Has the arrival of a new science era created ethical anxiety about cloning?
What is Fear? Is it an emotion; thought or perhaps an illusion? The ‘New Scientist’ this week will explore the value of human life, or rather, a cloned human life by examining two different texts. Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and Michael Bay’s “the Island” explore various social thoughts about our modern–day society.
Senior reporter Alen Abraham is here to investigate the author’s and director’s point of view on the social morality of a dystopian society.
Who doesn’t fear death? I certainly do. If you are one of those, there’s good news for you. Through making a copy of yourself, otherwise known as cloning, it is possible to increase your lifespan. Research has shown that ageing is not the main cause of death; it is the failure of vital organs.
What if we clone ourselves to take their organs for our own survival? However, is it morally ethical to have one’s clone continually donating their organs? Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Never Let Me Go” and Michael Bay’s “The Island” delves into the impacts of cloning to their audience.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ is a science-fiction novel written in 2005. This
remarkable novel was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in the same year of its publication. In the same year, the film ‘The Island’ which was directed by Michael Bay, was released and also comments on whether human cloning is ethical or not.
Ishiguro’s novel and Michael Bay’s film “The Island”
Through the creation of dolly in 1996 and the two primates in 2018; it is obvious that humans have the capability to create human clones. But the moral impacts of cloning on our society could be devastating. Both these texts show that clones are developed and harvested for their organs, simply for the purpose of human survival. But do you really think clones have souls like humans? if you think that clones have souls like humans is it morally correct to use them for our benefit?
In Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”, Madame and the guardians took the clones artwork to prove to the real world that these poor creatures being harvested for their organs also had souls. Madame expresses her thoughts on this when she says, ‘We took away your art because your art would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely we did it to prove you had souls at all’. This idea is further repeated by Miss Emily when she says, ‘Your art will reveal your inner selves! … your souls!’.
The idea of clones having souls was also proven by Michael Bay’s film “The Island” when the female protagonist Jordan-Two-Delta purchases ice-cream for human children rather buying it for herself. This selfless act of caring others over herself shows that clones have a pure heart and soul like a human.
Both the author and the filmmaker present the idea of clones having souls through two different scenes. Certainly, it would be heartless of us humans to treat clones as just another product that can be used and thereafter discarded; it would be completely selfish on our part to not consider them as another human being.
The two texts try to show that human clones don’t only have a soul, but they also have brains; they have the thinking capacity to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. For instance, in the novel, Kathy says, ‘This might all sound daft, but you have to remember that to us, at that stage in our lives, any place beyond Hailsham was like a fantasy land; we had only the haziest notions of the world outside and about what was and wasn’t possible there.’ This shows that Kathy can imagine a beautiful fantasy life outside Hailsham.
Similarly, in the film holographic technology was used to brainwash the clones to make them believe that they had survived a ‘world contamination’. Even though all the clones in the island are brainwashed, the central character Lincoln Six Echo proves that clones can have a thinking capacity. This is seen when he questions the president (Dr. Merrick) about the things that seem unexplainable and yet something so simple that definitely can be explained. He states, “Why is everyone wearing white all the time? It’s impossible to keep clean, I’m walking around, I get – I always get the grey stripe, I never get any colour.’
When Lincoln Six Echo poses the question about why ‘everyone’ wears white ‘all the time’, the filmmaker wants the audience to think about numerous things. Initially, he wants the audience to understand that these clones are like prisoners in a jail, where there’s no escape; they are doomed to die. Secondly, the director needs the audience to further recognise that Lincoln can think just like a human. The fact that the protagonist understands that it is illogical to wear a colour that quickly catches dirt shows that he perhaps feels that they are in a dull environment; where they do not even have the right to even choose their clothes. This idea of misleading clones is completely immoral as it is observed that they have a thinking capacity to differentiate good and bad.
The topic of clones having a soul and an intellectual thinking capacity leads into a more controversial topic; which is the right to make decisions. Being a human, it’s our basic right to make our own decisions. But is a clone eligible for these fundamental rights? “You’re not, like, a real person. Like me. You’re clones. You’re copies of people out here in the world.”
Here the maintenance supervisor at the cloning facility; ‘James McCord’ symbolises the society in terms of establishing clones as a ‘living human machines.’ The novel and the movie further indicate the decisions took by clones to earn more in their life.
The character Ruth says, ‘I was pretty much ready when I became a donor. It felt right. After all, it’s what we’re supposed to be doing, isn’t it?’. Here it is evident that Ruth decides to follow the fate that was set for all the clones, including herself, “being a donor”.
In ‘The Island’, the protagonist Lincoln Six Echo is found to be taking his own decision after knowing the fact that the “The Island” was a death punishment for them. Most likely he made the decision of living rather getting chopped-up for someone else. This is proven through various occasions; one of which includes their escape from the research facility. Additionally, during the detrimental conversation between Lincoln Six Echo and Tom Lincoln about each of their survival. Lincoln Six Echo expresses his decision by stating “Me Either”. This declaration has a major impact outlining the desire of wanting a life. More importantly, this demonstrates the general human ideology of caring themselves over others. Afterall, as humans it is our right to make various decisions over our live. Therefore, if clones have a thoughtful capability to make decisions for themselves, it is morally wrong to deny their right.
At the end, it is difficult to agree with the character McCord in the film ‘The Island’ when he says, ‘You’re not, like, a real person. Like me. You’re clones. You’re copies of people out here in the world.’ McCord has a viewpoint that clones aren’t real, but Never Let Me go and The Island proves that clones can feel and think; they have souls as well as a thinking capacity that allow them to make decisions and question things. So, what then makes a clone different from a human? The answer is “Nothing”. Therefore, our heartbeat should increase while we hear about the new scientific technologies which have the capability to start a moral anxiety within our society.
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