By Scott Tibbs, December 2, 2001
On November 26, a firestorm of controversy erupted over the announcement by Advanced Cell Technology Inc. that they had created cloned embryos for the purpose of extracting stem cells. President Bush and pro-life leaders nationwide denounced the decision, and it thrust the debate over cloning back into the public limelight.
Many people argue that cloning itself is unnatural, and that human beings are "playing God" with a technology that human beings should not have. However, that argument could be used on dozens of other scientific advancements, from the manufacture and use of drugs to treat symptoms, diseases and disorders to the splitting of the atom. But few people would argue that we are "playing God" with increasingly effective care to prolong human life that without the technology would have no chance of survival.
Theologists will surely debate cloning for many years to come, though it could be legitimately argued that God gave human beings the intelligence to do all these things for a reason. If there truly were a technology that humans should never have, He would not allow us to actually achieve it in the first place.
The main problem with cloning is that scientists that research it are experimenting on human beings. With the human rights violations we have seen over the last several decades (including the Tuskegee experiments in the United States) we should have learned our lesson that experimentation on human beings is wrong. Unfortunately, it appears that we have not learned this lesson.
Most pro-life advocates believe life begins at fertilization, when sperm and egg meet to create a completely new DNA code and all the building blocks necessary for human life to grow and develop. An embryo is not "potential" human life, but actual human life at the very first stages of development. Just as a 30-year-old has had more time to develop and grow than a five year old, a newborn has had more time to develop and grow than an embryo. Every human being on the planet was an embryo at one time or another.
Now, science is able to create an embryo without the combination of sperm and egg through sexual reproduction or in vitro fertilization. But since the technology is not perfected yet, the human beings that were cloned by Advanced Cell Technology perished before they could develop further.
Cloning apologists have argued that this is not a problem, because they are not cloning for reproductive purposes, but for "therapeutic" purposes. (One wonders how the cloning is "therapeutic" for the human beings they killed in the process of cloning them) But this is even worse than experimenting for the purposes of reproductive cloning, because, as President Bush said on November 25th, those scientists proceeded to "grow life to destroy it".
Even "reproductive" cloning is wrong in this regard. It took many tries to get it "right" when cloning Dolly the sheep, and will certainly take many tries before scientists can get it "right" when cloning a human being. What of the humans that will be created with severe genetic disorders, susceptibility to disease, and who knows what else? Human life is not ours to play with for the purposes of advancing "science".
To protect the rights of the human beings that places like Advanced Cell Technology seek to create, experiment on and destroy, cloning must be banned immediately. A ban on cloning passed the U.S. House of Representatives convincingly over the summer, but the U.S. Senate, under Democratic leadership, has failed to allow a vote on the matter. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle should allow a ban on cloning to come to the floor for a vote, because it is now more important than ever that this be addressed.