Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cloning and parental permission

  1. If x is a biological parent of y and z is y’s full sibling, then x is a biological parent of z.

  2. No one should be made a biological parent of someone without their permission.

  3. One’s clone is one’s full sibling.

  4. So, cloning oneself is makes one’s biological parents be the biological parents of one’s clone. (By 1 and 3)

  5. So, one shouldn’t clone oneself without one’s biological parents’ permission. (By 2 and 4)

(I also think that one shouldn’t clone oneself, period, but that’s a different line of thought.)


Christopher Michael said...

In (1), "sibling" presumably means "child of one's parents distinct from oneself," but in (3) it must mean "someone belonging to a category of persons with whom I share, on average, 50% or more of my genes." But then you are equivocating.

Alexander R Pruss said...

One's relationship to one's clone would be very similar to one's relationship to one's identical twin in those cases where the identical twin budded off from one prior to implantation. But such an identical twin is generally taken to be the child of one's parents.

Helen Watt said...

Twins in the womb will always be 'gestational siblings' of each other and 'gestational children' of the mother and by extension the social father. But surely they're not literally genetic children of either (or not the one who budded off from the first embryo though we won't in practice know which that was). There's a sui generis genetic relationship there.

Similarly with cloning, transferring the clone to any woman will make that woman the clone's gestational mother, whether or not she is also the genetic mother of the clone original - as she is in the case of 'pronuclear transfer' to avoid mitochondrial disease where a woman's own embryo is cloned (and destroyed in the process) to produce a new embryo whom she will then gestate, becoming its mother in the gestational sense, though not its genetic mother. She was in fact the genetic mother only of the original embryo cloned and destroyed: genetic motherhood is something she wanted to achieve but has surely not achieved with the child actually born.

Alexander R Pruss said...


I think that the identical twins in the womb are genetic children of both parents.

I am not an identical twin nor was I adopted.

Now, a typical cell in my body is the result of a sequence of a largish number of mitotic events, going all the way back to the mitosis of a single cell that resulted from the union of my social parents' gametes. Hence, my social parents are also my genetic parents.

If I were an identical twin (even if I was the one who budded off from the first embryo), then the first sentence of my preceding paragraph would also be true. Hence, plausibly, so would the second, and so my social parents would still be my genetic parents. The only difference is that the sequence of mitotic events would cross the boundaries between individuals.

Here's a difficulty for your account. Suppose that we have artificial womb technology. Suppose a husband and wife have had intercourse, and during a medical exam both a zygote and a cancer in the uterus has been detected, so advanced that immediate removal of the uterus is required. Thus the uterus is removed and the zygote is transferred to an artificial womb as that is the only way to save her life. A couple days later symmetric twinning occurs, whereupon the two embryos are immediately transferred to separate artificial wombs.

On your account, the two girls are not gestational siblings, are not gestational children of the social mother, and are not genetic children of the social mother or father. It seems that they are not the biological children of the social parents in any way. It is thus unclear on your account why the social mother and father by default have the special responsibility for these girls that biological parents by default have (unless someone else adopts). Rather, it seems that they would have the somewhat attenuated responsibility that grandparents have.

But that seems mistaken: the social parents have full parental responsibility.

On the other hand, it is admittedly counterintuitive on reflection that one would have full parental responsibility for a clone that one's child had produced without any consultation with one, barring adoption of that clone by someone else (presumably, one's child). But perhaps this is no different from the counterintuitive fact that a man or woman whose gametes were forcibly extracted and used for fertilization would (I think) have full parental responsibility for the resulting child, barring someone else's (say, the criminal's) adopting that child.