Doppelganger

There are a few definitions of a doppelganger. I choose the one that defines it as a living person’s double, an unrelated twin. In some countries, the doppelganger is a bearer of bad news or an omen of death.

doppelganger

Photo Credit: c2k2e via Compfight cc

I remember going to a leadership conference in Georgia with Allan,  a former BSM director from ETBU. We were having lunch with other attendees and striking up a conversation with the waitress. Allan remarked how she looked exactly like one of our ETBU students and how it would be great to get them together. At that statement, the waitress got a horrified look on her face. It turns out that in her culture, they believe everyone has a double in the world, and if you meet your double, one of you will die. End of witnessing opportunity…

If this omen of death belief were more widespread, then maybe the topic of cloning would be less alluring. Making your own doppelganger would have dire consequences.

Many people are still enamored with making human clones. At the beginning of the 21st century, several groups claimed to have successfully cloned  a human baby, but there was never any proof to their claims. Cloning of humans was banned by the United Nations, but not all countries follow the resolution. Most agree on banning reproductive cloning, but some want to continue human therapeutic cloning efforts. Last year was a giant step forward in human therapeutic cloning science (see Attack of the Clones blog), and some labs continue to try to reproductively clone humans. It is still not possible to clone a human with current technology.

We know there are natural clones. We call them identical twins. An egg is fertilized with a sperm and the resulting zygote, for some reason, splits in two and develops into two people. Clones who share the exact DNA with each other. So when we attempt to clone ourselves, we want to replicate that process. Just take our DNA and make another person just like us.

twins with flower

Photo Credit: Len Radin via Compfight cc

The problem is that we are not just DNA. There is more to making a human than genetics. For instance, almost all of the cell contents come from the egg. Not just half the DNA, but all the organelles and cell proteins too. To clone ourselves, we need the exact cell contents that were in our zygote. That means our mother’s egg (the exact one we came from). And that’s weird on several levels.

Also, just the act of fertilization starts a timer for the genetics. Genes turn on and off at the proper timing to get development to work right. With cloning, we have to trick the cell into developing and it doesn’t work right 98% of the time. And the of the times that work, 80% are not normal.

Many of the abnormalities resemble genomic imprinting disorders. This happens when the DNA from mom and the DNA from dad don’t work right together. In most genes, having two copies working is perfectly fine, however in a small percentage, one set of genes needs to be turned off. This happens with conception, but not with nuclear cloning. The imprinted genes are not programmed properly in the clone leading to abnormalities. Genomic imprinting fits in the realm of epigenetics.

What about the clones with genetic defects? They will have high medical costs. Currently imprinting disorders that cause mental or physical abnormalities carry medical costs of several million dollars over the lifetime of the child. Who will cover that cost? The cloning laboratory? Insurance companies? Taxpayers?

Even with all the difficulties, scientists are still attempting to clone, and probably will succeed someday. So, what about the clone itself?

  • Will it be a zombie like person with only animal instincts to drive it?
  • Will it be able to think and learn like a human?
  • Will it have constitutional rights and protection?
  • Will it have a Spirit?

Remember that we have clones walking among us. Those identical twins. Do they have rights and thoughts and ambition and Spirits?

Of course they do.

So if we can manipulate DNA and produce a clone, we won’t nullify the humanity of the clone.

And does that mean that the Spirit lies within the genetics of humans?

Humans have a Spirit. Humans are genetic creatures. Therefore, Spirit and genetics have to be connected somehow. Maybe it is epi-epigenetics…

Makes my head hurt…it would be much easier to just avoid my doppelganger completely.

dsb

 

Empathy and Autonomy

I am a Trekker.  Trekkies are pop culture fans.  Trekkers delve into the socio-political, philosophical and humanistic caveats of the various Star Trek series. We know the word “caveat” and use it correctly. As an adolescent I admired and tried to emulate the character Spock.  I was drawn to the ideal of logic without emotion. Spock and I learned together that emotions play an important role in human society and relationships.  Emotions are messy, undefined and illogical.  Logic is precise, neat, and understandable.   I still prefer logic to emotions.  It is interesting that we are talking about feelings when discussing intellectual traits.   One might assume that intellectual traits would incorporate logic only, yet someone who is truly adept at critical thinking understands that humans are emotional creatures and we are forever influenced by our own emotions as well as the emotions of others.

Today I want to discuss the essential intellectual traits of empathy and autonomy.  Empathy can be simply defined as the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions, the ability to share someone else’s feelings (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).  Autonomy is simply defined as: the state of existing or acting separately from others, the power or right of a country, group, etc., to govern itself, self-directing freedom and especially moral independence (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).  These two topics are far more complicated than the definitions given but we have to start somewhere.

Intellectual empathy vs. intellectual narrow-mindedness  (www.criticalthinking.org.)

To be empathic usually requires a shared experience.  Sympathy is the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).  To be intellectually empathetic, we need to consciously put ourselves in someone else’ shoes that is “Walk a mile in their shoes.”   I remember many times that I just “KNEW” that I was right and then discovered that I was wrong…really, really wrong.  When we encounter someone who is adamant about their belief in something and it is really, really wrong, then we need to be empathetic and gently show them what is right.  To do this we need to reconstruct that person’s reasoning, assumptions and ideas in order to LOGICALLY show them the error.  We also need to be open to correction when we are incorrect.  Here the emotions come into play.  We must be gentle, kind, patient, considerate…Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.  (RSV)

Narrow-minded people are never wrong.  They refuse correction.  They are brusque, harsh, unkind, and the very antithesis of the Spirit.  Jesus exemplified the fruit of the Spirit.  Do I?  Do you?

Intellectual autonomy vs. intellectual conformity (www.criticalthinking.org.)

Autonomy is a self-governed state where we exist/act separately from others.  We are rarely ever separate from others.  Emotions tie us together.  Perhaps a better explanation of autonomy is the ability to think rationally for one’s self.  I have a master’s degree in biomedical ethics.  The most hotly debated subject is autonomy.  When is a patient old enough to make their own decisions…be autonomous?  When is a patient rational enough to be autonomous?  When is one in control of their beliefs and values in order to make rational decisions?  We want our patients to be able to analyze the evidence (e.g. test results) and make a rational, logical decision about their treatment.  Is a 12 year old capable of such decisions?  Is anyone capable of making such a decision when their life is threatened?  These are questions from bioethics, what kind of questions might we ask in other areas of life?

I often pray for “the wisdom and knowledge to know right from wrong and the strength and courage to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Is this autonomy or conformity?

I think conformity is when we follow blindly.  We should always be analyzing what we do and why we do it.  There is a difference between FAITH and conformity.  Faith is an assurance for things hoped for whereas conformity is a “whatever, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my life.”

(Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 RSV)

Faith is active.  Conformity is dormant, intellectually sedentary.

Think about Jesus.  Was He empathetic?  Was He narrow-minded?  Was He autonomous?  Was He a conformist?

Romans 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. RSV

Be autonomous.

Be empathetic.