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 deeply society feels threatened by certain aspects of genetic engineering. This article analyzes the multiple social issues involved in cloning. The field of bioethics constitutes an open laboratory for studying processes of norm formation in a pluralist society, providing a clear view of how axiological controversies and economic logic are entertwined. After specifying what cloning is, the article reviews the stages by which the prospect of reproductive cloning, both real and fantasmatic, has become a focus of public debate. It then examines the main arguments for and against reproductive cloning, with particular attention to arguments citing the danger cloning presents for the social tie (break with the filiation principle, resurgence of eugenics, etc.). It moves on to consider the difficulties involved in formulating a prohibition at both national and international levels. Lastly, an attempt is made to show how the discourse on cloning of certain biologists is a powerful invitation to deepen dialogue between the life sciences and sociology.