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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hello Dolly, Or Perhaps Frankenstein

Mary Shelley wasn't such a fever-brained Romantic after all. With the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep, the questions Shelley raised through Dr. Frankenstein's monster about ethics and the dangers inherent in the human ego suddenly demand answers.


Comparing Shelley's monster to Dolly, the sheep cloned by British scientists in Scotland, does seem a bit of a stretch. And scientists say it still could take a while before the technology that produced Dolly can successfully be applied to humans. But cloning has arrived. It is precisely now that we should ask ourselves if we want it, and if so how.


The benefits of cloning appear to be legion: better livestock, organs for transplanting into humans, healthier milk -- the list of possible applications probably will never stop growing.


But in an instant opinion poll conducted Monday night by the U.S. television show "Nightline," 6 percent of respondents said they would like to have themselves cloned -- and their desires had nothing to do with animal husbandry or medical research. Of course, that means 94 per cent did not want to be cloned, but 6 percent of 250 million people is a lot.


One can think of a few reasons why people would want to clone, pure egomania topping the list. But what about the clones? And what about people who want to clone themselves or their children to be sure perfect organ donors are at hand should their own kidneys, heart or other vital organs be damaged? Should part of humanity be looked upon as spare parts?


The birth of Dolly does raise some troubling questions about what it means to be a human being. The debate over abortion may have been fierce, but compared to cloning it was just a warm-up. This involves not just questions of life and death, but of creation itself.


What the abortion debate has proved, however, is that no matter how much a church or state disapproves of the practice, it cannot be stopped -- only driven underground. Realistically, the question we should now be asking is not whether cloning should be allowed, but how it should be regulated.


U.S. President Bill Clinton has ordered a commission to start looking into the implications of Dolly's birth. But the issue is truly international. If the United States, for example, bans cloning, then offshore and black market industries will instantly be born.


It is early yet for hysteria. But the question of how cloning ought to be used and regulated should be raised early and at the broadest possible international level. What a challenge it would be to come up with a global response to a moral problem as universal as that of Frankenstein.