By Erik Flesch
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 20, 2003
The greatest sheep who ever lived was put to sleep last Friday in Scotland. The pink-nosed 6-year-old Dolly was the first critter ever to be cloned from adult genetic material ÷ an inspirational prototype to men and women involved in one of mankind's greatest fields: genetic engineering.
Dolly was a major breakthrough in the scientific path to using this modern and uniquely Western technology for the benefit of human beings. Like many first creations, Dolly may not have been perfect; she developed a progressive lung disease at about half the life expectancy of her breed. While it has not yet been determined whether her illness was caused by a virus or a genetic complication, many people ÷ mostly closet members of the Flat Earth Society and the Anti-Evolution Union ÷ have predictably seized the opportunity to condemn the researchers' work as "playing God."
The House of Representatives has already passed legislation soon to be debated in the Senate that would ban any cloning of human cells and, at minimum, sentence doctors found practicing reproductive cloning to 10 years in prison and impose crippling fines. International "bioethics" working groups are sniffing around Dolly's grave for what they deem to, in the words of an Oxford University zoology professor, be "further evidence of the dangers inherent in cloning and the irresponsibility of anybody who is trying to extend such work to humans."
Consistent with its stand on abortion, the shamelessly evangelistic Bush administration reiterated just days before Dolly's death that the president's view on cloning ÷ the government's job is to subjugate the lives of the living to the potential lives of the "unborn," by declaring itself "unequivocally opposed" to human cloning for any purpose, whether for stem-cell research or reproduction.
In short, every Attila and witch doctor around is lurching to stomp out the latest leap in the free world's ability to command nature and benefit man's life with the quiet strength of the rational mind.
But a free society ÷ the ideal America stands for ÷ doesn't permit lawmakers to ban anything that conflicts with their religious beliefs; it defends living people against the violation of their individual rights. And whose rights are being violated by cloning voluntarily donated cells?
The ethical value of embryos cloned to harvest their human stem cells is equivalent to that of donated blood or transplanted organs ÷ they are not lives; they are potential lives. These clumps of cells in a petri dish are transformed by creative scientists into breakthroughs that save the lives of actual human beings.
But what about cloning for human reproduction? Didn't Dr. Frankenstein's noble-yet-driven-to-murder creation demonstrate the reckless evil inherent in any attempt to create life? And what about the noble-yet-man-eating genetically engineered velociraptors of "Jurassic Park"?
Put away your pitchforks and torches, clonophobic boys and girls. Have you never met identical twins? Like a twin, a child born with the genetic gift of one of its parents shares the parent's physical features, except the child is a generation younger. And, as all human beings do, identical twins have free will ÷ which means the content of their character is completely a product of their choice.
Before Gregor Mendel recorded his startling observations of the predictable variations in the pea plants he bred ÷ thereby framing the field of genetics ÷ he was, like any farmer, interested in selectively breeding living things to make them more useful. But Mendel's logical approach to identifying the cause for a specific inherited effect also led him to identify the mechanism that justifies Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.
These pioneers of genetic engineering were great ÷ but just two of an ocean of bold innovators driven to debunk fate, discover the reasons for natural phenomena, reshape matter to sustain and enhance man's existence and defend his political right to do it. Indeed, it is this embrace of reason over faith that not only defines each hero of Western civilization, but differentiates the average modern, civilized, free person from the trembling, superstitious, diseased serf of the Old World. Anyone who has traveled extensively abroad, read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" or even Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" can appreciate the difference.
It would be absolutely immoral and politically treasonous for us to allow reason-hating, freedom-fearing bad guys to capitalize on the public's fear of the unknown, and halt researchers' life-giving biomedical advances just when a universe of biomedical advances based on stem-cell research is within sight.