Cheri with Konny, Karmen, and Kerry Bayer. Circa 1969
Today in 1996, the cloned lamb, code named 6LL3, was born. Her name was changed to Dolly following her birth, after Dolly Parton because the cells used to make her came from mammary cells, and well, we all know what Parton is known for—of course after her singing and charisma! Dolly’s scientists didn’t announce her birth until February of the next year and her arrival garnered a storm of controversy. While many were excited about the possibilities the advance could bring to help medical causes, many others were concerned and even horrified at the ethical dilemmas, especially the possibility that human cloning would be next.
Identical twining is a naturally occurring cloning process. (Growing up, I always wanted to be a twin.) I went to elementary school with identical triplets. Most people couldn’t tell them apart, but somehow I could. They had very subtle but clear differences to me. Later, once I learned more about embryology in school, I found the cloning aspect of identical twinning (or tripleting) fascinating. I’ve wondered about the early stage of the splitting process. Let’s say there is an egg fertilized then there sits the embryo. Some believe a soul is created the moment an embryo is created. So that makes me wonder, if that is the case, what happens when the embryo splits? Does the soul split, so each gets half, or can a soul even be divided in two? Does one of the embryos take the first soul and another comes along for the second person? And what happens when it happens again, making triplets? Who is the original person? Who gets the original soul? Or maybe the souls come later, after all the splitting up is finished. I found this in the Bible when I was doing my book research: As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything (Ecclesiastes 11:5). I’ll say we don’t know. But it is riveting to speculate about.
My book, The Clone’s Mother is about cloning and I learned a lot doing the research for it. I didn’t know before all my reading that mammal cloning has been going strong all this time. Not only small animals like mice are being cloned, but also pigs and cattle. Even cats and dogs, though there has been a lot more trouble getting the canine cloning to succeed. Cats have been a little more successful. (All that probably supports dog-lovers' theories about the higher thinking in dogs over cats. But I won’t get into that. I’m a cat person.) In The Clone’s Mother one of my characters is working in a cloning lab with a lot of cats. In his lab, we have Harriet, the donor cat, whose genetic material is used to transfer into embryos. Then there’s her clone, Harriet Too. After that, the next one who comes from the same DNA is Harriet Too Two, so that one gets the nickname TuTu. And of course there has to be a Copy Cat. I had fun writing all that.
A movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger called, “The 6th Day” added pretty much nothing to the whole process of research, but at least it got me away from the computer for two hours and three minutes. Or probably not that long, because I fast forwarded through a lot of it. Pretty bad. But one interesting premise was a dog owner didn’t have to lose his Rover at the end of his long, full life like we do nowadays. You just had to take him to “RePet” and they’d get you a new fresh version of your same dog. The new one would even know the same tricks, the salesman at the store said. Though I didn’t buy that because everybody knows cloning just uses the same DNA, it doesn’t duplicate the brain’s memories. Sheese. They should get their sci-fi straight. Some salesmen will say anything to make a sale.
In the middle of writing my book, some guy from Korea, I believe it was, claimed he had successfully cloned a human and more info would be forthcoming soon. I thought, “Shoot! This is going to make my book obsolete before I’m even done!” But soon came and went, and nothing more was heard about this supposed cloning success. I was relieved!
The epigraphs about cloning that are in the front of my cloning book were very easy to find. Often it’s hard to come up with just the perfect quote or two to open a book. But with cloning, there is a lot going on behind the scenes with plenty of people talking about it, if you only look. I had to narrow down all the possibilities and choose just a few. Even the governor of Indiana weighed in about cloning, saying “Cloning is coming.” I have no idea why he thought he needed to make a statement about cloning, but maybe there is some huge facility in Indiana we don’t know about where they need funding so he made the proclamation. I dunno. Maybe he knows something the rest of us doesn’t.
So on this 20th anniversary of Dolly’s birth, remember we once didn’t think we could fly to the moon. So put your favorite person’s hair or nail clippings in a ziplock bag. Just in case.
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