Bio 101

In August 2001, President Bush used his first televised speech to the American people to lay out his policy on the funding of embryonic stem-cell research. Much of the press coverage focused on the conservatives who condemned it as a sellout because it allowed limited research. But now we are being told that conservatives have changed their minds and are demanding that the president fund the mass production of embryos. What's going on here? The short answer is a well-crafted, well-executed spin from those who want public funding for destructive human embryo research. Because the issues go way beyond human embryo research, however, this is the time for serious Christians to start thinking long and hard about what lies ahead in the biotech century. That's why I have been working with my colleague bioethicist Dr. Nigel Cameron and InterVarsity Press to pull together the best thinking that's being done by Christians on the biotech revolution. Our book Human Dignity in the Biotech Century has just been released, bringing together leading Christian voices in this debate. Bioscience professor David Prentice, for example, lays out the biotech agenda. Founding president of Americans United for Life, Paige Cunningham, writes on the strategy for the pro-life movement. Two writers look at the genetics revolution. One is Ben Mitchell, who edits the journal Ethics and Medicine and advises the Southern Baptist Convention on bioethics, and then there is Dr. David Stevens, director of the Christian Medical Society. The National Journal recently named the ten people who will most influence our nation's thinking on bioethics, and two of them are among our writers -- lawyer and journalist Wesley Smith and Richard Doerflinger, the voice of the Catholic Church on biopolicy. Dr. Christopher Hook adds an article; he is the head of ethics education at Mayo Clinic. These are strong voices whom we need because of the enormous stakes in this bioethics debate. For example, when you hear the latest chorus of demands for more embryonic stem-cell research, you need to know what lies behind it. The advocates of unethical science want to clone human embryos in huge quantities. They are not really interested in a few more cell lines or access to so-called "spare" embryos in freezers. These make good talking points, but they are peripheral to the real goals. So-called "therapeutic cloning," which has proved so powerful in the public imagination, requires the manufacture and destruction of millions upon millions of embryos, each one of which requires an egg from the ovary of a woman. What few Americans realize is that around the world nation after nation has outlawed this unethical research. Germany, Australia, Canada, and Norway have all decided to turn "therapeutic cloners" into felons; and on July 9 of this year, they were joined by -- of all countries -- France. Meanwhile, our cloning ban has been held up in the Senate, the Democratic leadership refusing to allow it to come to a vote. We need to turn our minds to this agenda so that our Christian worldview thinking can shape the future of U.S. policy. Human Dignity in the Biotech Century can equip you as we seek to do just that. For further reading and information: Charles Colson and Nigel Cameron, Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy (InterVarsity, 2004). To order, call 1-877-322-5527. Visit the Council for Biotechnology Policy website. Visit the Center for Bioethics and Culture website. Pastors and church leaders: Call us at 1-877-322-5527 to request the booklet "The Struggle for the Human Race: Cloning and the Biotech Challenge -- A Pastoral Response." The Wilberforce Forum's "Playing God?" curriculum, from Group Publishing, is designed for churches and small-group studies to address a myriad of bioethics issues, such as stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, cloning, and abortion. Nigel Cameron and Jennifer Lahl, "Legislating Medicine," San Francisco Chronicle, 11 July 2004. "French parliament bans human cloning," Agence France Presse, 9 July 2004. Steven Ertelt, "Biased Embryonic Stem Cell Research Polls Manipulate Public Opinion,", 20 September 2004. David B. Caruso, "Fertility Clinics Vary on Embryo Disposal," Associated Press, 17 September 2004. William Saletan, "Religion of the Nerds," Slate, 10 August 2004. "Woman awarded $1 million in embryo mix-up," MSNBC, 4 August 2004. Kate Harris, "All Cooped Up: The New Oppression of Women," BreakPoint WorldView, September 2003.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary