This One is for All the Marbles

Imagine reversing the aging process, finding once and for all the pot at the end of Ponce DeLeon’s rainbow. Dwell on the prospect of curing cancer once and for all. Envision providing real hope for infertile couples to have the children for which they long. Consider the possibility of developing an endless supply of organs, such as livers, hearts, kidneys, and lungs to be used in transplant operations. Imagine developing an endless supply of bone marrow for transplantation into children with leukemia. Now consider this: some are suggesting that the technology to accomplish all of this and more is now right around the corner. Are these great times we live in, or what?

Not so fast. Not nearly so fast, in fact. All of these benefits and more are lauded as potentially achievable by the folks at, “the official site in support of human cloning”. They opine that “there are many ways in which human cloning is expected to benefit mankind”. Well, maybe—but at what price?

Time magazine says that “our fierce national debate over issues like abortion and euthanasia will seem tame and transparent compared with the questions that human cloning raises”. The reason this is the case, according to the article, is that when we begin to clone human beings, “the meaning of what it is to be human…will shift forever, along with our understanding of the relationship between parents and children, means and ends, ends and beginnings”. This is most assuredly true, and is what is prompting a strange coalition made up of both pro-life and pro-choice sympathizers to take up arms against this menace. Indeed, the overwhelming percentage of the American public, while likely not aware of all of the sinister ramifications of cloning, has expressed opposition to the procedure. There are some places we ought not go.

Which is precisely the issue here, and why it is incredibly frustrating that our U.S. Senate has failed thus far to take up passage of legislation prohibiting the cloning of human beings, legislation which has already passed the House and which awaits the promised signature of our President. Sadly, our own Senator Arlen Specter is oblivious to the terrible ramifications of cloning, instead championing such cloning, albeit, at least at this point, only the cloning of embryos which will be used for research purposes (and then destroyed).

Again, that we ought not go there is the issue, but the debate is carried on by the Arlen Specters and Tom Daschles of the world, as with, on purely pragmatic grounds. “Look how much potential good could be done! See how much suffering could potentially be ended!” In fact, we have seen a shift in recent years in many sectors of our society from a principled approach to ethics and morality to a pragmatic one. Having lost our true moral bearings, we less and less want to ask “what is right?”, implying as it does that there are some things that are wrong; more and more we want to ask, “What works?”

To produce members of human society in a mechanical fashion such as cloning proposes is inherently de-humanizing; Aldous Huxley’s wildest dreams have now become the tantalizing prospects of modern-day Frankensteins bearing names like “Advanced Cell Technologies”, the Raelian Initiative, and others. Adolf Hitler and Margaret Sanger shared eugenic dreams of manipulating the human race for elitist ends; surely, if we fail to stop human cloning in its tracks, this technology now being proposed as a cure for all manner of diseases will begin to be used for nefarious ends. It is only ignorance of history and of the wickedness of men which would suggest otherwise.

Nigel M. de S. Cameron of the Wilberforce Forum, in responding to the threat of human cloning, wrote, “Human dignity must frame the development of biotechnology—not the other way around. Cloning is the place to draw the line in the sand.” In another article, Cameron phrases the question thusly: “shall technology be harnessed for the good of humankind, or humankind for the good of technology?” Powerful forces in our society are already maneuvering to squelch discussion of the moral dimensions of cloning; there is money to be made in the marketplace! “Ethicists” hired by companies complicit in cloning will provide no impediment to these practices; the hiring of such usually serves only the functional purpose of providing cover against those who raise ethical questions—the almighty dollar will prevail. And if it does, we will all surely lose.

Though many in our society are loathe to admit it, the fact is that most of our ideals about human rights and dignity flow from the Judeo-Christian base which informed the founding of the American experiment. It taught us, and is reflected in our Declaration of Independence, that we must treat people with inalienable rights because man bears the image of the Creator. What is the value of human life, whence the source of human dignity, when for all intents and purposes, life becomes a manufactured entity?

And so, Mr. Specter, we might consider that this pragmatic approach to this and other questions of human existence portends the devaluing of the life that it pretends to extend or enhance. This is a price we cannot afford to pay. This one is for all the marbles.

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