Ten years ago this year, the cloning of Dolly the Sheep (named after Dolly Parton as her original DNA came from a breast cell), was announced to much fanfare, negative press, and hoopla (see Nature. 1997 Feb 27;385:810-813). Cloning of a mammal had seemed impossible to many scientists, but it was pulled off using a sheep and some complex science.

When first announced there were reports that scientists would next clone humans and create armies of human clones for spare body parts, taking over the world, etc. Of course, ten years later and 10 other mammals have been cloned — cows, goats, pigs, rats, mice, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses and mules, but no humans, nor even a monkey species, but we have had some cool Hollywood movies on the subject. How many of us have heard of the cloning of these other mammals? The press has basically ignored cloning in recent years after the string of wackos claiming they were going to clone a human – Richard Seed and the Raelians come to mind – of course the Raelians claimed to have cloned a human, but never produced any evidence to support their claims.

One thing that was clear to most scientists in 1997 was that no legitimate scientist has a reason for cloning someone. It will probably be accomplished someday but it is unlikely to be done by a reputable scientist. This cloning issue brought up a whole host of questions as well surrounding the ability to clone – some very relevant to the LDS way of thinking, but, alas, in the end, it is all much ado about nothing.

1) If two individuals share the same DNA and are clones, would they have separate spirits? We know that identical twins are, in essence, clones of each other and they have separate spirits so this one was relatively easy.

2) I have heard some Mormons say that God would not allow a human to be cloned – I am not sure that God would prevent it – if He did not stop Hitler, it is unlikely He will stop a scientist from eventually cloning a human.

3) What if we have the ability to grow cloned organs – would that be ok? I could swap out a heart for a new one. What organs are off-limits? Brains perhaps? In reality with our current technology we cannot grow organs outside the body, but someday perhaps. However, this is an organ not a person so it should not be a problem since organs don’t have spirits – just ask any recipient of a kidney transplant.

4) What if someone creates an army of clones? This is unlikely unless they have an army of wombs to bear the clones and the world would have to wait 16 or more years for the clones to grow up.

4) What if someone clones Hitler or Lincoln? So what – it would be a person that looks like the original but will have a unique personality and mannerisms given the effects of the environment on our development. Who knows, the Hitler clone could be a noble person…

I think you get the point – cloning is here, but irrelevant to us humans (and Mormons) for now as far as I can tell – but it has given us “Attack Of The Clones”…