of my colleagues can usually be relied upon to pipe up, in imitation of the great Mrs Merton, "Let's have a Heated Debate". Already the Debate on the subject of cloning is well under way. There is some way to go before the cloned Finn Dorset sheep is followed by a cloned Baroness Warnock, but that grim prospect cannot be ruled out indefinitely.
The President of the United States, showing rather more perspicacity than the British Prime Minister, has ordered a panel to review the ethical implications of the development.
At home, Professor Richard Dawkins, the pugnacious atheist who maintains that he has cracked the problem of evolution, says that he has a sneaking desire to see a brand new version of himself, growing up in the Nineties rather than the Forties. The possibility that a new version of Professor Dawkins might discover the need for worship and entertain the possibility of a First Cause is certainly a pleasing one, but even this cannot detract from the difficulties this presents.
If rich and influential people clone themselves in numbers there are implications for our evolution as a species. The combination of two sorts of DNA in the normal process of babymaking offers infinite possibilities for the looks, personality and character of the off-spring. Identical twins are all very amusing for those of us who come one at a time, but this kind of cloning is limited in scope:normally there are only two or three of them, and we get them all at the same time. If the world's space were to be increasingly taken up by selfish people perpetuating their selfish genes without dilution from anyone else, the interesting and various possibilities of human development would be diminished.
One development of all this does not require a particularly fertile imagination. It is quite possible that human cloning will be used for the
purposes of providing spare parts for existing flawed, ill people.
Providing organs for transplant is already a difficult business; there have been a couple of instances I can think of where an identical twin has provided marrow or an organ for his brother. A cloned individual could be harvested for organs or for tissue. Already, human embryos are used, legally, for scientific experiments which have nothing to do with their own well-being. Having established the principle that human beings can be used as a means to an end, it is only a continuation of the same approach to use a clone for the good of its originator.
The case for such a development would be argued in the most affecting way, just like the case for using tissue from aborted foetuses to treat people suffering from Parkinson's disease.
We would be invited to consider the anguish of the sufferer, the trials of his wife who is obliged to act as his carer, and their plight would be contrasted with the essentially insensate nature of the clone in the earlier stages of its existence. Those who objected to such a development would be accused of impeding the treatment of human suffering.
We would be told that the procedure would be strictly controlled in this country; why, a commission of experts would decide the matter..
I can see it already. If you thought the great frozen embryo debate washeated, it was nothing to the ones that lie in store.