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An Internet WebQuest

HUMAN CLONING: SOME ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Introduction

If you read the newspaper or listen to television news, you have heard a lot about cloning. Do you know exactly what a clone is? According to the dictionary, a clone is a group of genetically identical cells that are descended from a common ancestor, such as a clone of bacterial cells grown from one original bacterial cell in a laboratory. A clone could also be an organism that grew from a single parent by asexual reproduction. For example, an organism called a hydra reproduces asexually by growing buds from its body. When the buds mature and drop off, they are new organisms that are genetically identical to the parent, and thus they are clones of the single parent hydra. A clone could also be a replica of a DNA sequence that is produced through genetic engineering.

However, these definitions of a clone donít really address the current debate about cloning. A sheep named Dolly was the very first clone of an adult mammal. Dolly was news because for the first time a clone was created from differentiated cells Ė that is, cells that were not embryonic. Since Dolly, researchers the world over have been creating clones of other mammals, including mice and cows. Because human beings are also mammals, scientists have begun to discuss the ethical, moral, legal, and biological issues that might result from the cloning of human beings. Under what circumstances should cloning be allowed? Is it acceptable to clone bacteria or mice? Is it acceptable to clone your favorite pet animal? Should cloning of human organs be allowed? Should cloning of human beings be allowed? What kinds of restrictions should be placed on cloning technologies?

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Task

Your job in this WebQuest is to form an opinion as to whether human cloning should be allowed. You will learn what cloning is and how clones are made. You will research the ethical arguments both for, and against, human cloning. You will find out if there are any laws regarding the cloning of humans and what those laws state. You will identify some of the moral issues that accompany the cloning of human beings. Finally, you will form an opinion as to whether human cloning should be allowed.

Once you have done your research, you will write a set of ethical standards that you think should be used to govern the use of cloning technologies. Then you will prepare a set of ten questions that relate to your standards and use these questions on a survey form. You will interview at least ten people and ask them to complete the survey. Finally, you will compile the survey results and compare these results to your standards. How do your ethical standards compare to the survey results?

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Resources

Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to form your opinion about human cloning.

What is cloning?

  • What is a clone?
    At this WorldBook.com site you can read about what a clone is and the different types of clones.
  • The Mammal Copiers Ė Advances in Cloning.
    At this Australian Academy of Science site you can read about the cloning of plants and about asexual reproduction in general. Scroll down to learn how Dolly the sheep was cloned and the position the Academy has taken on human cloning.

How are clones made?

  • Cloning 1-2-3: Making a Ewe.
    Visit this site to learn more about the sheep named Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned, and cloning techniques.

  • Conceiving a Clone.
    Go to this site to learn more about cloning and to read a discussion about the ethics of cloning.

What are some of the legal issues involved in cloning of humans?

What are some of the moral and ethical concerns about cloning?

  • Ethical Concerns. Visit this Worldbook.com site to learn about some of the ethical concerns inherent in cloning, especially cloning of human beings.
  • The Cloning Debate.
    Go to this article by the Washington Post online to read about the debate over cloning. You can vote in a survey here on whether the United States should ban human cloning. Click on featured story to see other reports on cloning.
  • Human Cloning: Introduction.
    At this site, scroll down to find out what cloning is, the history of cloning, and how it is done. You may also read about the moral issues involved with cloning here.
  • Human Cloning.
    This site has an introductory article on human cloning, videos about cloning, and lists of reasons both for and against human cloning. It includes resources for students who are researching human cloning.
  • Executive Summary: Cloning Human Beings.
    Go to this site to read the results of the National Bioethics Advisory Commissionís attempt to address the ethical and legal issues that surround human cloning.

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Time

3 class periods for research; about two weeks at home to write, give, and compile survey results

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Process

Now that you have completed your research on the Internet, form your own opinion about whether or not human cloning should be allowed. Should all kinds of cloning be allowed? If cloning is allowed, should there be any restrictions on what it is used for? Should any kind of cloning be banned altogether? Write a short list of the ethical standards that you think should be used to determine the parameters of cloning technology. Prepare a set of ten questions based on your standards and use these questions to survey your friends, family members, or teachers and classmates to find their opinions about human cloning. Compare your survey results with your own opinion.

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Conclusion

In the process of completing this WebQuest, you have become informed about a topic that is in the news almost daily. Cloning is a topic that is the focus of heated debates among scientists, theologians, and legislators as well as the general public. Your research has shown you that there are legitimate concerns on more than one side of this issue. You have successfully gathered information, analyzed it critically, and formulated a position on a complex science issue. How does your opinion compare to those found in your research? How does your opinion compare to those people who completed your survey?

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