Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Own Private Duncan Idaho or Been There DUNE That

Recently, a company specializing in genetic engineering called BioArts successfully cloned Trakr, a 9/11 canine hero. For those of us just getting over the fact that 8-track tapes are getting replaced by cassettes, this is nothing short of astounding. Spending your whole life with your same best furry pal is, apparently, only a few test tubes away. Seems like a no-brainer...right?


Just because a living being has the same exact genes as your long time companion, doesn't mean Fido II, III and IV will have the same personality as Fido I. It really doesn't matter what Fido II looks like, or whether his mitochondria do a dance just like Fido I's. Rather, what really matters is Fido II's personality -- and that can't be cloned (at least not yet).

We all would love to have our old dog back after he dies. That's impossible, however, unless you can replicate every single experience Fido I ever had in his whole entire life (and just read The Boys From Brazil to get a sense of what that might entail!) Moreover, why go to the trouble and expense of cloning and the associated ethical conundrum when all you get is a new dog that merely looks like the original? Identical DNA can only go so far to bring back your beloved Fido I.

There are so many dogs in need of a home and your nurturing can make New-Fido into your new best pal. New-Fido will never be the same as Fido I. He will, however, be just as good, only different. And, that difference is what makes life interesting. Perhaps New-Fido will be a jogger and you'll lose weight, or she'll be that lap dog you always wanted. Each new pet opens a world of possibilities so why just settle for appearances?

Moreover, cloning could very easily become an addiction. Once you make one clone Fido, you can keep going back to the folks at Bio Arts and turn out a whole chain of Fido gholas -- just like the God Emperor of Dune -- and we all know how that turned out for Duncan Idaho and the entire human race!

Your dog is who he is because of the nurturing you and your family and friends provide. You can't just reawaken memories in the clone-Fido and expect everything to be the same. Moreover, you never know whether the cloning process itself can cause something to go awry. Fido III may turn out to be a pawn in a centuries old war and the Theilaxu's plan for fetch-dominance comes to your living room. In all seriousness, though, the more critical problem is that Fido II may suffer medical issues due to the cloning process. Cloning is hardly a risk-free undertaking.

While we understand the urge to clone, we must insist that you consider this option a folly. With so many wonderful dogs available for adoption, it seems silly to try to replicate a pet who has already reached his great reward. Each pet is different -- and that's the joy of it all. Don't try to relive the past through Fido II or III or IV -- let go and enjoy the present.

1 comment:

  1. Billy and Jill, it seems you view cloning as a folly because it won't bring a beloved dead pet back to life. That's like saying space exploration is a folly because there's no proof aliens exist. Cloning is attracting attention from dog lovers not because it can immortalize dogs (it can't) but because it can be used to produce a new dog that is genetically identical to a specific older dog. As you know, some people prefer dogs that share a specific set of genetic traits (i.e. breeds), and we know that genes and their associated traits vary even within a breed; cloning may be seen as a tool for "micro-breeding" dogs with very specific traits, including (significantly) mixed-breed dogs. As for the plight of homeless pets, that's a serious problem that has nothing to do with cloning; all of us can take steps to reduce pet homelessness regardless of whether we adopt pets ourselves.