This weekend my wife and I had some down time so we decided to pop in The Island from our DVD collection. It’s obviously not the first time I’ve seen this movie since I own it but each time I watch it I am moved. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading this post now and go rent it. I promise that this movie will make you think. Also, I’m probably going to ruin the movie for people who haven’t seen it by discussing some details of the story.
The Island is not necessarily unique when it comes to the idea of cloning and/or harvesting human beings. There have been several movies, such as The Matrix and Aeon Flux, that attempt to tackle the ethics of cloning while trying to give a peak into the future results of such action. Aeon Flux was a good movie and The Matrix has plenty of material to stimulate thoughtful discussion. However, I think that The Island gives us the realistic picture of cloning and its results on many levels.
In this movie, clones are created as insurance policies for individuals. Some of the people purchasing these clones have severe if not fatal health conditions. The clones that are created from the purchaser’s DNA give them exactly what they need by way of transplants. For these set of clones, they are created for the purpose of harvesting their organs. Other clones are created to be surrogate mothers for women who cannot have children. For a couple who cannot have a child naturally, a clone is created to carry and birth a child for them. Once a clone has served its purpose, it is terminated or killed. Of course, each sponsor is told that the clones do not reach any level of consciousness but remain in a constant state of vegetation. Since they are not “living” beings, it seems completely rational. No harm, no foul. However, the organs would not live and grow properly in a state of vegetation so the company had to secretly bring each clone to full consciousness and thus created an underground society of clones hidden from the rest of the world. The clones are told that they are the remaining human survivors from a worldwide contamination. However, there is one island that has been preserved and a lottery takes place each week to extract one clone from the underground society so that the island and eventually the earth can be repopulated. Once the clone is swept away to “the island,” he/she fulfills his/her purpose and is killed.
Now, several questions come to mind throughout this movie. Are clones human? Do clones have souls? What about people who can’t afford a clone? (Note: clones in this movie cost approximately $5 million) Is a clone’s status as a human being dependent on whether or not he/she is conscious or in a vegetative state? How about that same question as it relates to humans? Is it truly ethical to harvest human beings? What are the real motives behind cloning?
Answering the last question, the doctor who developed this technology says he has found the fountain of youth and path to immortality. HE did. Maybe his motives started out being pure. Maybe he wanted to help people who were hurting and dying. There is certainly nothing wrong with that intention. But then sin twisted things up for him. This doctor wanted to play God. He wanted to be God. With the ability to prolong lives and cure terminal diseases, he would be the most powerful man on the planet. Whether you believe cloning is ethical or not, sin always lurks at the doorstep waiting to overtake even the purest intentions the minute we open the door.
There are several concerns I have with cloning. First, it seems to be an attempt to play God. The root of this technology can be the lust for power. Many people might argue that cloning would help save lives. Again, the intention might be noble. But if life is created, who assigns value to that life? If it is truly a living person that is created, even at the beginning stages, who decides that the clone is less human than anyone else? Who decides that it is ok to harvest clones for their parts with no regard for the humanity of the clone? Second, there is nothing wrong with prolonging life. I am thankful for modern medicine. However, no technology can deny the inevitable. Death comes to us all. It is the result of sin. There is no science that can counter that result. The only hope we have in defeating death is repentance and belief in Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave to defeat death and render us clean before the judge. So if denying death by science is the motive, to create the fountain of youth and live forever, then it is misguided. Ultimately, a discussion concerning clones must lead itself back to greater concerns about the current issue of embryonic stem cell research. The questions that I asked earlier do not only apply to fictional movies or fantastical scenarios, but must be applied to current research and scientific testing as it relates to embryonic stem cells. We could carry this discussion on much further but I fear you may be reaching your limit.
So…go rent this movie. It really makes you think about the issues of cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Though The Island is a futuristic fiction, when does fiction become reality? Time may tell.