Vashon Island beach house, circa 1964.

What makes us who we are?

Plants that reproduce by division are clones. They do not all wind up the same. How they come out depends on the circumstances in which they are planted: acid soil, a rocky area with little room for roots, shade cover. The list of variables that affect the outcome goes on and on.

Before cloning there are several questions I would ask.

At what age would the clone come into being? I was always fascinated by the idea that kids who skipped crawling had trouble learning to read. The occupational therapists would teach them how to crawl and then they could go on to learn to read.

So much of what one can do is dependent on experiences and how they shape us physically and mentally, apparently crawling created connections in the brain needed to read, even though the two activities do not bear similarity. How many connections like that do we not know about?

Also, how mistaken can we be about what is important? Parents with kids who are early walkers are usually thrilled, they don’t care if junior skipped the, seemingly inferior, crawling stage.

If a clone came into being at age two, what would they miss of the experiences that make us able to do the things we can? What about age five? Would they ever be able to do “simple” things like walk, speak, understand speech, read, write, do arithmetic?

Another question is how much of who I am is from genetics, and how much from my life experience?

“Nature versus nurture” is what they used to call the debate (they may still, but I don’t hear the phrase any more). Studies with identical twins separated at birth was the gold standard. When I was in college I did a paper about mathematical ability in women versus men, and I poured over article after article that talked about identical twins separated at birth. It made me wonder how many of these could there be? Even in my pre-parental life, I did not think that there would be that many sets of twins separated. Would I give up a child? Was there a higher incidence of giving up one child because there were two and they were the same? Did they do all these studies on the same sets of twins? Were those twins professional study subjects? If they were, wouldn’t that skew the results?… Would a clone digress as easily as I do?

A personal example: I fell off of our bulkhead when I was three. (I still have a scar, although it has faded to the point that only I see it.) I am afraid of falling. It is different from a fear of heights. It stands to reason that a clone would not have that same fear. How much different would a clone’s life be without that fear? Also, scars and other physical defects change how people respond to you. A clone without a scar might have had a different experience of people. Maybe a clone of me would be bold, comfortable with people and politically astute. Maybe my clone would be ridiculously successful.

On the other hand how much of my bookishness and subsequent learning was from not being bold and comfortable around people? Maybe my clone would have been a high school drop-out. I have a sister who was cute, bold and popular and she was.

As I see it there are too many questions and not enough answers to go for the cloning thing…but maybe that is my fear of falling talking.

This post was inspired by the moving post “Would Cloning Erase Me?”

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