Attack of the clones
In "Attack of the Clones," Brian Alexander argues that opponents of cloning and stem-cell research ignore the role of hope and experimentation in defining humanity. Are these critics right to push for strict limits on biotech research? Or must scientists be allowed to perform any research in the interest of extending and improving human life?
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Alexander associates cloning with hope and happiness and opposition to cloning with being backward and against progress. But his argument begs the question--the whole argument is over whether human cloning _really_ reflects hope and results in happiness. I would argue that a culture that tends to and cares for human life at all of its stages--from embryo to old, infirm grandparent in a nursing home--is the more hopeful culture. A culture that nurtures human life in all of its variety is the hopeful one, not one that sees one human life as expendable for another one. Cloning is different from other sorts of activities because we are now creating human life with the express purpose of then turning it into a tool --and that crosses a boundary between treating human life as inherently valuable and as merely useful that we had better not cross. (Although my argument would stand even if this were not true: use of stem cells such a bone marrow and umbilical cord blood cells has proven useful without the ethical problems--why not pursue this line of research further?) In addition, Alexander's vague condemnations of Kass and his quite helpful claim that we human beings are not gods also confuses the issue. Thinking of ourselves as if we had no limits really is a mistake; it's not just a mistaken value judgment, it's a fact. We cannot overcome all disease, all death, no matter how much more technology is out there; what matters more is how we do treat human beings while we are alive.
Let common sense dictate, rather than the twisted agendas of religious fanatics. I'm sure those idiots would feel differently if they or a loved one were were on the long list for organ transplant surgery.
Marina, of the responses, says in advocating limits on cloning research, "We cannot overcome all disease, all death, no matter how much more technology is out there; what matters more is how we do treat human beings while we are alive." But this is precisely why cloning research must be allowed to continue. We don't know what we cannot do until we have tried. The best analogy is flying. We don't have wings. Yet, we fly, as much as some thought it impossible, and even undesirable. It is precisely the humane treatment of human beings while they are alive that provides the best motivation for this kind of research. God has a made a world in which human beings seem to have a difficult enough time treating each other humanely. We don't need unnecessary "nay saying" from human beings where the promise of "yes" could bring much relief from pain and misery. There are no guarantees with any kind of research. However, arbitrarily barring therapeutic cloning research guarantees that many beneficial outcomes will be impeded. There is no down side to this kind of research. If it doesn't work, we will know soon enough, and the effort will be dropped. If it does work, we will have relieved the suffering of millions. If you think the embryos, even for unsuccessful research represent terminated lives, you should think about how much reproductive tissue is "wasted" in miscarriages, still births, and even unconceived eggs and sperm. If the research is successful, each embryo involved will have contributed to the improvement or even the saving of countless other human lives.
Stem cell research has the potential of saving many lives. However, there is objection to using human stem cells in that obtaining them may involve destroying an organism with the potential of developing into a human. This appears inconsistent with the accepted policy of shooting down an airliner which has been hijacked and could be used for a 9/11 type event leading to the killing of many more people than aboard the airliner. Such will certainly lead to the death of those aboard the plane whereas the stem cell potential may lead to the death of an embryo which (controversially) could lead to the birth of a human. In both cases, we may be destroying one or more lives in order to save many more, It seems that justification of the stem cell preparation is greater
Richard, Amherst, MA
Response pages: 1