Cloning Conundrums: Dr Duplicate & Dr Ditto answer concerns, FAQs on cloning today

In the 22 years since Dolly made a public appearance, we've seen a lot of apprehensions on cloning.


As the 22nd anniversary of Dolly the first cloned animal comes around, there have been a lot of apprehensions being voiced over the subject of cloning. We at Tech2 are pleased to present the trusty Drs Duplicate and Ditto to answer some FAQs sent in by the general public.

Q: Is cloning something we need to worry about in this day and age?

A: To let you in on a secret – cloning...in a macro sort of way...has been happening around the world for centuries, and in fact, has been hiding in plain sight all this time. But yes, it seems to be getting more intensive and this could be a cause for worry.

Take India, for example: You can identify whether a person from India is from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kashmir, West Bengal, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra – and any of the other states, by simply looking at him or her (sometimes the size and shape of the nose is indicative enough). And if not then, certainly when he or she opens his or her mouth and speaks.

Cloning Conundrums: Dr Duplicate & Dr Ditto answer concerns, FAQs on cloning today

If this ever happens for real, I know cloning is really just a recipe for human daal chawal.

Often, this can go even further: Look at the matrimonial ads in a newspaper and website and you will see people wanting matches which are virtually clones of themselves: same caste and creed, same religion, same degrees, same profession, same colour (fair), same hobbies, same preferences (green card) and of course, all handsome or beautiful.

All mummys want their raja-betas to marry girls exactly like themselves (so that their babies are virtual clones of themselves) and who can make gajar ka halwa just the way they do, and all doting papas want their ladli-betis to marry boys just like they are.

(When this does not happen and the raja-betas and ladli-betis fall in love with different kinds of people, all hell breaks loose and vicious 'honour killings' take place.)

In the recent past, so-called ‘royalty’ in the West used to intermarry to the extent that every prince or princess looked and behaved just like the other – and inbreeding depression set it. In the US these days, President Trump is hell-bent on building his wall to keep ‘aliens’ out and so that all Americans can begin to look, think, eat, drink, drive, shoot, be fat and exactly like each other (which, they pretty much already are, but tell that to him!) Ideally, of course, he would love it if all Americans thought, talked and tweeted exactly as he did and wore his haircut and tie – basically, be clones of him.

We're a bunch of intelligent monkeys cloning other monkeys. Image courtesy: Chinese Academy of Sciences

We're a bunch of intelligent monkeys cloning other monkeys. Image courtesy: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Q: Many countries have banned scientists from doing experiments in human cloning. Isn’t this a good thing?

A: Maybe it is. But you can bet your sweet behind that all these countries are lying through their teeth. They probably all have vast secret underground laboratories in which experiments in human cloning are probably going on full steam.

Which country would not like to have a platoon of Hitlers or Saddam Husseins, or Maos or Genghis Khans, or Attila the Huns, or Robert Clives or Idi Amins or…well one can go on and on – to be in charge? Hitler and the Nazis tried this too the other way around: they wanted everybody to be blond, blue-eyed, six-foot tall and able to shoot the German-Shepherds they had raised and loved since puppy-hood when ordered to do so.

Q: But then we could also clone people like Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan and all our lovely actresses… Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

A: No. Because then everyone would like to be a clone of any such character and when everyone becomes a superman or superwoman or supermodel well then nobody really is one!

Q: Is there any specific threat that countries like India face, because of cloning?

A: Unfortunately, there is: Cloning renders sex between partners redundant – it is as asexual as reproduction gets. You can have identical babies without having sex. This, you can be sure, will greatly appeal to all kill-joy governments around the world, especially leading ones like ours, which seems to believe that having a good time or enjoying yourself while being naked is committing a cardinal sin.

Once scientists perfect the art of cloning, you can be sure that the governments (backed by holier-than-thou political parties and god-men and god-women, who will, of course, be getting up to private hanky-panky with little girls and boys in their dharamshalas) will ban all sexual activity. They will say that if ants and bees and bacteria and fungi and so many plants can reproduce without sex, why can’t we? For countries like India, where sex is probably the only enjoyable thing left that people can do, taking this away will lead to depression on a nuclear scale.

No black sheep here... just a couple more Dollies cloned from the same cell line. Image credit: University of Nottingham

No black sheep here... just a couple more Dollies cloned from the same cell line. Image credit: University of Nottingham

Q: It is said that by cloning we can bring back to life animals that have gone extinct and save those which are on the brink of extinction. Isn’t this a good thing?

A: It may be. But this time, scientists have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Instead of trying to clone rare and extinct animals, they ought to be trying to clone entire ecosystems and habitats. Imagine if they could clone the entire Corbett National Park or Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and places suchlike: the rare animals will not have to go through the trauma of being caught and cloned.

Also, would you really like dinosaurs like the Rajasaurus or T-Rex to be stomping around Lodi Gardens, or the Marine Drive promenade or Marina Beach when you go there for your daily walk? Clone their habitats first, and then think of bringing them to life again so they have someplace to live the way they used to.

Q: Dolly the sheep was the first animal to be cloned, but she lived only for six years. It is said she died young because of some problem with the process (involving the mitochondria I think). So was it worth all the trouble, expense and effort?

A: Some scientists believe she died because of respiratory problems. Whatever it was, these are merely teething troubles and nowadays, longevity has far improved. Remember, the first heart transplant patient lived for just a few days, but now these patients more or less live a normal lifespan.

Dolly and the media in 1996. Image courtesy: University of Edinburgh

Dolly and the media in 1996. Image courtesy: University of Edinburgh

Q: Surely it is useful that we can clone animals?

A: Many animals have been cloned since Dolly. Cattle, pigs, horses, mice, sheep, rhesus monkeys, mules, dogs, wolves, and water buffalos. From our point of view, it could be regarded as useful, because we use these animals as food or in laboratories. From the animals’ (and animal-activists’) points of view, it is nightmarish. Imagine if you were first born a clone, after which your only purpose in life is to be eaten or given a horrible disease so scientists and doctors can attempt to find a cure. Nope. Not a pleasant fate!

Q: Can’t cloning be used as a form of insurance for parents? If a favourite child dies they would be able to clone it and bring it back to life and carry on as if nothing happened. And a lot of children die needlessly these days – in accidents and other mishaps and from avoidable diseases.

A: Ah, but can you imagine the burden on and trauma faced by the poor cloned replacement child? In school, he or she will be mercilessly ragged and be called, ‘oye-genuine-fake!’ and at home, his or her parents may constantly compare him or her with the original one that they lost. The only people who might thrive from this are counsellors and psychiatrists. Again, not a good sign for society.

This story is a satire written by the author on the 22nd anniversary of Dolly, the first cloned mammal's public appearance. 

The author is a writer, columnist, environmentalist and bird watcher.