Thursday, April 11, 2002

Where are the Clones? Send in the Clones

President Bush made some excellent remarks yesterday on the topic of cloning, in which he laid out his rational and moral opposition to all forms of cloning and gave his wholehearted support to the Brownback-Landrieu bill in the Senate which bans all forms of cloning.

Naturally, not everyone was pleased with Bush's comments. While nearly everyone opposes cloning which seeks to bring the clone to "full-term", not everyone opposes cloning in which the clone would be destroyed for its stem-cells and for other research purposes. For instance...

Read this petition in support of therapeutic cloning, signed by such bloggers as Instapundit, Virginia Postrel, Charles Murtaugh, and Rand Simberg. Of course, the NY Times editorial page opposed the President's stance, but that's no surprise.

I supppose that I'll have to wade into this one...

The petition linked above basically supports cloning because of its research & cure potential: "the cloning of cells offers scientists the chance to advance medical research and perhaps one day treat devastating illnesses such as juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's by replacing lost or debilitated cells."

Instapundit links to the petition and remarks made by the others I'm mentioning...

Virginia Postrel supports cloning for the basic science research potential.

Charles Murtaugh argues that "In a country in which abortion is legal, and in which human ES cell research is widely supported, it seems ridiculous to deem cloned early embryos, which cannot develop outside the womb into anything more complex than a ball of cells, worthy of special legal protection," that "People who would conflate the destruction of a fetus with the destruction of a blastocyst-stage embryo are knowingly distorting the facts," and that most clones die before birth anyway. I'll comment on his remarks below.

Rand Simberg supports cloning again for its medical value, as does the NYTimes editorial page.

What should be clear and obvious by now is that all of these supporters of therapeutic cloning deny that the immediate product of cloning is a human being.

They are -- according to science -- Wrong. Period.

This paper by Dianne Irving provides the established biological, scientific facts that show that the physical human being begins to exist at the moment of conception in the normal case, i.e. that the blatocyst is a human being. Transferring this to the cloning issue is simple: we again have a human blatocyst, and it is therefore a human being.

The only actual argument against this view in those I've linked to is from Mr. Murtaugh, who begins by arguing that a blatocyst is not human -- why? -- because abortion is legal and embryonic stem-cell research is widely supported. Okay, that makes sense. The fact that we destroy the entities in question apparently means that they aren't human. After all, there's no way we would legalize or support actions which impinge upon human rights, right? Sure.

Mr. Murtaugh goes on to argue against the humanity of the embryo because it cannot develop outside the womb into anything more than a ball of cells.

So what, Mr. Murtaugh? First of all, we are all nothing more than a mass of cells; the only difference is that adult humans have a bunch more cells than young humans. Who cares? What difference does that make on the ontological, metaphysical, and moral level? Is an adult human somehow "more human" than a newborn? Of course not. In the same way, a very young human has the same status as an adult human, even though it is much smaller. Furthermore, the fact that the young human needs a particular environment in which to develop no more proves that it's not a human being than does the fact that a teen-ager dropped off in outer space doesn't develop into an adult.

Finally, the fact that most clones die before birth somehow means that therapeutic cloning is not an injustice against a human being. Again, the logic here is superbly convoluted. Since when does your "age" when you die have anything to do with what you are?

This really isn't all that complicated. A blatocyst is a unique, individual, and whole (albeit immature) human organism -- it is a human being. Therefore to deliberately bring it into being and then kill it for reseach purposes is a gross injustice.

Virginia Postrel mentions her friend Ron Bailey, who was involved in a "debate" of sorts last summer on embryonic stem cell research with Patrick Lee and Robert P. George at Reason Online and National Review Online. It makes for very interesting reading, and is obviously relevant to the cloning question. If my argumentation here does not convince you (or even if it does), I recommend reading these articles:

1. Bailey's original article at Reason
2. Lee and George's response.
3. Bailey's reply.
4. Lee & George's counter.
5. Bailey's next reply.
6. Lee & George's comeback.
7. Bailey's next reply.
8. Lee & George's final response.

Louder Fenn has some excellent, pointed remarks into response to Ms. Postrel's comments; check 'em out.


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