Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.3, 376-379
Published Online August 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Questioning Cloning with Genealogy
Emmanuel Ifeanyi Ani
Department of Philosophy and Classics, University of Ghana, Legon, Greater Accra, Ghana
Received May 4th, 2013; revised June 4th, 2013; a c c ep t ed June 1 1th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Emmanuel Ifeanyi Ani. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cited.
I evaluate a hypothetical society of human clones. Cloning implies the production of exact copies of an
organism from a replication of one of the organism’s cells without any recourse to the genealogical pro-
tocol of male and female reproduction. I thus pose the question: Can we regard a cloned copy of Mr.
James as a son of Mr. James or Mr. James once again? I consider certain implications of human cloning to
the concepts of individual uniqueness, and thus of genealogical family tree and the future of the naming
and identification of humanity?
Keywords: Cloning; Genealogy; Individual Uniqueness; Personal Identity; Genetic Engineering; Family;
DNA; Hypothetical Society; Social Organization
This article is a partial justification of the non-binding United
Nations Declaration banning all forms of human cloning as
going against human dignity.1 The justification provided by this
article is limited to an evaluation of the outcome of a hypo-
thetical society of human clones to genealogy. The concept of
genealogy is central to the concepts of individual, family and
societal identity. In a sense, it constitutes the emergence of
organized human society, beginning from the basic unit of so-
ciety which is the family. The family is founded on the con-
cepts of conjugal love and procreation. Procreation is assumed
a natural result of conjugal love. But in societies where pro-
creation is held to be sacrosanct, infertility is socially debilitat-
ing. Some infertile couples go as far as adopting children. In
this context, the advent of genetic engineering wherein infertile
parents can still have biological offspring is hailed as a positive
development. It is seen as capable of giving happiness to infer-
tile couples.
However, human cloning, in methods as well as in effect,
appears to sit in unhealthy juxtaposition to the very concept of
genealogy. And since genealogy is foundational to the concepts
of individual uniqueness, identity and personhood, then cloning
raises very grave questions in the context of man and humanity.
The Concept of Genealogy
Genealogy refers to the study of family pedigree (Lorimer,
2000: p. 413) or family history; the decent of a person or family
from an ancestor, generation by generation. It originated as an
oral tradition, the ancestry of important members of society,
and often written down (in the Bible for instance). Since 16th
century, records of family descent have been strictly kept in
many countries, so that many people in the world could trace
their ancestry if they wished. A chart showing genealogical
descent is a pedigree, this may be crucial in establishing a mat-
ter of inheritance. In countries where wealth and position are
commonly inherited, genealogy is very important. Even where
legal and social reasons are fewer, people still attempt to trace
their family tree (Crystal, 2000: p. 452).
It is obvious from the above that genealogy is central to the
concept of family and society identity. Genealogy can t race the
origin of a particular society, or group of societies, to a com-
mon ancestor.
In chronological terms, therefore, we can say that genealogy
can lead us back to the origin of many human societies. Social
groups and communities with common ancestry form ethnic
groups and nations with distinct cultural identity. It follows
then that the major races of the world are genealogically founded.
So genealogy as a concept, an instrument or a tool, cannot be
overemphasized in the concept of human organization.
Family as Vehicle of Genealogy
The concept of genealogy is worked out precisely in the
context and horizon of—and through the instrumentality of—
the family. Also known as family tree, genealogy presupposes
the existence and succession of a historical chain of families or
of the family system. The family here refers not just to the
group formed by husband, wife and children (nuclear) but a
wider category of relatives, including grandparents, uncles,
aunts, cousins (extended family) which, in particular, show that
the concept of descent has already exceeded a generation.
This involves producing an animal or plant artificially from
the cell of another animal or plant in which case the animal or
plant becomes identical with the animal or plant from which
cell it was artificially produced. Thus a clone is an animal or
plant which has the same genes as the original from which it
was produced (Madu, 2003: p. 26). Cloning is done by finding
1This document is accessible on / 765/lang,es/
a donor egg, sucking out the nucleus of the egg (the DNA), in-
jecting a cell from the person you wish to re-create or copy as
the new nucleus of the egg, and encouraging this to grow. In
this case a dead cloned child can be re-created. By the defini-
tion of cloning, the outcome should be exactly the same as its
source. For deeper appraisal of the merits and dangers of hu-
man cloning and its relation to genealogy, let us briefly exam-
ine three basic types of cloning.
Embryo Cloning
Cloning also occurs naturally in living organisms including
humans. What is termed monozygotic or identical twins are
clones of each other. The identical twins have the same genetic
information due to the division of an embryo early in develop-
ment which produces two identical embryos that mature to
identical twins.
Embryo method of cloning resembles the natural, twin me-
thod in that the embryo is divided into two or four identical
cells, separated and placed in conditions suitable for growth,
usually a uterus. The twins, triplets or quadruplets thus formed
have identical D N A .
Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer or Adult DNA Method of
This method employs the technique used in cloning the sheep
called Dolly. It entails nuclear replacement. It involves the
removal of DNA from an adult ovum and replacing it with the
DNA of a cell removed from the adult animal intended for re-
creation (Donnellan, 2004: p. 14).
Therapeutic Cloning Method
This uses the same cloning procedure as the second or adult
method, except that the clonal embryo, instead of being im-
planted into a womb, is used to generate a stem cell. These stem
cells can be cultured in Petri dishes and used to generate thera-
peutic tissues or human spare parts. This is to improve regen-
erative medicine (Donnellan, 2004: p. 15).
Philosophical Issues in Genetic Engineering
One philosophical question that emerges concerning genetic
engineering especially on the issue of cloning is: What is the
status of a cloned being? Will it possess spirit or soul like nor-
mal beings? A second question is: Is it ethical or moral to ex-
periment on humans?
An even more grave implication of the success of cloning is
the polarization of society into clones and non clones. In other
words, society will be categorized into natural and artificial
people. In this context, what will be the attitude of natural men
toward artificial ones? Even more importantly, what will be the
attitude of artificial men toward the normal human beings? Is it
likely that natural people will see their artificial colleagues as
supermen, women or second class citizens? Will a segregation
that will result from this polarization not be of a more enduring
category than previous segregations based on race, religion and
ideology? Molecular Biologist Lee M. Silver believes that
unlike Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where a totalitarian
government controls all of the genetic enhancements (they ac-
tually use eugenics instead of direct genetic modification) in so-
ciety, the use of gene therapy to design children will be spread
through what he calls “free market eugenics” (Silver, 2009: p.
315). Wealthy families will opt to design their child with ge-
netic advantages because other families are doing so, and eve-
rybody wants to provide their newborn child with the best op-
portunities in life, with a leg up on the competition.
The greatest fear for Silver is that we will design so many
children with germline gene therapy that the families wealthy
enough to design their children will pass down these enhanced
traits to future generations. This gene therapy will obviously
cost money, and the less wealthy families will be left to procre-
ate naturally, and introduce their children into the world com-
paratively disadvantaged from their first breath.
The impact on society will be a new alignment of classes, no
longer will we separate people by their ethnic differences, the
new division will be between what Silver calls “the naturals”
and “the GenRich” or the genetically enhanced. The major
worry here is that the “genetic gulf” between these two classes
will become so wide that humans will become separate species
(Silver, 2010: p. 313).
Back to the issue of life, the development of stem cells might
need to address a vital question: When (in the making of stem
cells) does life begin? The development of stem cells involves
at a certain stage the prevention of embryo or fetus from de-
veloping into a full human being, resulting in body tissues or
body spare parts for medical and surgical uses. So a further
question emerges: Should life be terminated at any stage of
development of human life? Has the embryo, from which de-
struction stem cells are extracted, any fundamental right to life?
Pro-stem cell scholars are of the view that the embryo from
which the stem cell is extracted is just a body tissue. And more
so, since these embryonic stem cells are to be used as spare
parts for therapeutic purposes to save and prolong life, they do
not see why human cloning should not be promoted (Eboh,
2005: p. 138). But pro-life scholars argue that life begins at
conception and so it is unethical to terminate life at any stage of
human development.
…a human embryo cultured till the stage of blastocyst is a
human being in so far as it contains a complete genome
and all that is needed to develop into an adult human be-
ing. To extract stem cell from embryo is to destroy life in
it, which is the same thing as destroying human life (Eboh,
2005: p. 138).
For these scholars, the human life that comes from blastocyst
has value and dignity and so it deserves respect just as much as
life already born. So a problem arises as to whether respect for
the beginning of human life allows the use of embryos or fe-
tuses for any other purpose except bringing them to term. For
pro-life scholars the answer is in the negative (Eboh, 2005: p.
138). The Vatican agrees with this stance in that human cloning
regardless of its objectives is contrary to the dignity of man and
his right to life (Eboh, 2005: p. 138).
The only argument in support of cloning has been utilitarian
in nature, namely that scientific breakthrough serves a useful
purpose and this platform should define morality. There is no
doubt that research and experimentation have contributed im-
mensely to bring about improved quality of life for human be-
ings. Yet the need for moral safeguards cannot be overempha-
sized, for science without conscience can lead to the ruin and
destruction of mankind. According to Ekennia:
Scientists researching into regenerative medicine should
look beyond huge financial gains and businesses promised
by this extreme research programme and focus more on
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 377
the value and dignity of the human person at all stages of
its formation. The ethical questions should act as litmus
test for all genetic engineering procedures (Ekennia, 2003:
p. 145).
Eboh (1999: p. 78) sees this as important since it involves
“engineering the engineer”. Considering if science should re-
ceive unconditional consent in everything however dangerous
merely on the basis of freedom of inquiry, Ozumba (2003: p.
206) poses the question: Is it ethically permissible to indulge
scientific inquiry in carrying out any kind of inquiry in the
spirit of free inquiry? This is against the background of the
argument that without free inquiry, science could not have
achieved so much for the comfort and utility of man. But we
may have to consider that no freedom is absolute, and the right
to free inquiry should be a qualified freedom like other free-
Equally dilemmatic will be a hypothetical society where
parents can have children without the instrumentality of sexual
intercourse. The supportive argument here is that conjugal love
has nothing to do with procreation, after all, the lower animals
procreate as a matter of natural instincts and not because they
love (Madu, 2003: p. 24). But when we separate conception of
a child from conjugal love, we only succeed in biologizing and
depersonalizing human marriage (W il l ia m, 2002: p. 5).
Cloning poses greater difficulties in the context of sex selec-
tion. It has been argued that knowing and selecting the sex of
their children can guarantee the fulfillment and happiness of
parents. And since marriage craves for happiness in life, sex
selection becomes an avenue for this (Madu, 2003: p. 26). But
the natural distribution of sex by nature could be meant to serve
a balancing goal. Will sex selection in patriarchal cultures not
lead to imbalance of male and female? In societies where male
issues are preferred to female ones, will sex selection not create
grave problems in the population structure? But let me briefly
examine the position of cloning with regards to genealogy and
individual identity.
The Question of Genealogy
The prospect of human cloning has serious implications for
the concept of genealogy. Admittedly, there are merits to be
derived from cloning, like the renewal of damaged body cells
(stem cells). It can remedy infertility through adult cloning, and
with cloning, cultures with strong conceptions of genetic in-
heritances to wealth can safeguard this tradition.
However, cloning runs into serious juxtaposition to geneal-
ogy. This juxtaposition is demonstrated in the concept of off-
spring. As discussed, a man can have a cell of his body engi-
neered to produce a human being exactly identical to him in
everything. Can we regard this human being as his son, or is the
clone simply the man from whose body it came?
This is because a son is supposed to be a sexual combination
of two distinct DNA sets. The biological product of the fusion
of these two sets of DNA (from a man and woman) gives rise to
a uniquely arranged set of DNAs and thus a unique human
being with a distinct personality and individuality. This new
person embodies features and resemblances of both progenitors,
but is not a complete replication of either. That is, a natural,
sexually reproduced baby resemblances its father in some re-
spects and its mother in some other respects, even resembles
the father’s father or mother or the mother’s father or mother as
well as grandparents in some other respects; but is neither com-
pletely identical to the father, nor completely identical to the
mother, nor completely identical to any of their parents or
grandparents; but is a distinct human being imbued with uni-
queness, individuality and personality. Boethius (1345: p. 64)
and Aquinas (1981: p. 29) see this unique and separate person
as embodying an autonomous and incommunicable aspect
which makes him entirely distinct from all others. Thus on this
note, no son is exactl y id entical to his father.
However, a clone is entirely identical to its original. Indeed, I
use the word “original” because I hesitate to designate the
original copy as “father”. This is because a clone is not at all
unique from its original. A clone made from Mr. James is
nothing but Mr. James once again. This clone cannot be a son
to Mr. James, only himself photocopied, re-manufactured or re-
cycled. This clone has one and the same DNA as Mr. James,
but a son to Mr. James must have a distinct DNA from both Mr.
James and his wife or whoever is the mother.
We have seen that a man and woman must beget a son/
daughter who has a distinct and unique DNA, in other words, a
unique human being imbued with uniqueness, individuality and
personality. And if a genealogy or family tree is made up of a
succession of sons and daughters across generations, then
uniqueness, individuality and personality lie at the very root of
the concept of genealogy or family tree, and thus provide the
platform for its meaning.
It follows that since a clone is an exact copy of its original, it
has no uniqueness, individuality or personality, and since it has
no uniqueness or personality distinct from its original, then it
has no father/mother, and therefore no family descent. By ex-
tension, it has no family tree and no genealogy. Also by exten-
sion, a hypothetical community of clones is a community of
people with no individuating uniqueness, personality, no family
descent, and no genealogy. If we could imagine this community,
filled as it were with only exactly identical clones, then it is not
difficult to see that there is no difference between one individ-
ual and another.
In other words, there is no individual differentiation. But
without individual differentiation there can be no social and
political organization. Hence if we conceived a continent filled
with identical clones, it will be difficult to distinguish nations,
ethnicities, communities, and states. Why is this? Because ma ny
people in such a hypothetical world are one and the same per-
son. But social and political organization presupposes the di-
versity and resultant identification that result from uniqueness,
individuality and personality of distinct persons. Organizational
administration (of whatever form) will not make much sense in
a routine conflation of the identities of organizational role-
occupants. By blurring issues of uniqueness, individuality and
personality/personhood, cloning is an anti-thesis to social or-
ganization and a thesis for a sort of state of nature.
The strongest objection to this forecast is that man is a prod-
uct of both nature and nurture, and that because of nurture,
identical clones, like identical twins, would in any case end up
as different personalities. The first problem with this objection
is that of a false analogy between clones and identical twins.
Unlike clones, identical twins are not exactly identical with
their parents. Identical twins might emerge from the splitting of
a single fertilized egg, but such a fertilized egg is a product of
two individuals. Secondly, we may borrow a little lesson from
the identity or identification difficulties we encounter in relat-
ing with identical twins. We would recall that this difficulty is
magnified by the fact that it is only people in prolonged and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 379
regular touch with identical twins (such as their parents and
siblings) who are able to overcome it. This is because we can
distinguish identical twins only by means of their character or
behavioral differences. The special problem with human char-
acter is that it is not immediately discernable. Even more prob-
lematic is the fact that much of our transactions are not with
people whose character we have come to know and familiarize.
A third difficulty is that in cases where we are familiar with a
set of twins, one way we could distinguish between them will
be their differences in mannerism. But we cannot rely on this
because they could well have the same mannerisms if they went
through similar socialization processes. Mannerism results
largely from socialization, and excepting cases of upbringing in
radically different social settings, there is nothing to show that
the very first statement (or couple of statements) of an identical
twin or clone will clearly distinguish her. But our normal case
scenario clearly does not involve identical people being brought
up in radically different and far-off cultures with different so-
cial mannerisms and methods of greeting/exclamation. In any
case, the general business of social organization/administration
of society is simply unable to afford the time luxury of identi-
fying clones by long-drawn character differences alone. We
will recall that administration and management of human be-
ings regularly involves prompt identification for the meting out
of reward for good conduct and punishment for offensive be-
havior. Thus, the objection that nurture will frequently and im-
mediately help us to differentiate clones might be overplayed.
If a clone has exactly the same set of DNA as its original cell,
then we do not have an assurance that those identical cells will
not all possess one talent, one gift, one aptitude, one intelli-
gence quotient (IQ), etc. We may recall that the great variety of
unique talents, aptitudes and gifts embodied in humanity as a
result of the unique distributive power of natural reproduction,
make up the complexity of contributions that produce civiliza-
tion. If we are to picture a hypothetical world of identical
clones instead of innumerably talented and uniquely gifted
people all imputing at innumerable levels, dimensions and qua-
lities, then we can possibly picture an antithesis to a great civi-
lization as we currently know it.
It is obvious that cloning promises prospects such as renewal
or replacement of damaged body cells (stem cells), remedy to
infertility (through adult cloning) and resolution of problems of
genetic inheritance. But these positive prospects must be viewed
within the context of broader dangers. One of these is geneal-
ogy, which provides the platform for determining individual
uniqueness, identity and personality. Moreover, the cross-fer-
tilization afforded through bi-sexual reproduction gives rise to
variety of talents and gifts, which supply the variety, initiative
and complexity that inform civilization and sociopolitical or-
ganization. Thus, genealogy lies at the very root of man’s social
cohesion. A hypothetical society of clones is uneasily juxta-
posed to individual uniqueness, personal identity, and thus to
social organization, human parentage and civilization as cur-
rently cast.
The author thanks Rev. Fr. Dr. Patrick Udenna Ezefunamba
for bringing his attention to thinking about issues in genetic
engineering, and thus, of implications regarding cloning.
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