Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Cloning Superman

Tonight's episode of the TV series Smallville, the latest take on the Superman story, features an appearance by actor Christopher Reeve, who played the "Man of Steel" in the movies. The WB network is heavily promoting Reeve's appearance in hopes of increasing ratings during the February "sweeps." But the network isn't alone in having an agenda. Reeve's appearance seems curiously timed. Could it be to influence the outcome of Congress's vote on human cloning, scheduled for this week? At the end of the program, you see, the WB network will air a promotional spot for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Reeve started the Foundation after he was paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident. It supports his aggressive advocacy of medical research to cure spinal disorders using embryonic stem cells. In the promotional spot, Reeve and actor Tom Welling, who plays the young Clark Kent, urge viewers to visit the foundation's website. Visitors will be told to "take action now." Action on what? It is to call congressmen and tell them to "stop the assault on medical progress" by voting against H.R. 534, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Dave Weldon of Florida, would ban all human cloning. But visitors to Reeve's website are told that the bill would "dash the hopes of millions of Americans suffering from deadly and debilitating diseases." Visitors are told they should support a bill that would ban "reproductive cloning" while permitting "therapeutic cloning." As Reeve puts it, "Ban human cloning, but don't ban hope." Reeve believes that his ethics are part of the great humanitarian crusade -- the alleviation of human suffering. But Reeve is willing that whatever progress might be made by embryonic stem cell research -- and there has been none so far -- be purchased at the price of human dignity. You see, there is no difference between creating life to implant it in the womb -- reproductive cloning -- and creating life to destroy it in medical research -- what Reeve calls "therapeutic cloning." Both create life -- in the case of "therapeutic cloning," to kill the human embryos, a heinous act. That's why I believe human cloning presents an even greater threat to human dignity than abortion. And sadly, just as many Christians were asleep when ROE V. WADE was decided, many seem to be blissfully unaware of the deadly evils of cloning. Christians must be as committed to human dignity as Reeve is to his cause. We must provide alternatives to the emotionally appealing arguments made by Reeve and others. This means becoming educated ourselves and then teaching our neighbors that, notwithstanding what they see on TV tonight or hear from the multi-billion dollar biotech industry, embryonic stem cell research offers neither medical progress nor hope, and it is morally repugnant. Over the next few days, I'll tell you why our opponents make false distinctions between reproductive and "therapeutic" cloning, and how you can counter their case with secular answers. I'll also tell you why you should be calling your congressman to support the Weldon bill (H.R. 534). Our culture is poised before a fateful line in the sand. The way to prevent crossing it is to help our neighbors understand what's at stake. Otherwise in the February television sweeps, it is human dignity that will be swept away. Take action: Urge your congressman to support H.R. 534, The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003. And urge your two senators to support the Brownback human cloning ban. The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. Or for mailing and e-mail addresses, visit For further information: Read the text of H.R. 534, The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003. Learn more about tonight's Smallville episode, "Rosetta." For more information, visit the Council for Biotechnology PolicyAmericans to Ban Cloning, and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. BreakPoint Commentary No. 020313, "Superman and Utilitarianism: Kindly Ignoring the Argument." BreakPoint Commentary No. 021115, "Swept Away: ER and Stem Cell Research." BreakPoint Commentary No. 021202, "Art Imitates Life: Law & Order and Stem Cells." Also see the BreakPoint Cloning Fact Sheet for an overview. The "BreakPoint Christian Response to Cloning Kit" includes useful resources for Christians (laity and church leaders): to understand why they should stand up for human dignity and the sanctity of human life; to speak to their fellow believers about the issue; to speak to unbelievers about the dangers of human cloning; and to take the first step toward opposing all human cloning. Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Eerdmans, 1996).


Chuck Colson


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