February 13, 2004

On High


This cartoon was originally published in the January 2003 edition of The Intellectual Activist and refers to President Bush's proposal to ban human cloning.

CNN reported yesterday: Scientists say they've cloned human embryos

The technique, scientists said, was not designed to make babies but to further the process known as therapeutic cloning, a possible treatment for a multitude of diseases. Advances in stem-cell technology have been hailed as holding potential cures for many crippling illnesses, such as diabetes, spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease. [...]

Opponents have said using embryos, even ones just several minutes old, is destroying a human life. Embryos are destroyed when stem cells are removed. The report already has sparked a renewal of the debate over whether all forms of human cloning should be banned.

The Ayn Rand Institute released a two op-eds at the time a human-cloning ban was being consider by the United Nations. One editorial was by Alex Epstein: Cloning is Moral.

The one truth in the anti-cloning position is that cloning does represent "the desire to exert our will over every aspect of our surroundings." But such a desire is not immoral --it is a mark of virtue. Using technology to alter nature is a requirement of human life. It is what brought man from the cave to civilization. Where would we be without the men who "exerted their will" over their surroundings and constructed the first hut, cottage, and skyscraper? Every advance in human history is part of "the technological project," and has made man's life longer, healthier, and happier. These advances are produced by those who hold the premise that suffering and disease are a curse, not to be humbly accepted as "God's will," but to be fought proudly with all the power of man's rational mind.

The other op-ed is by Harry Binswanger: Immoral to Ban Human Cloning.

A surgeon "plays God" whenever he removes a cancer or an infected appendix rather than letting the patient die. We "play God" anytime we use our intelligence to improve the "natural" course of events. Natural? It is man's nature to "play God" by reshaping matter to produce the food, shelter, tools, cars, and power stations that sustain and enhance our existence. Not to "play God" in this way means to abandon the struggle for human life and submit abjectly to whatever happens.

Cloning technology is tied in with stem-cell research. The United Nations has put off for a year any decision regarding cloning to produce stem cells, but the Bush administration is already curtailing it. In this research, the entity that is being legally "protected" is a single cell or a small ball of cells -- not anything that remotely resembles a human being. One can argue about the status of a fetus in the late stages of pregnancy, but there are no rational grounds for ascribing rights to a clump of cells in a Petri dish. It is irrelevant that those cells may have the potential, if implanted in a womb, to produce a baby. A potentiality is not an actuality.

Stem-cell research holds the promise of major breakthroughs in saving actual human lives—yours and mine. The idea of banning such research to sacrifice actual lives to potential ones is obscenely wrong -- wrong morally and politically.

At the threshold of a wide range of earth-shaking biomedical advances, we must not let irrational fears of the new slow our progress in the battle to enhance and extend human life.

Posted by Forkum at February 13, 2004 07:53 AM