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Replicating Our Bodies, Losing Our
Selves: News Media Portrayals of
Human Cloning in the Wake of Dolly

ALAN PETERSEN

Dolly’s was the birth heard around the world. The first mammal ever cloned from a single adult
cell, she was living proof that scientists had solved one of the most challenging problems of cell
biology. Her creation raised a troubling question: can humans, too, be cloned? (Begley, 1997:
52)
Only now, as the news of Dolly, the sublimely oblivious sheep, becomes part of the cultural
debate, are we beginning to come to terms with those soulquakes. How will the new technology
be regulated? What does the sudden ability to make genetic stencils of ourselves say about the
concept of individuality? Do the ants and bees and Maoist culture have it right? Is a species
simply an uberorganism, a collection of multicellular parts to be die-cast as needed? Or is there
something about the individual that is lost when the mystical act of conceiving a person
becomes standardized into a mere act of photocopying one? (Kluger, 1997: 66)

According to recent news reports, developments in biotechnology promise to
transform our bodies and our lives. Stem cell research and cloning research, it is
claimed, will offer us the prospect of being able to grow ‘spare’ body parts and
to replace diseased or damaged tissue, implying that there are no natural limits to
life, and that the body-machine may be endlessly repaired, and even replicated.
The story of the cloning of a sheep, Dolly, which made international news head-
lines in February 1997, was significant in this regard. In its December 1997
editorial, the journal Science proclaimed that the cloning of Dolly was one of the
major scientific ‘breakthroughs’ of 1997. That is, it made obsolete ‘preconceived
limits’ in the field of biotechnology and was seen to ‘profoundly change the
practice or interpretation of science or its implications for society’ (Bloom, 1997:

Body & Society © 2002 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi),
Vol. 8(4): 71–90
[1357–034X(200212)8:4;71–90;028512]

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2029). The apparently successful cloning of Dolly – her reproduction from a fully
differentiated cell (taken from the udder of a six-year-old sheep) rather than
through the union of a sperm and an egg – unsettled some deeply held assump-
tions about ‘nature’, reproduction and ‘individuality’. Her birth seemed to
demonstrate that one could ‘turn back the biological clock’ and that asexual
reproduction was possible. Although the scientific team that created Dolly, and
their financial supporters, were keen to emphasize the therapeutic, particularly
pharmaceutical, possibilities created by this latest biotechnology development,
many others immediately grasped the implications for human cloning. Many
people feared that if this technology were applied to human beings, people would
‘lose their identity’ and that ‘the bonds of the family’ would be threatened. With
Dolly, science seemed to have progressed to a point where the nature/culture
distinction was at risk of collapse, and with it many of the categories, divisions,
identities and relationships that seem both natural and desirable. While some
scientists and commentators hailed this latest biotechnological ‘breakthrough’ for
its medical possibilities, many people wondered whether science was in danger of
‘going too far’.
The political reaction to the announcement of the birth of Dolly in a number
of countries was swift and decisive. In the USA, President Clinton instructed the
National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) to report to him on the issue
in 90 days. In Europe, the reaction was similar, with Jacques Chirac, the French
President, Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, and Frederico
Mayor, Director General of Unesco, all seeking advice from their respective
bioethics committees (Butler and Wadman, 1997: 8). In the UK, the Human
Genetics Advisory Commission, which reports to Ministers on issues arising
from new developments in human genetics, and the Human Fertilisation and
Embryology Authority, undertook a consultation exercise on cloning in order to
identify the ethical issues involved (Human Genetics Advisory Commission,
1998). The British government also withdrew further funds for the research of the
scientist who headed the team responsible for Dolly’s creation, Dr Ian Wilmut
(Silver, 1998: 92). In Australia, the federal government announced that although
it did not have the power to legislate against human cloning (a matter governed
by State laws), it would also ensure that federal funds were not used for such
research (The Weekend Australian, 8 March 1997: 48). Calls for an outright ban
on cloning came from diverse quarters, including the Vatican – which argued that
humans have a right to be ‘born in a human way, and not in a laboratory’ – and
the US Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents 700 companies
(Butler and Wadman, 1997: 8). In the months following the announcement of
Dolly, a torrent of articles appeared in science journals and news media expressing

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da Beira Interior on March 7. 2001: 338). Amid the ensuing public discourse about the dangers of cloning and unregu- lated cloning research. megalomaniac leaders and rogue scientists’ and ‘Examples frequently cited were genetic experiments conducted by the Nazis. 2016 . followed by an expres- sion of relief that the technology to clone humans does not yet exist.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. 1998: 4). Downloaded from bod. 1998: 3). Dolly quickly became a symbol of the transgressive potential of the new genetics in general. 1998: 34). gives some insight into the extent and nature of people’s concerns about this issue. 2001: 3) and ‘legal loopholes’ permitting scientists to clone humans (Morris. and that it was likely to be only a matter of time before the feat was attempted (Klugman and Murray. 1998). During this time. The cloning of Dolly. 2001). disrupting the limits of what had formerly been assumed to be incon- trovertible and self-evident (Franklin.’ Interestingly. Losing Our Selves  73 concerns about this development and the dangers of unregulated cloning research. undertaken in 1998 by the UK-based Wellcome Trust. As the authors note.sagepub. the issues and questions that were being raised in the aftermath of Dolly were essentially the same ones that Huxley was concerned about in 1932. it is clear.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 73 Replicating Our Bodies. Dolly is cited as evidence of the scientific ‘fact’ of cloning. ‘The public have fearful perceptions of human cloning and were shocked by the implications of the technology’. In recent news articles report- ing scientists’ plans to clone a human embryo (Borger. and in existing systems of regulation and legislation. in the motives of scientists. In the study report it is suggested that these fears are a consequence of mistrust in scientific endeavour. The study concluded that. however. According to Klugman and Murray. despite this long history of ethical debate. seemed to provide incontrovertible evidence that the means for human cloning was ‘just around the corner’. 2001: 1. A study of the public’s perceptions of human cloning. and what exactly it was that people believed was at stake. in which procreation was done arti- ficially in laboratories and children were cloned from a single master embryo (Klugman and Murray. are by no means unusual in the history of the development of biological science (Turney. Fears about human cloning. and with images of ‘ “photocopied” individuals and automated production lines or artificial incuba- tors producing multiple adult clones’. Concerns have been articulated at least as far back as the publication in 1932 of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Cloning was found to be closely associated with ‘genetic engineering’. and that ‘the practice was firmly rejected by almost all participants in the research’ (Wellcome Trust. a new advance in cloning technology or thought gave rise to heightened interest and concern about cloning. there has been little debate about whether fears about human cloning were justified in light of existing evidence. ‘This concept of human cloning was linked to its adoption by malevolent outside influences such as the military. providing a reminder of where the technology might be leading. Radford.

However. identified a number of recurring themes on cloning. 1998: 12). particularly discussion sites. and the public image of human cloning as duplication or photocopying. and parents gain complete control over the genetic destiny of their offspring (Silver. followed by journals and. 11–12). 2016 . books (Klugman and Murray. involving a content analysis of messages posted on six Internet discussion sites during 1997 and 1998. Blade Runner and Frankenstein (Wellcome Trust. unlike earlier periods. da Beira Interior on March 7. ‘even after explanations of the science behind cloning and in-depth discussions about the influence of environmental factors. The Wellcome Trust study. raises questions about how public perceptions of human cloning are formed and sustained. The fearful responses to the announcement of Dolly. 8 No. and newspapers in particular.sagepub. based on ‘straight- forward extrapolations from our current knowledge base’. Where does the lay public derive its information about human cloning from. the reverse has occurred. last. when the discourse of cloning originated in books and then moved to journals and continued into the mainstream media and Internet. Jurassic Park. Recent books. automation. its (im)mutability. it is Downloaded from bod. most of which only began to appear in 1998. In light of this. Remaking Eden: Cloning. found that ‘Popular culture provided an important frame for reactions to human cloning’. As Klugman and Murray (1998) explain. and its relationship to ‘identity’? Films and books are an obvious source of information for many sections of the lay public. with Dolly. the direction of science and the motives of scientists (Shickle. 1999). meant that there was less oppor- tunity for the influence of academic input into public debate. describe a future. the news media in its diverse forms. and what kind of messages and images are communicated? And how might these messages and images help shape people’s beliefs about the natural body. in which genetic enhancement is routine. with discussions peppered through with negative references to films and books such as The Boys from Brazil. loss of uniqueness and diversity. Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humankind?. such as Lee Silver’s. 1998: 37). referred to above.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 74 74  Body and Society Vol. first was the media and the Internet. including concerns about ‘playing god?’. Dolly proved highly ‘newsworthy’. 1998: 8). where topical issues such as human cloning are regularly debated.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. indeed. One study. receiv- ing not only a great deal of news media coverage in many countries in February and March 1997. The longer lead-time for the publication of books. 4 most of the participants continued to reject the idea of human cloning. mass production and so on. 1998: 5. but continuing to provide the point of reference for many subse- quent media reports about cloning. That is. such as growing up in different eras’ (Wellcome Trust. The Internet is another potential source of information. the year after the announcement of Dolly. are likely to constitute an important source of information and images for a large section of the population.

sagepub.230 [Saturday]). Potter and Weatherall. 2016 . drawing on material from reports on human cloning appearing in three Australian daily newspapers. which suggests or invites certain interpretations.500 [Saturday]). that the mass media may have their most potent effects. Losing Our Selves  75 pertinent to consider how the news media may have contributed to shaping public views and fuelling fears about human cloning. It is through ‘framing’. Priest. views and images. Priest. By ‘framing’ issues as they do – by reporting some ‘facts’. 1995b. Miller and Riechert. Following procedures of discourse analysis (e. 2000. The newspapers were: The Australian (a national broadsheet. 2001. since many of the reports originated with international news services. 1987). Conrad. 2001. 1992. and the use of expert commentary and of particular words. circulation 233. Fairclough. Although the study was restricted to Australian newspapers. The study covers the period from the time of the announcement of Dolly until the end of May 1999. and observations made of key themes. it is important to pay attention Downloaded from bod. da Beira Interior on March 7. 1994: 168). 1997. 17 in the SMH and 13 in The West) – were identified by a newsclip- ping service. and the West Australian (The West) (a state-based tabloid. Hornig. 2000. phrases and metaphors. which may be especially signifi- cant for newly emergent issues (Priest. 1999.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 75 Replicating Our Bodies. 1995a. and ignoring others – the news media are likely to influence public debates in a powerful way (Hansen. Note was also made of the use of accompanying illustrative material that might have assisted in attracting readers’ attention and conveyed a particular image of cloning and biotechnology.g. when it was reported that Dolly had shown signs of premature ageing. 2000: 45–50.320 [Monday–Friday] and 385. This article explores the news media ‘framing’ of the human cloning issue in the aftermath of the announcement of Dolly. 220. circulation 131. The study was undertaken against a background of growing scientific and broader public interest in biotechnology. Articles focusing on cloning – 71 in total (41 in The Australian. author types. Hansen. The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) (a state-based broad- sheet.950 [Saturday]). it is likely that similar reports appeared in newspapers and other news media elsewhere. 1993. and scholarly interest in media report- ing of science and technology and its social impacts. and of any discon- firming data.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. or overseas newspapers such as The Times. 1994). 1994. Petersen. the articles were read. 1994: 168).000 [Monday–Friday] and 399.g. including genetics. In examining news media ‘framing’ of new biotechnology developments. Recent researchers have drawn attention to the potential of the media to shape public perceptions of science and technology.500 [Monday–Friday] and 314. including biases in the portrayal of information (e. and any information that might have helped to provide a context for reported accounts. counter-claims. such as Reuters. through processes of news reporting.

and often achieve front-page. 2001: 1259). Petersen.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 76 76  Body and Society Vol. one needs to be attentive to the kinds of rhetorical strategies that are used by the claims-makers: the journalists. photographed and talked about (Wilmut et al. but to how issues are reported. whereas disconfirma- tions tend not to make the news (Conrad. 1997. this positive image has proved difficult to sustain with cloning research. The Aftermath of Dolly The birth of Dolly proved to be highly ‘newsworthy’. and Downloaded from bod. 2001: 13–14: Petersen. but the effect will be to limit public policy debates (2000: 47). 1994: 25–6). 2000: 46). continuing to shape views long after the original report was published (1997: 149). and the experts who very often provide the commentary on the significance of findings (Conrad. 8 No. This does not necessarily involve an intention to deceive or mislead readers or audiences. Studies that have been undertaken thus far on news media portrayals of genetics in Australia and the USA indicate that the news media tend to present genetics and geneticists in positive. As Conrad argues. 2000: 245). By and large.sagepub. which has been presented by scientists as having therapeutic applications. and Dolly herself became a media celebrity. or near-front-page prominence. 4 not only to what gets reported or not reported. 2001. That is. these were often overshadowed by accounts of the attendant dangers. 2016 . However. scientists have a vested interest in presenting a positive view of biotechnology. Petersen.. for growing new tissue and ‘pharming’ new medicines. genetic information may persist as a kind of cultural residue. optimistic terms. and to secure public confidence which is necessary for the continuation of funding for research (Nelkin. While the medical benefits of cloning were frequently emphasized by the scientists who were cited or quoted in news articles soon after the announcement of the apparently successful Dolly experiment. while others are ignored (Miller and Riechert. The research team respons- ible for Dolly was inundated with telephone calls from the media and the public. Genetic ‘breakthroughs’ are seen as ‘newsworthy’. to focus on medical benefits and to neglect disconfirming information (Conrad. This is no less the case with cloning. 1999. in that issues are presented by relevant stakeholders to advance certain truth-claims and policy positions. She received extensive coverage in all three of the Australian newspapers in this study throughout 1997 and 1998. who was much visited. 2001). ‘Framing’ is always selective. to counter negative images of genetics shaped by its historical association with eugenics.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. da Beira Interior on March 7. which were seen to exist without appropriate regulation or legislation. without clear and proper reporting of disconfirmations. 2001) to help convey a particular image of biotechnology and scientists. which amplifies optimism.

coming directly from the experts.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. 1997: 9). usually including at least some expert commentary. From the very first news reports of Dolly. when it was announced that she had prema- turely aged. Losing Our Selves  77 continued to attract attention up until the end of May 1999. 1997: 30. However.sagepub. articles frequently cite or quote scientists. which was 27 February [Kolata.. including a range of perspectives and expert opinion. commentators pointed out. help lend authority to stories. da Beira Interior on March 7. 1997: 63). 2000: 244]).04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 77 Replicating Our Bodies. and leave little doubt about the veracity of the claims that are made. As in newspaper reporting of research on genetics and medicine in general (Conrad. Journalists were quick to draw implications from the research. that is. ‘science correspondent’ or ‘medical writer’. articles reported not only details of the original research and subse- quent developments. For example. The title of Wilmut’s article certainly said nothing about clones: it was called ‘Viable Offspring Derived from Foetal and Adult Mammalian Cells’ (Kolata. ‘differentiated’ (Nash. even though her advent was treated as a great surprise (1998: 214). causing concerns about the viability of cloning. as well as for medicine and agriculture. Downloaded from bod. 1999. nor did the accompanying editorial. thus technically avoiding breaking the embargo that was in place until the expected date of publication. Wilmut et al. ethicists and scientists. suggesting that human cloning was now not only possible but also probably imminent. Although the qualification or affiliation of authors is often not mentioned in articles. but also responses to the research by politicians. What was novel about Dolly. were reported to have been ‘totally caught off guard’ by the announcement (Butler and Wadman. 1997: 27). was the use of cells that were not embryonic but adult. even though details of the research had yet to be published in Nature. were drawn. who offer their views on cloning and/or its implications. (The story was broken by a science editor of the Observer. 2016 . the implications of the research for the cloning of humans. and the president of the US National Academy of Sciences. or other experts or authorities. who obtained information from a source other than Nature. some of whom are identified by titles such as ‘science journalist’. Wilmut himself never spelt out the human cloning implications of the research. religious leaders. through to more exten- sive reflective pieces. As Turney notes. 2001). such citations or quotations. most appear to have been written by professional journalists. The extent of media and public interest in Dolly over the period of this study would seem to have few parallels in the history of biotechnology ‘breakthroughs’. In the article. Petersen. when she again achieved front-page prominence. Articles ranged from simple reporting of news ‘fact’. During the period of the study. the birth of Dolly was viewed as the realization of an idea that had been discussed for more than half a century. both the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute.

‘mass production of identical people’ and ‘make armies of genetically identical slaves’ evoke a strong image of social engineering and authoritarian control. it was noted that. The assumption was that scientists will clone. who knows? Nature does it often with identical twins’ (Beale. In an SMH news report. appearing in The Australian. Neither in these early reports about Dolly. emphasis added). 1998: 53–4). ‘Master race’. he responds. nor in subsequent articles about human cloning. 8 No. However. 26 February 1997. and rightly so: the ghosts of Hitler and eugenics trigger ghastly memories’ (emphasis added). noted that ‘The success of the work [the cloning of Dolly] brings the possibility of human cloning. ‘Technically. da Beira Interior on March 7. emphasis added). Alongside this article there appears a short ‘Analysis’ piece. the use of terms and phrases such as ‘Brave New World’. and cannot be properly regulated or relied upon to act ethically. Implicit in these articles is belief in the power of science. 2016 . geneti- cists have little control over the production of their popular images (1998: 54). emphasis added). which journalists have drawn on in the absence of scientific sources (van Dijk. A profound fear of ‘immoral science’ is evident in many fictionalized accounts of cloning. it could be used by people to create copies of themselves or to make armies of genetically identical slaves’ (The West Australian.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. journalists frequently discuss genetics in terms of its consequences. In the article. or will attempt to clone a human being. one step closer’ (24 February 1997: 7. ‘So can we clone humans now?’. ‘If it can be done with sheep there is every likelihood it can also be done with humans – entering the Brave New World era in terms of possible uses it can be put to’ (Hoy. In The West it was reported that President Clinton ‘asked the national ethics board to review the “troubling” implications of the cloning of adult sheep – a biological feat that might allow the mass production of identical people’ (The West.’ And that. 26 February 1997. 1997: 8. was there discussion of the differences between ‘popular’ Downloaded from bod. which are moved from the scientific periphery and transferred into the world of morality. ‘At its worst. ‘the ghosts of Hitler and eugenics’. written by a journalist who writes that ‘whenever previous animal cloning advances have been made the fearsome prospect of human cloning has been raised. emphasis added). ‘the production of clones on an industrial scale’. 1997: 8). Outside the boundaries of science. In response to the question. ‘Proponents said the new technology could lead to the creation of farm animals that made human medicines in their milk or contained organs suitable for transplanting into people. As van Dijk argues. 4 An article. but mistrust in the motives of scientists and fear of the products of their research. which is illegal under present laws governing research.sagepub. an Australian senior research scientist is quoted. None of these initial articles spelt out in detail the nature of the threat/s posed by human cloning. ‘Scientists Create First Clone of Adult Animal’.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 78 78  Body and Society Vol.

other than for ‘colour- ful’ or ‘good’ quotes (Hansen. let alone human cloning. 1998: 54). they might have presented a more qualified account of the signifi- cance of the experiment.sagepub. Wilmut and his colleagues said nothing about cloning. da Beira Interior on March 7. they indicated that it was possible that there may be only a small proportion of the differentiated cells that have effective embryonic potential (Gould. The report refers to the publication of a German news magazine. as the original article seems not to have been read and no confirmation of the findings was sought. Drawing the Line In the weeks and months following the initial reports. for example. the newspapers were filled with stories about various official responses to the prospects of human cloning. As mentioned. tended to reflect and reinforce the popular image of cloning as duplication or ‘imitation’. which appeared in The West a week after the announcement of Dolly. was reported as calling for verification of the findings (Hoy. However. When articles are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. and its more specific biological meaning (Silver. which included a drawing showing five identical copies of Adolf Hitler marching next to four Albert Einsteins and three Claudia Schiffers – and is overshadowed by a large reproduction of the drawing. stories and visual material. or contending scientific views. the findings were. Although one scientist. or sought more detail about the study and its implications from other scientists. duplication. Losing Our Selves  79 meanings of the term ‘clone’ (i. journalists were left to make their own interpretation of the signifi- cance of the Dolly experiment. 1994: 123). and drawings depict- ing duplication or mirror images. is likely to have lent legitimacy to the research. 2016 . Nature. including diagrams of ‘how Dolly was developed’. a point of evident concern to scientists as pressure mounted to restrict or ban cloning research. none of the articles contain independent confirmatory information. even though. ‘still unpublished. However. 1998: 45–6). or cheap imitation of a complete original). Such popular cultural portrayals can be clearly seen. journalists tend not to cross-check information with other scientists or contact the authors. Further. Der Spiegel. which sometimes accompanied stories. The validity of the Dolly experiment seems not to have been independently verified by any of the journalists. at the time of the original reports. as one journalist remarked. 1997: 8). in their article.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 79 Replicating Our Bodies.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. If journalists had waited to read the original article.e. in the initial SMH article on Dolly. which was seen as not requiring verification. Downloaded from bod. ‘Super-Milk Cow Looms Amid Fear Over Tampering’. 1998: 105–6). in an article. In the scientific understanding of the term. The fact that the article was known to have had been accepted for publi- cation by a prestigious scientific journal. so details are scarce’ (Beale. cloning or ‘mononuclear reproduction’ may not even be related to genetics (van Dijk. 1997: 8).

it notes: Downloaded from bod. ‘the prospect of cloning a human being raises fears of Frankenstein proportions’.’ Further. in June 1997. that President Clinton had requested the United States Congress to impose a five-year ban on the cloning of humans. well-being and peace of mind of people everywhere. presented evidence to suggest that human cloning experiments were under way. or had moved to ban cloning or restrict access to funds that would allow cloning research. Reports. Hawkes and Rhodes.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. In reports. 5 March 1997: 9). ‘One unanimous conclusion has emerged: attempting to clone a human being is unacceptably dangerous to the child and morally unacceptable to our society. This view was likely rein- forced by newspaper reports.sagepub. For example.g. and argued the need for regulation. A number of governments instructed their bioethics committees to review the implications of cloning. and as saying ‘All sorts of frightening possibilities can lurk behind these issues’ (The West. 2016 . which appeared in the same edition of The Australian that announced the bans. at least. appearing soon after the announcement of Dolly. entitled ‘A Stand Against Human Cloning’. In one. various authorities were cited or quoted as express- ing their dismay and disgust at the prospect of human cloning. Another reported that ‘Pope John Paul 2 implicitly condemned research into cloning when he warned on Sunday against carrying out “dangerous experiments” with life’. provided the stimulus for a number of detailed discussions about human cloning. its ethics and its regulation. An editorial. He is quoted. 8 No.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 80 80  Body and Society Vol. none of the early reports. da Beira Interior on March 7. although some commentators suggested that cloning adult cells could allow people to grow their own ‘spare’ body parts. Some of these articles articulated the dangers of ‘tampering with nature’. ‘Cloning humans would threaten the security. many reports expressed the view that human cloning was not only possible but was likely to occur in the near future. and no individuals or groups were reported as defending human cloning. or were imminent. a cardinal is reported as describing the idea of human cloning as ‘morally repugnant’. commented that. ‘against nature’ and ‘against God’s will’.’ Some articles also included responses from the Catholic Church. which was described vari- ously as ‘repugnant’. However. that Wilmut had informed a British parliamentary committee that ‘human clones could be created in less than two years’ (see e. 4 Prominent scientists and authorities were quick to distance themselves from the application of the new technology in human cloning. No articles expressed support for human cloning. 1997: 15). US President Clinton expressed his response to the findings of the ethics commission which was asked to review the legal and ethical ramifications to cloning. and ‘criticised those who “trample on human dignity for the sake of power and money with abuses of all sorts” ’ (The Australian. ‘US Bans Cloning of Humans for Five Years’. 4 March 1997: 6). in one article. and that. Further.

it is much more difficult to make persuasive the still compelling case against cloning human beings. interfere with the sacred mystery of birth. clearly the apparent potential to reproduce asexually through cloning questioned the self-evidence of the ‘two-sex model’.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. 2016 . harm the integrity of families and negate the individuality each person possesses. 1997: 20). and threatens ‘genetic distinctiveness’ that ‘symbolises the unique- ness of each human life and the independence of its parents that each human child rightly attains’ (Kass. Losing Our Selves  81 While some opponents believe cloning of any kind – plant or animal – is wrong. which would. The editorial notes that. particularly social environment. Arguments about threats to ‘genetic distinctiveness’ or ‘uniqueness’ reveal the determinist assumption that the individual’s genes completely and decisively determine everything else about the individual. the strongest opposition is rightly reserved for human cloning. or harms ‘the integrity of families’. What seemed ‘unnatural’ and ‘disturbing’ to many people was the prospect of repro- duction outside normative heterosexual arrangements. or what defines ‘natural’. even by scientists involved in the development of the technology. including the biography that constitutes his or her life (Brock. In his view. [and] procreation into manufacture’. ‘In a world where once-given natural boundaries are blurred by technological change and whose moral boundaries are seemingly up for grabs. and how science itself. media attention focused almost exclusively on the dangers of the technology for ‘individuality’. For example. emphases added) One writer. is a radical departure from the natural human way’.sagepub. emphases added). which would ‘represent a giant step towards turning begetting into making. to the formation of identity. was the question raised of exactly how human cloning threat- ens people’s ‘security. Few articles acknowledged the importance of non-genetic factors. that cloning from adult human beings could never Downloaded from bod. In neither of the above articles. they say. 1990). or why ‘genetic distinctiveness’ is crucial to personal identity. ‘we’ have become ‘conditioned’ to the idea of human cloning.’ Further. and concerns about its regulation. Rather. 1998: 152). ‘the integrity of families’ and society more generally. well-being and peace of mind’. through its power to alter the body might be implicated in the forging of new identities. which produces single-parent offspring. expressed concerns about the threats posed by human cloning to ‘natural’ reproduction and ‘indi- viduality’ (Kass. 11 June 1997: 12. ‘some of the present protocols were drafted when it was believed. the writer makes liberal references to ‘nature’ and to ‘natural’ processes. that ‘the technology is unpoliceable’. based upon the notion of two opposite. mutually attracting sexes (Laqueur. da Beira Interior on March 7. However.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 81 Replicating Our Bodies. articulated in an SMH Editorial. (The Australian. a professor of social thought at a US university. Many commentators expressed the fear. 1997: 20. nor in other articles. which are seen to be at risk from human cloning. ‘Asexual reproduction. In his article.

Further. For example. intended to clone a human seemed to confirm the view. sometimes expressed concerns about the effectiveness of legislation. and outpacing social attitudes and regulation. either [the] scien- tific. that human cloning was unpoliceable. examining the ethical and medical implications of cloning experiments (referred to above). that a physicist. 26 February 1997: 14). responsible research from illegitimate. human cloning will happen’. da Beira Interior on March 7. ‘The possibilities for using the technology will undoubt- edly be tempting for researchers and for political elites’ (editorial. 4 be achieved’. 1998: 3) Clone Plan Threatens to Create Human Monsters: Scientists (Hickman. ‘crazy and a nuisance’ (SMH. too. Seed seemed to fit perfectly the image of the ‘mad scientist’ of the Downloaded from bod. and fears about errant scientists ‘crossing the line’ of acceptable research practice. 8 March 1997: 48). who was discredited as ‘eccentric’ (Dayton. ‘My feeling is that unless there is an enforceable law. Richard Seed. or ethical implications of such experiments’ (The Weekend Australian. SMH.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. social. ‘The problem for society is that the technology of cloning and its experimentation are progressing at a much faster rate than society can contemplate. He concludes. These comments reflected more general concerns. is dismissed by one of these scientists as ‘obfus- cation of the worst order’. 1998: 9). 14 January 1998: 8) Other scientists whose responses were elicited sought to distance themselves from Seed. irre- sponsible research will be crossed if appropriate legislation is not enforced (Smith. The scientist goes on to cite the case of a fertile woman and an infertile man who want children and who might prefer to clone themselves rather than use donor sperm from another man. The earlier claims of Wilmut that. 21 January 1998: 10). in an extensive article in the SMH. 8 No.sagepub. expressed by a number of journalists and scientists. Visions of ‘Mad’ Scientists Reports. As the Australian Federal Health Minister was reported as telling Parliament. and that ‘it will always be justified by the magic word “compassion” ’. Scientists who are quoted in articles. in early January 1998. and that vested interests would likely dictate that humans would be cloned. with headlines and stories implying that human cloning was inevitable and imminent: Scientist ‘90% Ready’ to Clone First Human (Weiss and Delvecchio. 1998: 5) Congress Backs Clinton on Cloning but Seed Threatens to Sidestep Ban (The Australian. scientists are quoted who acknowledge concerns that the line demarcating legitimate. that science was ‘proceeding too fast’. 2016 . 1997: 36). expressed by journalists and various commentators quoted in news stories.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 82 82  Body and Society Vol. ‘We can’t see a clinical reason why you would do it’ (clone a human). 18 December 1998: 11) and ‘clearly unhinged’ (The Australian.

also seemed to confirm some commentators’ concerns that human cloning would occur. including reference to Seed’s work. except Wilmut’s. Reports suggested that he was on the verge of undertaking human cloning. one article cites an expert who predicts that. at the moment” ’ (Hickman. they’ll never be forgotten’ (Dayton. few expressed doubts that cloning was possible and was likely to occur in the absence of regulation. . 1998: 9). . . 2016 . in cases where scientists were determined. despite regulation. . but I think people will try anyway. These included: ‘We Have the Technology. 14 January 1998: 8). 1998: 3). ‘Double Take’ (Kerin and Collins. and that he ‘said on US radio that President Clinton “does not have the power to stop me. One. In one article. The other. ‘Alive and Cloning’ (Dayton. as are criticisms of particular Downloaded from bod. these articles included comments by scientists and other experts that human cloning should be rejected because it is ‘unethical’. . Seed’s reported intentions to ‘open [sic] a labora- tory in Mexico if the process [of cloning babies for infertile couples] was banned by Congress’ (The Australian. 1998: 3). and ‘Cloning’ (Jones. Losing Our Selves  83 Frankenstein story (Turney. . as yet. . probably in the United States with private backing. Another finishes with. a biologist. 1998: 13). 1998: 26). I strongly suspect an element is a search for attention from research bodies’ (Dayton. but Have We the Nerve?’ (Abriel. particularly in NSW. Another notes that he ‘has assembled a team to begin work before the US Congress can ban the procedure’. A number of extensive articles on human cloning. Such critical comments about the motives of scientists are relatively rare in news media portrayals of genetics and medicine. In its conclusion. 1998: 9). an ethicist. who is ‘a member of a team working to build better sheep through genetic tinkering’. not in peer-reviewed journals. da Beira Interior on March 7. is said to agree: ‘Many of the reports which the media pick up are anecdotal or through press release. there are no laws prohibiting it’ (Kerin and Collins. . ‘You can make cloning against the law. 1998: 9). but warns that it could also occur in Australia. ‘human cloning would eventually occur. and that one should distinguish between ‘acceptable’ (therapeutic) applications of cloning and ‘unacceptable’ (reproductive) applications. Again. They’ll do it because if they do. willing to work with him’ (Weiss and Delvecchio.com at b-on: 00400 Univ.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 83 Replicating Our Bodies. Although some of those cited express scepticism of Seed’s claim that he was ready to clone a human being. 1998: 5). Seed is reported as saying that ‘his preparations had progressed “from 50 per cent complete to 90 per cent complete” with the assembling of several physicians . where. is reported as saying that ‘the recent flurry of publicity about a cloned this or a cloned that may be a direct conse- quence of cash-strapped scientists struggling “to get their name in front of granting bodies and to publish papers” ’.sagepub. appeared soon after the announce- ment of Seed’s intentions. 1998). This article also cites two experts who question the motives of scientists who make claims about the ability to clone. 1998: 26).

Hence. or the commercial future of cloning technology. That comments of this kind were made by scientists emphasizes the extent of their concerns about the direction of public debate about cloning in the aftermath of the announcement of Dolly. In September. By and large. The West. Growing Doubts about Dolly As mentioned. some newspaper reports began to raise doubts about the research and its commercial applications. da Beira Interior on March 7.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. In July.’ It noted that. an article reporting that the scientists who cloned Dolly hoped to mate her with a ram of the same breed. an article. as were those associated with the biotechnology industry. ‘The sheep was born 14 months ago.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 84 84  Body and Society Vol. and seek to portray them- selves. or to discredit the work of those who claimed to be involved in such research (1998: 92). pointing out that ‘nobody else has been able to repeat the experiment’. reporting that two scientists had published a letter to Science. However. 15 March 1997: 40). 4 research projects. and challenging Wilmut and his team to provide more evidence. and as altruistic defenders of the public’s health (Petersen. in early press coverage of the Dolly experiment and its impli- cations. However. scientists are portrayed. reporting that deformed lambs had been a side-effect of the research (e. they sought to downplay the possi- bility of human cloning. 2001: 1264). 8 No. ‘The problem of the “giant” lambs keeps recurring despite attempts to solve it since it was first identified last year. few concerns about the validity of the research.g. and goes on to say. who had most to gain in the short term from animal applications of cloning technology. and reports him as saying. The article notes that. the ‘Institute director and chief executive Professor Graham Bulfield’. Articles appearing in some newspapers as early as March 1997. reported that ‘The scientist who pioneered sheep cloning has admitted its commercial future may be doomed because many of the lambs are born abnormally large and die soon after birth. asks: ‘ “Is Dolly seven or is she 14 months?”. ‘it now seriously jeopardised the exploitation of cloning technology’ (Connor.’ The article cites Wilmut as attributing the problem to the cloning technique. from mid-1997. were given little prominence. “The fertility tests could help answer the question” ’ (The Australian.sagepub. 2016 . raised questions about Dolly’s age. As Lee Silver (1998) observes. ‘Pioneer Ques- tions Viability of Cloning’. despite these reported problems and expressed doubts about the success of the Dolly experiment. were raised.’ In the article. Further articles followed in February 1998. but the mammary tissue used to clone it was born from a six-year-old ewe. and how this might affect the progress of ‘legitimate’ research. 1997: 3). many scien- tists who work in the field of animal genetics and embryology were dismayed by all the attention directed at their research. as ethical and heroic. 23 September 1997: 11). subsequent articles Downloaded from bod.

Coverage included news articles reporting that a Canadian-based religious cult. The majority of news reports in the months after the initial report on Dolly. with titles declaring that Dolly was ‘just mutton dressed up as lamb’ (Brook. Then. rarely including commentary that questioned this depiction or raised ques- tions about the validity of the Dolly experiment. causing concern about the viability of cloning. In other words. in May 1999. The articles referred to studies which had shown that the tiny bits of Dolly’s DNA known as telomeres. the Raelian Movement. and the like. Discussion The news media coverage of human cloning in the aftermath of the announce- ment of Dolly provides lessons on how the media may shape public debate on biotechnology and its human applications. were shorter in Dolly than in sheep that had not been cloned. In this unfolding drama. Stories ‘framed’ the issue largely in terms of risk and imminent threat. and no presentation of evidence to substantiate reported claims that human cloning was imminent. At this point. Severino Antinori. ‘science fact’ was seen to be moving closer to popular images. 1998: 13). it is likely to play a significant role in shaping public views on such research. there was little critical analysis of issues or reassessment of the original research in response to growing doubts about its validity. Smith. News reports on Dolly and on human cloning thereafter deployed fictional descriptions of cloning as duplication or imitation. Although the news media is only one source of information on cloning and other biotechnology research.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 85 Replicating Our Bodies. da Beira Interior on March 7. 1997: 326). Media interest in human cloning continued well into 1998. and that an Italian embryologist. and into the following year. had formed the world’s first company to offer cloning (in June 1998) (Ragg.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. intended to clone the world’s first human (in October 1998) (Farrar. fears that human cloning was imminent seemed to have receded. The fact that the issue was deemed ‘newsworthy’ at all can be explained in part by the fact that it resonated with everyday assumptions and ‘cultural givens’ (Kitzinger and Reilly. 1999: 1). providing Downloaded from bod.sagepub. which shorten as cells age. occur. 2016 . especially in the wake of a highly prominent story like that of Dolly. on efforts to regulate cloning research and on concerns about scientists’ efforts to clone a human. as mass production. Dolly again achieved front-page news status when it was reported that she had shown signs of premature ageing. focused on the dangers posed by human cloning. Dolly’s birth seemed to provide incontrovertible proof of widely circulating fictional accounts of human cloning. 1999: 1. 1998: 10). in all likelihood. Losing Our Selves  85 continued to express a widely held view that human cloning was possible and would.

but seem to have no qualms about the usefulness of cloning technology for repairing diseased bodies. ‘the mass production of identical people’. which may have fuelled fears about the imminence of human cloning. The effect was to reinforce a particular public definition of cloning. from ‘reproductive cloning’. depicted as the archetypal ‘mad’ scientist who planned to clone a human. served to distract attention from issues raised by apparently less ‘newsworthy’ stories that cast doubt on the validity of the original research. as defining the essence of our identities. 1999: 191. which they supported. Although scientists and other commentators did sometimes acknowledge in passing that there is more to human beings than ‘just genes’. while genetic determinism underpins accounts expressing fears about ‘loss of individuality’. Journalists. It is also assumed. da Beira Interior on March 7. heightening fears about the imminence of human cloning and about the difficulty of regulating the technology. there was never debate about the complexities of identity or about the relationship between embodiment and ‘individuality’ or ‘identity’. Those news stories that drew attention to threats to ‘identity’. The news coverage accorded Richard Seed. ‘individuality’ or ‘human dignity’. legal and social implications of cloning constitute the focus of a number of substantial articles. that there exist Downloaded from bod. which they rejected on moral grounds. may question the ethics of cloning an entire human being. and the commercial viability of cloning technology. although the ethical. Depictions of cloning in the news media leave the strong impression that human beings are little more than a bundle of genes. the power and authority of science. and the like. The scientists themselves who were quoted or cited often took pains to distinguish ‘therapeutic cloning’. but provided little insight into. with replaceable parts that are subject to modification or replacement. for example in DNA profiling and genetic ‘fingerprinting’ (Nelkin and Andrews.sagepub. 8 No. 2016 . and the scientists whose views are presented. arguably. or to the ‘moral unacceptability’ of human cloning. Wall. 1999: 209). offered little or no analysis of ‘what it means to be human’ or what exactly was morally objectionable about human cloning. The machine metaphor informs many descriptions of the body.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. in the main scientists seemed unable to control the public portrayal of cloning and what were perceived to be the imminent threats posed by the technology. Genes are seen as all-powerful. The extent and prominence of coverage of these narratives. reflecting an assumption which is increasingly wide- spread. by journalists and by most of the various authorities and experts whose views are reported. and its potential to alter the natural – whether for ‘good’ or ‘evil’ purposes – is never in doubt. Furthermore. served to complete the Frankenstein-like script. or discussion of these issues.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 86 86  Body and Society Vol. Despite their efforts to reassure the public about cloning research and the inten- tions of scientists. 4 little in-depth exploration of the nature and extent of these risks and threats.

) The application of genetic research to more and more areas of medical practice will redefine concepts of the body. as noted. and exposing and questioning public portrayals of research. see particularly Hedgecoe. Downloaded from bod. the ‘facts’ of repro- duction and the ‘bonds of the family’. imitation. Articles continued to refer to Dolly as evidence that cloning technology was now avail- able and that it could be. da Beira Interior on March 7. 1998. and assessing whether people should be worried about their applications. 1998. 1999. News coverage provided little opportunity for readers to question the portrayal of cloning as duplication. (On this point. Humber and Almeder. Silver. publics are likely to lose confidence in science and fear its products.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. biotechnology is more than an application of genetic engineering. 1998).04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 87 Replicating Our Bodies. Human cloning was seen to threaten the naturalness of the ‘nature’/‘culture’ division. It is very much a product of regulatory regimes. As Bud (1995) argues.sagepub. she is now firmly embedded in popular discourse.g. Even the appearance of a number of articles casting doubt on the original claims of Wilmut’s team did not serve to disrupt the dominant portrayal of cloning and biotechnology – at least not during the period of the study. She has been the catalyst for wide-ranging discussions about the ethical. Nussbaum and Sunstein. With predictions that society is rapidly heading towards a ‘post- human’ era. Understanding publics’ responses to cloning and other biotechnology developments. and how this may shape publics’ perceptions of the body. Losing Our Selves  87 strong imperatives – both ‘personal’ and commercial – to apply that knowledge to humans. and the like. with visions of a genetically engineered future altering what are seen to be natural givens: the integrity of the body. Although Dolly has long disappeared from the headlines. 2000). under the pressure of a powerful ‘techno-eugenic lobby’ (Hayes. This means taking seriously the constitutive power of the language and metaphors of genetics. ‘genetic stencilling’. the natural and motherhood (1995: 294–5. and doubt has been cast on the success of the experiment that created her. birth and death. 2016 . calls for thoroughgoing analysis of how the news media mediates knowledge about biotechnology issues. 1998. ‘individuality’. as was evident after the announcement of Dolly. applied to humans. there is a need for greater understanding of how knowledge of biotech- nology is mediated. McGee. Beliefs about its future potential. or to reflect in any depth on what is at stake in cloning research and whether it really offers the threats that many commentators suggested. health. and how they might respond. 306). and in all likelihood would be. and with efforts to overcome publics’ anxieties about its products and the threats posed to such concepts as Nature. self and society. illness. When there are concerns about the effectiveness of these regulatory regimes. have been central to its existence. disability. legal and social implications of human cloning (see e. and its dangers.

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1998). Delvecchio (1998) ‘Scientist “90% Ready” to Clone First Human’. M.wellcome. 2002) (co-authored with Robin Bunton). D. Radford. Silver. (1998) ‘Double Your Money’. 2016 . 2002) (co-edited with Saras Henderson). Smith. The Sydney Morning Herald 1 March: 36. Van Dijk. The Australian 8 June: 10. and J. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. D. Science Communication 16(2): 166–79. 8 No. da Beira Interior on March 7. K.A.04 Petersen (jr/d) 11/13/02 11:56 AM Page 90 90  Body and Society Vol. (1998) Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Science. J. Genetic Engineering and the Future of Human Kind? London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. The Sydney Morning Herald 28 May: 1. London: Sage. Wilmut. Genetics and Popular Culture.uk). The Sydney Morning Herald 8 January: 3. Hitler and Mad Scientists: Arguments Used by the Public in the Cloning Debate on the Internet’. Alan Petersen is Professor of Sociology of Health and Illness. His recent publications include The New Genetics and the Public’s Health (Routledge. New York: New York University Press. (1994) ‘Structuring Public Debate on Biotechnology’. Citizenship and Social Policy (1999. D. University of Plymouth. J. Legal. London: Headline. W. Consuming Health: The Commodification of Health Care (Routledge. Unmasking the Masculine: ‘Men’ and ‘Identity’ in a Sceptical Age (Sage. New Haven. CT and London: Yale University Press. in T. R. (2001) ‘Deaf to the Warning: Science and Society Are Not Ready’. Department of Sociology.com at b-on: 00400 Univ. 4 Potter. Weatherall (1987) Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour.M.ac. Ragg. (1997) ‘Send in the Clones’. Wellcome Trust (1998) Public Perspectives on Human Cloning. The Guardian 8 August: 3. T. and Policy Issues. Routledge) (co-authored with Ian Barns. L. Downloaded from bod. He is currently writing a book. J. and Poststructuralism. Smith.sagepub.H. and a number of articles focusing on the new genetics. Tudge (2000) The Second Creation: The Age of Biological Control by the Scientists who Cloned Dolly. Caulfield and B. UK. (1998) Imagenation: Popular Images of Genetics. (1998) Remaking Eden: Cloning. I. (1999) ‘Mutton Dressed Up as Lamb’. Campbell and C. Williams-Jones (eds) The Commercial- ization of Genetic Research: Ethical. and M. God. Medicine in Society Programme (www. London: Cassell. Turney. Priest. Shickle.. Engendering Emotions (to be published by Palgrave). (1999) ‘Cloning. S. Wall. Janice Dudley and Patricia Harris). Weiss. (1999) Sexing the Parrot: Changing the World with DNA.