April 17, 2002


The case for cloning? (Paul Greenberg, April 17, 2002, Town Hall))
The underlying arguments for cloning humans have a familiar sound about them, the sound of rationalization. That's because the prospect of artificially re-creating ourselves arouses in ordinary human beings a deep moral repugnance.[...]

To justify experimenting on human clones, we shall have to define clones as something other than human. Surely we can. Look at how we've managed to dehumanize the fetus. And yet all the usual word games may still fail to mask the natural repugnance human cloning arouses in humans. The soul has reasons of its own.

Repugnance, we shall be reminded, is not a reason. But that doesn't mean there is no reason for the revulsion that the idea of cloning human beings excites in us.

Why is the idea so instinctively repellent? Leon Kass, a scholar who has thought about these things rather than rushed to experiment, calls it the wisdom of repugnance:

"We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings not because of the strangeness or the novelty of the undertaking, but because we intuit and we feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we are right to hold dear. We sense that cloning represents a profound defilement of our given nature as procreative beings, and of the social relations built on this natural ground. We also sense that cloning is a radical form of child abuse. In this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done, and in which our bodies are regarded as mere instruments of our autonomous rational will, repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder."

It is this shallowness of the soul that explains the transformation in our time of so many practices from abomination to institution.

The debate over human cloning has this much in common with the differences between what have come to be called the pro-life and pro-choice camps over abortion and euthanasia. This debate, like the others, is over our differing definitions of human dignity and who should be allowed to share it. Even the unborn? And, now, even the cloned?

All men are created equal (but some are more equal than others)... Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2002 6:52 AM
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