The coming fight over human cloning will make the stem cell debate seem like a day at Disneyland. And it’s coming. Even as you read these words, researchers around the world are striving to lay the claim as the First Human Cloner: One small step for asexual reproduction, one giant leap for Brave New World.
When — not if — that happens, a public brouhaha will begin to ban or regulate the technology. I offer some thoughts about all this in my biweekly over at First Things. From, “The Coming Public Conflict Over Human Cloning:”
Proponents of human cloning believe it offers tremendous scientific potential and the opportunity to make fortunes. But opponents like myself—both on the political left and right—strongly believe that human cloning is intrinsically immoral, meaning that no potential utilitarian benefit justifies developing the technology.
I get into a few of the many reasons why opponents believe as we do, and then propose some ideas for keeping the beast in the cage:
If we agree that human cloning is unethical, how do we stop it, and what have we learned from recent public policy debates over biotechnology? We could follow the urging of the United Nations General Assembly and support an international treaty outlawing all human cloning as “incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.” Absent an international ban, the federal and state governments could take action.
But as political battles over ESCR demonstrated, actions seen as stifling research are risky, and too often allow proponents of the research to reduce essential issues and nuanced discussion to a predictable trope of “science” under attack from religion. Starving cloning on the vine could prove easier. The technology will cost a lot of money to perfect. Thus, passing national and state laws prohibiting all public funding of human cloning research would put a severe crimp on developing the technology and possibly dissuade the most talented scientists from pursuing the field . . .
Finally, to prevent the public from being seduced by the same siren-song hype about “cures” we saw a decade ago with ESCR, we need to assure people that scientists can obtain many of the benefits they want most from biotechnology through alternative, ethical means. In this regard, induced pluripotent stem cells have already become valuable research tools in studying disease models and drug testing—and in the precise ways that proponents once claimed would require cloning to accomplish.
I am convinced that human cloning represents a piercing threat to human exceptionalism and the dignity of the individual. We should heed Huxley’s prophetic warnings and act now to cage the beast before it is too late.