In Box

The Clone Wars

Human cloning may lead to the end of the species, argues Joel Peck, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sussex. Societies populated by clones would likely be so antagonistic, Peck writes in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, that they would drive themselves into extinction. Many species benefit from individuals who sacrifice ...

Human cloning may lead to the end of the species, argues Joel Peck, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sussex. Societies populated by clones would likely be so antagonistic, Peck writes in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, that they would drive themselves into extinction.

Many species benefit from individuals who sacrifice for the common good. Peck theorizes that this behavior could be the product of genes that combine to create "altruistic" individuals. Likewise, several genes might be needed to produce a selfish, "nasty" individual. Asexual species, which reproduce with only one parent (as human clones would), tend to die off, Peck believes, because they create fewer altruists.

How so? In sexually reproducing species, "Nasties" migrate to the "Altruistic" society, where they mate with the locals. Their offspring do not inherit only Nasty genes, so the society remains a decent place. But, if Altruists and Nasties reproduce asexually, Nasties would migrate to the Altruistic society and produce more genetically identical Nasties. Eventually, their more aggressive progeny would dominate the entire society.

But, what if a massive environmental disaster strikes, requiring people to help one another? In a world of sexual reproduction, the Nasties, with their inherently selfish mentality, would not collaborate and thus become extinct; the Altruists would thrive and multiply. But in the Nasty-dominated world wrought by asexual reproduction, truly widespread environmental degradation — say, through the effects of global warming — would cause both communities to die out.

So, make love, not clones.

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