Frankenstein and the
“Genes of Isis”
Isis And Osiris
By SHARON K. GILBERT
IT’S CALLED DNA, and it’s both hard science and the ’stuff dreams are made of’. Modernists claim credit for the ‘discovery’ of the germ of humanity, all the while nodding graciously to earlier researchers such as Felix Mendel. The magical double helix served as a platform for the elevation of Watson and Crick to demi-god status and as the backbone of a brand new branch of science — chimeric cloning (aka ‘transhumanism’).
Mary Shelley imagined a hideous creature — the modern Prometheus — compiled of stitched parts and a humanist soul. Some may call Shelley’s Frankenstein monster a metaphor for government devoid of religion, others a post-apocalyptic picture of evolving mankind in its inevitable chaotic end. No matter how one interprets the story, the 19th century mind of Mary Shelley painted a literary portrait of the true monster we face today — science unbridled.
To understand the connection between Frankenstein and the culture of cloning, one needs to rediscover classical mythology. Once upon a time, nearly every college freshman spent at least one semester immersed in Ovid’s tales of the ancient gods. This ‘classical education’ has fallen out of favor today. Students now want the ‘fast track’ to a degree, seeking out core curricula fine-tuned to a specific trade or profession.
Now mankind has discovered a new process which affects the manifestation of material life: cloning. Although a person may be cloned to be an exact biological replica of its original, scientists do not realize that it has a spirit which will be completely unique. This is the same situation with identical twins. Currently, the process to clone is at its beginning stages and imperfect; even the cloning of animals has brought about genetic defects and the natural life cycle of these beings seems to have also been affected. Again mankind, regarding this new scientific process, does not understand that there are spiritual ramifications that will affect the spirits of any "cloned beings."
But what about breeding embryos for stem cells to alleviate conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and others? We know that natural spiritual law dictates that a spirit becomes attached, at first loosely, to its preordained organic host at the precise moment of conception, with the process complete upon the birth of a child. (See Kardec’s The Spirits Book, Chapter VII for more detailed information regarding this process). We know this natural law process is automatic and continues to completion (to a viable birth) unless the material of that particular physical body is such that a live birth is not possible due to any number of organic defects, or, it had already been preordained that that particular body have no spirit assigned to it. This being the case, although God knows the future, we do not, so in the cloning process, natural law continues to dictate that spirits will continue to be assigned to these embryos as well, because universal natural laws are not subject to mankind’s arbitrary actions and ignorance. There is always cause and effect involved and there will be many spirits who will start the process of incarnation only to be terminated in this cloning process because mankind does not allow the embryo to continue its natural growth process.
Your questions assume we have a spirit in the first place.
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Albert Einstein
Problems with cloning
1. High failure rate
Cloning animals through somatic cell nuclear transfer is simply inefficient. The success rate ranges from 0.1 percent to 3 percent, which means that for every 1000 tries, only one to 30 clones are made. Or you can look at it as 970 to 999 failures in 1000 tries. That's a lot of effort with only a speck of a return!
Why is this? Here are some reasons:
The enucleated egg and the transferred nucleus may not be compatible
An egg with a newly transferred nucleus may not begin to divide or develop properly
Implantation of the embryo into the surrogate mother might fail
The pregnancy itself might fail
2. Problems during later development
Cloned animals that do survive tend to be much bigger at birth than their natural counterparts. Scientists call this "Large Offspring Syndrome" (LOS). Clones with LOS have abnormally large organs. This can lead to breathing, blood flow and other problems.
Because LOS doesn't always occur, scientists cannot reliably predict whether it will happen in any given clone. Also, some clones without LOS have developed kidney or brain malformations and impaired immune systems, which can cause problems later in life.
3. Abnormal gene expression patterns
Are the surviving clones really clones? The clones look like the originals, and their DNA sequences are identical. But will the clone express the right genes at the right time?
In Click and Clone, we saw that one challenge is to re-program the transferred nucleus to behave as though it belongs in a very early embryonic cell. This mimics natural development, which starts when a sperm fertilizes an egg.
In a naturally-created embryo, the DNA is programmed to express a certain set of genes. Later on, as the embryonic cells begin to differentiate, the program changes. For every type of differentiated cell - skin, blood, bone or nerve, for example - this program is different.
In cloning, the transferred nucleus doesn't have the same program as a natural embryo. It is up to the scientist to reprogram the nucleus, like teaching an old dog new tricks. Complete reprogramming is needed for normal or near-normal development. Incomplete programming will cause the embryo to develop abnormally or fail.
4. Telomeric differences
As cells divide, their chromosomes get shorter. This is because the DNA sequences at both ends of a chromosome, called telomeres, shrink in length every time the DNA is copied. The older the animal is, the shorter its telomeres will be, because the cells have divided many, many times. This is a natural part of aging.
So, what happens to the clone if its transferred nucleus is already pretty old? Will the shortened telomeres affect its development or lifespan?
When scientists looked at the telomere lengths of cloned animals, they found no clear answers. Chromosomes from cloned cattle or mice had longer telomeres than normal. These cells showed other signs of youth and seemed to have an extended lifespan compared with cells from a naturally conceived cow. On the other hand, Dolly the sheep's chromosomes had shorter telomere lengths than normal. This means that Dolly's cells were aging faster than the cells from a normal sheep.
To date, scientists aren't sure why cloned animals show differences in telomere length.
Need a refresher?
See the Tour of the Basics for an introduction to DNA, chromosomes and cells.
©2006 The University of Utah, Genetic Science Learning Center
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