In Which Bryan Caplan Doesn’t Understand Evolution, Either
I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I’m sure we’d share. I’m confident that he’d be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I’m not pushing others to clone themselves. I’m not asking anyone else to pay for my dream. I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask?
Bryan, I’m right with you about the stupidity of anti-cloning arguments. Most of them are just plain silly and not even worth discussing (“Will clones be less than human?” Only if you treat them that way…). Many anti-cloning arguments were trotted out not so long ago about IVF, and before that they had an equally dismal run against the smallpox vaccine. Hooray for cloning!
But here’s where you’re wrong. You are deluding yourself when you say you will experience a “sublime bond” with your cloned son. The bond will be no more, and possibly a good bit less, than the bond shared between identical twins. Romanticizing cloning is just as silly as demonizing it. And the more you insist on the reality of that sublime bond, the more your cloned son is going to rebel against you. Perhaps he will even end up as a Marxist. It would serve you right, frankly.
I also have to say I am always puzzled when people — it seems to be exclusively straight people — valorize their own genes so much. Your genes are nothing special. They are shared by thousands of other people, in different combinations, all across the world. What you do or don’t do with them will scarcely affect your genes’ chances of survival at all. This is thanks to the thousands of others who also carry precisely the same genes — the same genes for brown hair, or pale skin, or hemoglobin, or whatever. Will your genes survive? It depends vastly more on what they do, and hardly at all on what you do.
Your genes are not little avatars of your Self. They are not post-theistic souls on which to pin your dashed hopes for immortality. They are not even alive, for crying out loud. Want to save your genes for all eternity? Build a fifty-foot granite monument and inscribe them. It would work about as well for your purposes.
Your genes are codified ways for building proteins, nothing more and nothing less. These different ways of building proteins play out an intricate mathematical game across some infinitely vast, unpredictable, and constantly changing dimensions of fitness. Just as with prices in the spontaneous order of economics, you cannot possibly know what makes one gene or set of genes better or worse in all possible circumstances. Nor should you try. Trying just shows that you don’t really understand the nature of the game that you are professing to control.
Imagining that you can change the course of evolution (which some, naively, seem to think that they can do by reproducing, and particularly by cloning, although I’m not sure Bryan does think this way) is every bit as naive as thinking, on learning the bare laws of supply and demand, that you can influence the market price by agreeing to buy a product at more than the market price. You’ve done nothing particularly interesting or notable, and nothing that necessarily influences outcomes for the system as a whole. But, you know, thanks for playing.