The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 18, 1998

Timothy M. Renick
Pages 259-274

A Cabbit in Sheep's Clothing
Exploring the Sources of Our Moral Disquiet About Cloning

Emerging from the first successful cloning of a mammal, a sheep named "Dolly," is a critical but under-asked question: "Why do so many of us find this feat (and its potential application to human subjects) to be deeply disturbing?" This paper suggests that the answer rests not primarily in the theological and philosophical arguments most often heard against cloning but in the threat the act poses to our foundational "cosmological categories." Building upon theories introduced by Mary Douglas and Jeffrey Stout, the essay argues that Dolly becomes a "cabbit" in sheep's clothing—an outwardly innocuous entity which, like Stout's cat/rabbit, offends at a deep and visceral level. Like the cabbit, the cloned sheep and especially the cloned human are disturbing not because of the way they are produced nor by the physical threat they pose but because they challenge the very way we understand and organize our world.