It would be hard to imagine an issue that sets the worldviews of religious faith and radical secularism in sharper contrast than human cloning. On one side — the cloning side — the supremacy of human will. On the other — the side of faith — the supremacy of God. The gulf between the two is deep and unbridgeable.
That may be why the argument for cloning is so often put in terms of benefits that supposedly will flow from the artificial reproduction of genetically identical human beings: new cures for this and that will be realized, new vistas of human happiness will somehow be opened up.
These utopian visions are attempts to conceal the fact that cloning is humanist audacity at its most extreme. Its most notorious credo in recent times may be the “mystery of life” passage in a 1992 Supreme Court decision by Justices Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter exalting every individual’s “right to define” — not just seek, mind you, but unilaterally define — “the mystery of human life.”
Verbal trickery helps here. In Missouri in 2006 voters were conned into supporting something called the “Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative” which was promoted as a cloning ban. It was nothing of the sort. The measure in fact allowed human cloning. What was banned was implanting the clones for reproductive purposes.
As that fact sank in, the pro-cloning side’s 30-point advantage — product of some $30 million spent to whip up support — dwindled. The final vote was 51.2% in favor and 48.8% opposed. Polling indicated that if only a few more days had passed, the proposal would have been defeated. As it is, tax-paid human cloning is now authorized by the Missouri constitution.
Earlier, something similar happened in California, where cloning supporters spent $25 million before the 2004 elections, compared with $400,000 by opponents. Their proposal won, 59.1% to 40.9%, and the state constitution now grants protection to embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.
These painful but instructive episodes are analyzed in a helpful new booklet titled False Promises: Common Cloning Claims Refuted by William L. Saunders, Michael A. Fragoso, and David Prentice. It’s available from the Family Research Council (800/225-4008; www.FRC.org).
Be sure that other states will be tempted to pass constitutional amendments resembling those in Missouri and California. “They will be attracted to human cloning and embryonic stem cell research,” say Saunders, Fragoso, and Prentice, “by the same siren songs.” These include the promise of “miracle cures” and expanded revenue arising from giving a home to these activities, along with claims of ethical legitimacy.
But, the authors say, the cures are “not forthcoming,” the revenue is “purely hypothetical” and the ethics are “mere doublespeak.”
The case against Brave New World practices like human cloning and embryonic stem cell research reflecting the new biotechnology is made forcefully in Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of a Person), a document recently released by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (www.Vatican.va). It, too, is important reading for the battle ahead.
And be certain — there will be a battle. For, as the Vatican document bluntly points out, along with responsible scientists and ethicists who regard biotechnology as a tool for the relief of suffering, there are others whose perspective is “essentially eugenic.”
In the century past we traveled this road more than once. Think of Nazi Germany. Think of the eugenics movement in the United States. Now we’re headed down the same road again. Let no one say we haven’t been warned. We have. It’s time to fight back.