May 10, 2002


Research Cloning? No. (Charles Krauthammer, May 10, 2002, )
Proponents of research cloning would love to turn the cloning debate into a Scopes monkey trial, a struggle between religion and science. It is not. [...]

What makes research cloning different from stem cell research--what pushes us over a moral frontier--is that for the first time it sanctions the creation of a human embryo for the sole purpose of using it for its parts. Indeed, it will sanction the creation of an entire industry of embryo manufacture whose explicit purpose is not creation of children but dismemberment for research.

It is the ultimate commodification of the human embryo. And it is a bridge too far. Reducing the human embryo to nothing more than a manufactured thing sets a fearsome desensitizing precedent that jeopardizes all the other ethical barriers we have constructed around embryonic research.

Much as I like Mr. Krauthammer, there's a striking intellectual disconnect here. Absent religious belief, why aren't even full grown humans, not just embryos, commodities? From a purely scientific view after all, we're just a mass of cells; why should a mass that we call human be treated differently than a mass that we call rat or wood or paramecium? If human dignity and rights don't derive from our creation by God in His image and His establishment of a hierarchy of being, then how are we any more than things, just as we consider the animals and plants things? This looks to be a fairly textbook case of "freeloading atheism". Mr. Krauthammer wants to hold humankind to Judeo-Christian ethical standards, while at the same time disavowing the foundations of that morality. His impulses are admirable enough, but because he builds his argument on such shaky ground it verges on incoherence. Science and religion can be reconciled, when religion accepts that the Bible is not a literal description of how the Universe got here and when rational science accepts that there are things beyond our ken, which require irrational faith in God to explain. But since science can not provide the basis for constructing a moral system, Mr. Krauthammer must accept that his objections to cloning are fundamentally religious. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 10, 2002 8:12 AM
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