|The Matter of Stem Cells|
“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed true even from his own angle.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)
You will recall my mention of a menacing piece of correspondence from Down Under—way Under, which recently came to my attention. What follows is another dispatch that has surfaced, bearing the scrawlings of that hellish mystagogue . . .
Your latest report on the American front contained an item that is sure to be a watershed for our cause: the government funding of embryo destruction. It seems their decision makers really believe that it’s all in the interest of noble medical goals. Give rein to their folly. Later, we will have an eternity enjoying their shock at how they were played like a hand of rummy.
The quotes in the press clippings you included were particularly stirring. Statements like, we will be guided by “scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” and our decisions need to be “based on the recommendations of experts and scientists outside of politics and religion,” indicate that the guardrails we have been tugging on for centuries are at last, everywhere, crumbling.
Thanks to the efforts of field agents who have been patiently conditioning them with wileful whisperings, I feel that our long-fought outcome is within grasp.
In the not too distant past, the question before them was, “What should be done to improve their lot?” Now, by our incremental influences, they only think in terms of what can be done without regard to whether it should be done. Step by step, we have ushered them along a path which, just a few decades ago, they would have shuddered to look upon, but now course down in full stride!
I’ll tell you, once they became convinced that abortion was an inviolable right, I knew that, with scant nudging from us, they would follow the inescapable thread: If one of their tadpoles can be sacrificed for the sake of the mother, it is only logical—nay, necessary—that one be sacrificed for the sake of the many.
That movie actor—what was his name, Reese or Reeves, whatever—stated the case well when, from a wheelchair, he lectured his government that its duty was “the greatest good for the greatest number.”
But the real beauty, Swillpit, was that neither he, nor his audience, picked up on the delicious irony of the scene: A quadriplegic arguing for the good of the many when the millions of dollars spent on his incurable condition, should, by the thread of his own reckoning, be used to treat the curable masses.
Now here’s the thing. Mark my words! In time they will awaken to the irony. When they do, the faintest whisper from us is all it will take to convince them of what must be done for the good of the many. Indeed, the Caesars, Marxists, Maoists, and hellish hosts of others whose entrails we have been feasting on for centuries are savory evidences to that inexorable fact.
I was pleased to learn from your dispatch that this stem cell business takes upwards of 100 eggs to produce one viable research line. I trust that you can see where this leads: With the millions of cures being sought, and the limited number of eggs a woman produces in her fertile life, the commoditization of their seedlings inevitably results in the commoditization of all. As the individual is reduced to a mere parts factory for the collective, those ridiculous notions about the imago Dei, with its divine endowments and inestimable worth, fade to sentimental mishmash.
When those guardrails topple—as surely they will—the plunge down the abyss of cloning is all but certain. The thought alone is enough to make your scales tingle, no? Why, I can scarcely steady my quill!
Recall, Swillpit, that a clone is made by transferring the genetic material from a somatic (e.g., skin) cell of a donor to a host egg whose genetic material has been removed. The result is a cell that can produce genetically matched tissues of sufferers to treat injuries and diseases without risk of rejection. And with cloning already justified for therapies, can it be long before it is justified for reproduction? Not in a society where decisions are “based on the recommendations of experts and scientists outside of politics and religion.”
Now brace yourself, Swillpit! Imagine that a cloned embryo is implanted in a uterus and allowed to gestate to full term. Would the result be human? Well, that all depends on what it means to be human. Remember the way our Adversary set things up: through the sexual union, a man and a woman enter into a triune partnership with Him who, at the moment of conception breathes into existence a living soul. (We haven’t quite figured out how he does it, but we’ve got our best personnel on it.)
In the case of cloning, His trinity is supplanted by ours: a donor, a host, and a doctor enter into an asexual business relationship to create, what amounts to, a Savior—a creature that will free man from the grip of morbidity and mortality. See how tightly this plays into our scheme?
So what do we have in cloning, but—wait, wait, there goes my hand . . . steady, steady . . . that’s better—MAN creating MAN to save MAN? Swillpit, we are at the epochal moment which will witness the holy trinity of Man! It’s enough to make a demon swoon under the libations of excitement. But if we imbibe on that elixir now and lose focus, all could be lost.
As the prospect of our triumph draws near, so does the danger of failure. Now, more than ever, we need to attend to the routine and mundane devices that have gotten us here—illusion, diversion, distraction, deception, and outright lies. Up to this point, these have served us well in staving off a building body of evidence that could negate all we have worked so hard to achieve. With all that is at stake, a brief review of our vulnerabilities and countermeasures is in order.
First, there are the inconvenient successes adult stem cells, inconvenient because they do not involve the use of female eggs or the destruction of embryos. Need I remind you that, over the last few decades, adult stem cell therapies have been successful in dozens of maladies including various cancers, auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular damage, stroke, metabolic disorders, and skeletal injuries? Embryonic research, on the other hand, while high on promise, has failed to produce a single cure or medical treatment. It’s enough to set one’s fangs on edge.
Here, as always, obfuscation is our best tool. Without reference to what type of cells apply, steer the discourse to the current successes of “stem cells,” while hyping up the promise of “imminent” cures for everything from spinal cord injury to Alzheimer’s disease. This has worked quite well on scientists who brook no limits on science, and politicians who pander to public hopes and fears.
Next, the recent finding that adult cells can be induced into an embryonic-like state could prove devastating. The nasty technique they stumbled upon promises all the benefits of embryonic cells without the moral baggage. Without some delicate handling on our part, this could make the destruction of embryos obsolete. A tact that is gaining traction for us is the parallel paths argument. With the sum-total of human suffering in the balance, putting all of one’s resources into one research basket is risky. It has a certain prudential charm, don’t you agree?
Finally, while the public largely favors “research” cloning, they are largely against reproductive cloning. Just make sure that spokespersons and decision-makers continue their heartfelt assurances that cloning will be limited to therapeutic uses. Better yet, entice them to avoid the “C” word altogether, by substituting it with the bedimming surrogate, “somatic cell nuclear transfer.” If we are dutiful in guiding them to effective equivocations and jargon, public resistance to their Jekyllian visions will evaporate.
In closing, I trust that you’ll appreciate this. One scientist, expressing cautious optimism about his country’s new policy in this area, remarked: “I'm super excited, but the devil's in the details.” He has no idea, Swillpit!
Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. His "All Things Examined" column appears on BreakPoint every other Friday. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.