SOC/BIO: National Review Condemnation of Human Cloning

Date: Thu Feb 01 2001 - 06:18:59 MST

This from the leading popular US "conservative" journal. It points to a
scenario that I think is quite possible: The outcome of very early human
genengineering will strike the broad front of "public consciousness" before
the science and technology can provide revolutionary improvements in health
and longevity, sparking a "moral backlash" that sets the entire enterprise
back significantly.

>From The National Review,
1/31/01 9:00 a.m.
Cloning Reality
Brave New World here we come.

By Wesley J. Smith, author of Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical
Ethics in America, recently published by Encounter Books

rave New World has arrived at last, as we always knew it would. On January
22, 2001, Britain's House of Lords voted overwhelmingly to permit the
cloning and maintenance of human embryos up to 14 days old for the purposes
of medical experimentation, thereby taking the first terrible step toward
the legalization of full-blown human cloning. Meanwhile, an international
group of human-reproduction experts announced their plans - current legal
prohibitions be damned - to bring cloned humans to birth in order to provide
biological children to infertile couples. They expect to deliver their first
clone within 18 months. The ripple effect on human history of these and the
events that will inevitably follow may well make a tsunami seem like a mere
splash in a playground puddle.

Human cloning is moving slowly but surely toward reality despite intense and
widespread opposition throughout the world. Many resisters worry that
permitting human cloning would remove us from the natural order. As the
venerable Leon R. Kass has so eloquently put it, cloning brings conception
and gestation "into the bright light of the laboratory, beneath which the
child-to-be can be fertilized, nourished, pruned, weeded, watched,
inspected, prodded, pinched, cajoled, injected, tested, rated, graded,
approved, stamped, wrapped, sealed, and delivered."

Kass's point is that once human life is special-ordered rather than
conceived, life will never be the same. No longer will each of us be a life
that is unique from all others who have ever lived. Instead our genetic
selves will be molded and chiseled in a Petrie dish to comply with the
social norms of the day. And if something goes wrong, the new life will be
thrown away like some defective widget or other fungible product. So long,
diversity. Hello homogeneity.

Perhaps even worse, widespread acceptance of cloning would be a deathblow to
the sanctity/equality of life ethic - the cornerstone of Western liberty
from which sprang our still unrealized dream of universal human rights. The
premise of the sanctity of life ethic is that each and every one of us is of
equal, incalculable, moral worth. Whatever our race, sex, ethnicity,
stature, health, disability, age, beauty, or cognitive capacity, we are all
full moral equals within the human community - there is no "them," only

Cloning stands in stark opposition to this equalitarian dream. It is - and
always has been - the quintessential eugenic enterprise.

Eugenics, meaning "good in birth," directly contradicts the self evident
truth enunciated by Thomas Jefferson that all people are created equal.
Eugenicists believe that the moral value of people is relative, or to put it
another way, that some of us are better than others of us. Eugenicists seek
to "improve" humanity by breeding out the "undesirable" traits of those
deemed less worthy. Indeed, the pioneers of the eugenics movement worked for
more than 50 years during the late 1800s and into the middle of the 20th
Century to eliminate the genes of the "unfit" from the human gnome, first by
encouraging proper eugenic marriages (positive eugenics) and more
perniciously, by involuntarily sterilizing those deemed to have undesirable
physical and personal traits (negative eugenics).

Anyone with even a modicum of historical knowledge - alas, a scarce
commodity in these post-modernistic times - knows where that led. In this
country alone, 60,000-plus people were involuntary sterilized. In Western
Europe, eugenics belief systems combusted with social Darwinism and
anti-Semitism to produce the Nazis and thence to the Holocaust.

Today's eugenicists are not racist or anti-Semites but they exhibit every
bit as much hubris as their predecessors by assuming that they - that we -
have the right to direct the future evolution of humanity, only now rather
than having to rely on clunky procreative planning they literally grasp the
human genome in their hands. Cloning plays a big part in these plans as the
patriarch of the modern bioethics movement, Joseph Fletcher, a wild
eugenicist, well knew when he wrote nearly 30 years ago that cloning would
"permit the preservation and perpetuation of the finest genotypes that arise
in our species."

What are these supposedly "finest" genotypes? Most neo-eugenicist cloning
advocates worship at the altar of the frontal lobe, valuing high
intelligence and logical thinking in much the same way that founding
practitioners of eugenics valued the blue eyes and blond hair they saw each
morning in their own mirrors. Thus, Princeton University's Lee Silver hopes
through cloning to create a "special group of mental beings" who "will be as
different from humans as humans are from the primitive worms.that first
crawled along the earth's surface." Yet Fletcher, Silver, and most others of
their ilk almost always miss the point that smart people are not necessarily
good people. And they rarely discuss designing people with the most
important human capacities of all: the ability to love unconditionally,
gentleness, empathy, the deep desire to be helpful and productive.
Ironically, these highest, best human characteristics are often found in
people with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities - the very
people who the neo eugenicists believe should be evolved intentionally out
of existence whether through genetic manipulation or if necessary, selective
abortion, and infanticide.

Eugenics, as awful as it is, is only the beginning of the threat posed to
the natural order by human cloning. Some cloners have decided that if they
are going to "play God"; they might as well do it all the way by creating
altogether new life forms. Indeed, scientists have already used cloning
techniques to add jellyfish genetic material to a cloned monkey embryo,
manufacturing a monkey that glows in the dark. Nor is human life itself
immune from such "Dr. Meraux" forms of manipulation. For example, some in
bioethics and bioscience support the creation of chimeras - part human and
part animal - beings Joseph Fletcher called "parahumans" who he hoped would
"be fashioned to do dangerous and demeaning jobs." In other words, Fletcher
advocated the creation of a slave race of mostly-humans designed by us and
for our use. "As it is now," the bioethics patriarch wrote in his typically
snobbish fashion, "low grade work is shoved off on moronic and retarded
individuals, the victims of uncontrolled reproduction. Should we not program
such workers 'thoughtfully' instead of accidentally, by means of

Fletcher's dark dream of human/animal chimeras is well on its way to
reality. Not too long ago Australian scientists announced they had created a
"pig-man" through cloning techniques, and allowed the hybrid to develop for
more than two weeks before destroying it. Last year, a biotech company took
out a Europe-wide patent on embryos containing cells both from humans and
from mice, sheep, pigs, cattle, goats, or fish. Where such manipulations
will lead may be beyond comprehension.

Cloning presents humankind with the postmodernist version of the Faustian
bargain. Through cloning, we are told, our greatest dreams can be realized:
the barren can give birth, genetic anomalies and disabilities can be
eliminated at the embryonic level, near immortality will be within our grasp
as replacements, for worn out organs can be grown in the lab for
transplantation without fear of bodily rejection. But the devil always
demands his due - the higher the "value" of the bargain, the greater the

In cloning technologies we may face the highest price of all: the end of the
perception of human life as "sacred" and the concomitant increase in the
nihilistic belief that humans are mere biological life; an increasing
willingness to use and exploit human life as if it were a mere natural
resource; eventually, the loss of human diversity itself - and these are
just the foreseen consequences. The unforeseen consequences of mucking
around in the human gnome may be worse than we can imagine. As Leon Kass has
written, "shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder."

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