Many objections to reproductive cloning (RC) relate to aspects of genetic determinism and to the presumed loss of an open future for children who are clones. Genetic determinism (GD) presupposes that our personalities, behaviors, talents, and interests are determined exclusively by our genetic inheritance. The concept of an open future was originally propounded by the philosopher Joel Feinberg.1 The right to an open future implies the availability of a full set of choices, among which every child is able to take autonomous actions and make autonomous decisions. An open future implies that a child’s choices and opportunities are not limited by the decisions of others. The child’s future autonomy is held in trust by her parents and guardians.
GD is characterized by a popular fatalistic notion – “it’s in my genes”. In other words, I’m not responsible, really, for my actions or choices. My genes made me do it. But GD is a false premise. One inherits one’s genetic makeup, but the expression of one’s inherited DNA results from a deeply complex set of interactions. The cellular environment and genetic regulatory processes are two critical factors impacting gene expression. Positive and negative biochemical feedback are constantly interacting to determine which genes are active and which are suppressed at any given point in time.
The external environment provides numerous inputs and feedback mechanisms which impact genetic expression. Diet, exercise, sufficient rest, fresh air, and relationships of family and friends are a few of the important environmental factors leading to genes being turned on and off. Your genetic composition is important, but it is merely the 88 keys of the piano. An infinity of combinations of expression is possible within the parameters of your inherited DNA.
A child who is a clone is not consigned to the identical circumstances of the life that has been lived by his genetically identical predecessor. Yes, a clone has the identical DNA of his genetic parent (with the minor exception of his mitochondrial DNA). But the concept of genetic determinism exists for neither the parent nor the clone. The child’s life will be completely different than that of his genetic and older twin, based on his family circumstances, his friends, his education, his environment, and his own, freely chosen, interests and pursuits.