The Issues Involved in Cloning : Sociology and Bioethics
The law on bioethics passed by the French parliament in 2004 qualifies reproductive cloning as a “crime against the human species”, a clear indication of how threatened the social world feels by certain aspects of genetic engineering. This article analyses the many social issues involved in cloning. The field of bioethics constitutes a kind of open-air laboratory for anyone interested in studying norm formation processes in pluralist societies. Among other things it brings to light the intertwining of axiological or value-focused controversies and economic logic. After specifying what cloning is, the article reviews the stages through which the prospect of reproductive cloning as both reality and fantasy has became a focus of public debate. It then examines the main arguments for and against reproductive cloning, paying particular attention to arguments that refer to the danger cloning represents for the social tie (a blow to the principles of filiation, the resurgence of eugenics, etc.). Lastly, the article looks at the difficulties encountered when attempts are made to formulate a prohibition at the national and international levels. The conclusion seeks to demonstrate how the discourse on cloning of certain biologists represents a strong invitation for greater dialogue between the life sciences and sociology.