The British government’s inadvertent announcement on July 30 that it
will permit human cloning experiments — prior to the release of its own
scientific paper exploring the issue — showcases the irrational and
dangerous decisions now driving this new technology. It is perhaps
fittingly ironic that one of Britain’s most ethically-unaware
administrations should rush mankind headlong over the precipice, making
the most important ethical and scientific decision in history — based
upon one factor — and one only: Money.
Like all those for whom deception has become a way of life, the Blair
government has done its best to dress up the naked truth in fine
clothing, and teach it to sing the songs we all like to hear: eternal
health, individual happiness, and a never-ending supply of cloned
chickens for the proverbial pot. The darker side of the equation –
unbridled greed, a will to power that knows no limits, all guided by a
conscience long since euthanized — is carefully tucked away in the
attic at Number 10 Downing Street.
At the heart of the human cloning issue lie genetic patents,
something the European and American governments have been quietly doling
out to corporate supporters for years now. These have from the beginning
perverted the idea of invention, which is producing something new, and
confused it with discovery, which is finding something already in
existence and working. These patents should more properly have been
issued by the Bureau of Engraving, as they are a license to print money.
Oddly enough, they have been issued by two of the very governments that
now see euthanizing their senior citizens as a reasonable way to reduce
There has never been a public debate about the risks and rewards of
cloning — much less human cloning! And Mr. Blair’s government has just
launched a preemptive strike to stop one from taking place in Britain.
Why? And why has there been only silence, rather than public debate, as
title is passed to the private sector drug companies — much of it
discovered in public research — on what God already owns?
Is it possible that Christians and Jews are the only people still
aware that there are moral and ethical dilemmas over cloning? If so, it
is because our faith makes us more aware of the big picture, our place
within it, and our interconnectedness as human beings. In a secular
world whose priests wear white jackets and sacrifice our young on the
alter of scientific advancement, those of us who know God are placed
very much in the position of the watchman in Ezekiel 33: We see danger
approaching, we know that we are to alert our fellow men and women to
that danger, but the decision to act — and the consequences thereof –
rests upon each man and woman.
In the midst of this, we do well to remember that humanity’s record,
toiling away as children in God’s workshop, is not good. Bronze,
gunpowder, horses and cavalry, chemical and biological warfare, and
nuclear bombs; all created by our hands, working with the tools we found
in our Father’s workshop. It is not an impressive record of creation;
yet by God’s grace, we are still here.
Our challenge now is to consider how we might open this dialogue with
our friends, family, and coworkers. As we do, we must be careful not to
view them as the enemy. Ordinary people of all faiths — and indeed, of
none at all — have a huge stake in what happens inside the genetically
modified patent offices of America and Europe, and in the laboratories
inhabited by this new technology’s high priests. We cannot, however,
expect to quote Scripture and settle the arguments that way; those days
are long gone. A single Scripture reference is likely to both begin and
end our conversation. Our world has rejected God’s authority; but not
yet His love. What we can do is to begin to think about the issues
associated with cloning for ourselves, asking God’s guidance, both alone
and collectively. Here are a few questions to start with:
- If you are a woman, would you become pregnant and then have
an abortion to produce the necessary tissue for a medical procedure to
save the life of a family member? As a brother, husband, or father would
you counsel a female family member to do so, or lend your half of the
genetic code to the process?
- If you are a woman attending college, short of money (as many
students are), and a pregnancy followed by an abortion and tissue
donation would fund the remainder of your semester, would you see that
as a solution to your needs?
- If you become a patient, will you accept needed treatment if it
comes from tissue produced from aborted children? How will you counsel
others in similar situations?
These questions are not easy. Nor are they questions that only
Christians and Jews, or indeed people of faith in general, will have to
answer. Yet if we do not answer them now, we will still be required to
do so — sooner, rather than later. The technology may be complex, but
the questions are very human. As efforts to contain nuclear
proliferation have shown, technology is not reversible, and self-control
is one of the rarest commodities available today. Technology may,
however, be delayed, and perhaps, given the necessary collective will,
even permanently set aside, at least until we are comfortable with the
answers it will require of us.
In a 22 July obituary of Sir Mark Oliphant, one of the scientists who
helped to build the atomic bomb, The Economist quoted him as agreeing
with Albert Einstein that it was necessary for America to build the bomb
before the Germans did. But Oliphant added, “I learned during the war
that if you pay people well and the work’s exciting they’ll work on
anything. There’s no difficulty getting doctors to work on biological
warfare, chemists to work on chemical warfare and physicists to work on
As Mr. Blair’s government has already shown, money and power are
strong incentives for squelching public debate — and getting people to
work on things. Universities and the research establishment, whether
funded by private or public money, have a huge stake in expanding human
cloning. Drug companies have demonstrated by their behavior that they
think their claims of ownership trump God’s. And even peripheral
organizations like Planned Parenthood have a huge financial stake in
expanding abortion and providing the fetal tissue used in such research.
Perhaps their ties to eugenics have finally come full circle?
Although complex, many of the questions we face boil down to two
fundamental issues: when does life really begin, and do we extend equal
protection and informed consent to all human life? Interestingly enough,
these questions do not require “religious” answers. If we say that the
baby who experiences a partial birth abortion is not yet alive, then
there is no need to extend it equal protection and charge the person who
ended its life without its consent with killing. But on the other hand,
perhaps we as a society and the individuals who comprise it have already
decided that “not all men are created equal, or endowed by their Creator
with certain inalienable rights”? That being the case, not one of us
should be surprised when we suddenly fall from social favor and end up
in one of the categories not currently receiving any protection. “Oh,
your doctor says you need kidney dialysis, but you’re over 55-years-old,
and resources are limited to those patients who are younger. I do hope
you understand.” This is the current reality in much of Britain’s
National Health Service.
When I was young, I remember going into my father’s workshop, to play
with his tools when he was not there. I also remember the first time I
hit my thumb with a hammer. The distance between success and disaster
can be but a tiny twitch apart, when magnified by the force of human
will. I can still see in my mind the band saw near the big workbench,
and shudder to think what my life could have been like, had I felt at
liberty to use that intriguing new tool to build my birdhouses after
school, but before dad got home. Very often what we set out to create as
children in our Father’s workshop bears little resemblance to either the
plans we hold so dear, or the gift we hope so desperately to create.