Monday, March 23, 2009

Did Obama Allow for Human Cloning? George vs. Kmiec

U.S. News publishes (with permission of course) a vigorous email debate between Roman Catholic law professors Robert P. George and Douglas Kmiec.

I also recommend Klusendorf's chapter on this in The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture, entitled, "Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex"?

Here's a quick FAQ using some of the material from that chapter:

What are stem cells?

Fast-growing, unspecialized cells that can reproduce themselves and grow new organs for the body. All 210 different types of human tissue originate from these primitive cells.

So why are scientists excited about the potential for stem cells?

Because if you could successful introduce healthy stem cells into a patient with damaged organs, there's the potential to grow new nerves, bones, muscles, etc. So stem cells have the potential to help those with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc.

What is embryonic stem cell research?

ESCR is the process of securing early cells from embryos, which have an abundant supply of stem cells.

So what's the problem?

In order to get the cells you have to destroy the embryo.

What is "reproductive cloning"?

This is when a human embryo is cloned and then allowed to live. (President Obama deeply opposes this. See more below.)

What is "therapeutic cloning"?

It's a cloning process called "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT). It involves creating an embryo that is a genetic clone of the patient and then using that embryo as a source for stem cells. But remember, if you want to get the stem cells from an embryo, then you have to destroy the embryo. So with "therapeutic cloning" you create a human being for research but then kill him before he can be born. This is what President Obama is going to have the government fund and support.

Why is the distinction between "therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning misleading?

Because all cloning is reproductive. The process and the result--a human being is cloned--is the same, the only difference is that in "therapeutic" the embroyo is destroyed and in "reproductive" the clone is allowed to live. President Obama proposes "therapeutic cloning" and opposes "reproductive cloning," saying that the latter is "dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society." So the irony is that in President Obama's worldview it is moral and welcome to clone a human and kill him--but if you clone him and let him live it is deeply immoral.

Much more can be said of course!