[isml] The Anglosphere: Cloning and the New Jacobins (fwd)

From: Eugene Leitl (Eugene.Leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de)
Date: Sun Aug 19 2001 - 06:20:52 MDT

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Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 19:39:54 -0700
From: ds2000 <ds2000@mediaone.net>
Reply-To: isml@yahoogroups.com
To: isml <isml@yahoogroups.com>
Subject: [isml] The Anglosphere: Cloning and the New Jacobins

>From UPI,
Saturday, 18 August 2001 12:03 (ET)

The Anglosphere: Cloning and the New Jacobins

 WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Cloning and the public-policy debates about
it throughout the Anglosphere are a good example of the clash of visions
between the Lockean, Burkean, and Rousseauean temperaments in Anglosphere

 A curious coalition of the religious right and anti-science left has been
whipping up a storm about the idea of a nationwide, or even worldwide ban on
human reproductive cloning lately. It is uniting Christian conservative
Republicans with Socialist Bernie Saunders in passing a Federal cloning ban
in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 Meanwhile, Tony Blair's Labor government has moved to ban human cloning in
Britain, while Canada's Liberal government has begun consideration of the
same action, which has also been endorsed by conservative voices there.
Where do the positions on cloning fit in this scheme of temperaments?

 In any strong civil society, banning an entire field of human endeavor is
a serious step, and one fraught with constitutional considerations. In
particular, this action threatens the pact, which lies at the heart of the
Burkean temperament, between past, present, and future generations, by
depriving future generations of whatever benefits the banned action might
have produced.

 In order to run the risk of so depriving our children, we must have a good
case that the dangers of permitting the action are so great, and the chances
of curing them by later action so small, that we must take a sweeping action

 Radicals do not shy away from the sweeping action; rather, they revel in
it. It is already clear that the Lockean temperament, by and large, would
see the choice of cloning as one of those decisions best left to the
individual. But does a cloning ban pass the Burkean test?

 First, we should dispose of the issue of the high risks in current cloning
technologies. It is pretty obvious that the current state of the art in
cloning carries very high risks to any potential child conceived, and would
not pass the effectiveness or safety tests of the FDA.

 Few Burkeans, and for that matter few Lockeans, would object to a
temporary ban on human cloning until the technology could overcome some
serious problems with its safety. That would require no new legislation in
almost any country. Regulatory action under existing legislation would be
quite adequate.

 Second, we can dismiss pretty quickly the "revulsion" argument made by
Leon Kass (Bush's new appointee to head a Federal bioethics committee) in
The New Republic. Cloning, he argues, is bad because it creates a sense of
revulsion in him, and that's enough.

 Unfortunately, this is a terrible basis for making public policy. I do not
wish to compare Kass directly to others who in the Twentieth Century made
their emotions the central test of their politics, because the list is so
terrible, from Hitler on down. Rather, I would appeal to him to
reconsider. What do you do about those people in whom cloning does not
create a sense of moral revulsion? Deprive them of a public policy voice? A
politics of revulsion promises to enshrine some class of people whose
revulsion is more privileged than others, creating a new de facto
aristocracy. A politics of revulsion is in itself poison to a civil society.

 Francis Fukuyama, writing in The Wall Street Journal, brings some more
rationally-founded objections to the table. To permit cloning, he argues,
would put us on the slippery slope toward commercialization of the human
reproductive function. Soon, the rich would be able to buy brighter,
healthier, better-looking children than the rest of us, creating a race of
genetic super humans which might permanently rule the rest of us.

 But these fears are largely misplaced. Even if they could breed such a
race, they would probably be disappointed. Having an IQ of above, say, 140
is probably more of a liability than an asset in politics. The beautiful IQ
200 children would probably find politics so boring that they would never
dominate anybody, although they might just solve Fermat's Last Theorem.
I and many others would worry more about starting down the slippery slope of
government control of reproduction, which is far more worrisome (and far
more likely) than commercialization of reproduction.

 It is likely that the most egregious abuse of human cloning would not be
from some millionaire making a dozen clones of himself, but of saddam
Hussein or Kim Jong Il making ten thousand Dear Leader clones apiece.

 State abuse of cloning is more likely than private abuse, and it is the
least likely abuse to be controlled by a supposedly worldwide ban on
cloning. The theoretical basis of cloning is well enough understood now that
Iraq or North Korea (neither of which would be deterred by the human costs
of proceeding prematurely) could easily move to implement such a program,
which would be far harder to detect than nuclear weapons development.

 It is also curious than people concerned about the breeding of a race of
superintelligent masters should be worried about cloning-that is the one
advanced reproductive technology which guarantees that the child will be no
smarter than its parent. It is also true that the clone will not be an
identical copy of its parent, given the importance of both gestational
environment and early childhood environment to the intelligence, health,
appearance, and possibly even sexual orientation of the child.

 To those who think of a clone as a copy of the parent, this raises the
question "What's the point?" But to those who see cloning as merely a way of
having a child when all other means are closed off, yet which still
maintains a genetic link to one parent, this non-identicality is either
irrelevant or actually welcome.

 It is also the case that such parents, who would be the most numerous
immediate users of cloning, would likely turn to other, newer techniques as
it became possible for them to create children having the genes of both
parents. Cloning, far from being the Frankenstein technology taking over our
future, is more likely to be an interim technology granting imperfect
assistance to a relatively small class of persons suffering from a
particular physical disability.

 Thus a permanent, worldwide ban on cloning are is both unlikely to be
effective against state action, and has real costs for individuals. The
positive goods which are already likely to come from successful cloning are
real. To allow continued animal research until we know whether it will
someday be safe to try on humans seems to pass the Burkean test, as would a
temporary ban combined with a willingness to discuss and experiment with a
variety of possible controls and conditions for going forward.

 A permanent, universal prohibition on cloning, in contrast, is the
recourse of a radical, Rousseauean, Jacobin temperament. Such people never
fail to reach for sweeping coercion as the first, rather than the last
resort, and delight in subjecting the whole world to their view of the
right, rejecting the possibility that they might be wrong.

 Fortunately, America's Founding Fathers, although they did not anticipate
cloning, (excepting possibly Franklin) did understand the Burkean virtue of
avoiding sweeping governmental edicts, and permitting a variety of
worldviews to find expression in different laws in different places. This
temperament is supremely embodied in the Constitution, as is the Lockean
temperament in the Declaration of Independence.

 Persons who normally exhibit Lockean and Burkean temperaments have been
carried away in the cloning debate. They would do well to consider the
opinions of calmer heads such as Professor Glenn Reynolds, of the University
of Tennessee Law School.

 Reynolds, a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and of limiting
Federal powers, has written persuasively that the House's cloning ban
probably fails to pass the Constitutional tests for such powers, tests which
were put in place precisely to prevent the radical temperament from
overrunning sound public policy. Perhaps President Bush should consider
appointing scholars like Reynolds to join Kass's committee, in order to
restore some balance to the debate.

 Then perhaps we can have a Burkean experimentation with many different
approaches to balancing the potential goods and hazards of cloning, genetic
engineering, and the many other highly promising, yet potentially dangerous
technologies like nanotechnology, that lie just ahead of us.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.

-- Dan S

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