The Abolition of Man

    As hard as it is to believe, it was almost one hundred years ago that H. G. Wells horrified readers with his tale of trans-genetic mutation, The Island of Doctor Moreau. Many of us would still like to believe that human cloning and mutation won't soon leap from the paperback world of science fiction to the world we live in. Well, I'm sorry to report that not only has cloning left the printed page, it's potentially even more devastating than we feared. Research into human cloning is going on right now, all for the ostensible good of humanity. Unfortunately, it may well result in what C. S. Lewis called the "abolition" of man. In the four years since scientists cloned the Scottish sheep Dolly, cows, pigs, mice, monkeys, and other animals have been cloned. What's more, recent reports indicate that human cloning experiments have been going on in Australia for the past two years. Melbourne-based company Stemcell Sciences has formed cloned human embryos by implanting human DNA into pigs eggs. Is this kind of experimentation legal? you might ask. Well, yes and no. The Australian government outlawed the practice of putting human cells into animal eggs. But through legal contortions, the scientists managed to skirt the regulations. They blended some residual pig DNA into the otherwise human embryo. That's right -- because the scientists did not merely clone a human being but rather created a transgenetic monster, they managed to avoid legal sanction. And, in order to escape confronting what was created, the embryos were allowed to live for only thirty-two days. How in the world can anyone justify this sort of experimentation? The most prevalent justification is therapeutic. Cloned human beings hold out the promise of an inexhaustible supply of organs and tissue for replacement donation and cure of disease. Of course, this begs the question of the morality of creating a human being in order to kill it for his body parts. Many scientists admit they are troubled by the implications -- but not troubled enough to abandon the research. The other justification is reproduction. Three doctors from the United States, Italy, and Israel recently called a press conference in Rome to announce their intentions to create cloned children within the next two years. The scientists adamantly rejected ethical or scientific oversight of any kind. They made it quite clear that nothing would stop their humanitarian mission to bring hope to the childless through cloning. They apparently don't see the irony of calling this inhuman practice "humanitarian." Despite scientists' claims of inevitability, some nations have not sat idly by. Earlier this month, the first binding international agreement banning cloning was passed by the legislatures of five European nations -- including Germany, which knows all too well the horrors of this kind of medical experimentation. Even Canada is considering legislation to ban cloning and limit embryonic research. And next week, hearings into embryonic research will be held here in Washington -- a matter for concern and prayer by Christians. At issue, you see, is the very future of the human race. For we may all see only too well what C. S. Lewis meant when he observed that man's conquest of nature would result in the abolition of man.   For further reference: "Canada May Ban Human Cloning." Reuters Health News, 14 March 2001. "Secret Testing of Human Cloning Revealed in Australia." Australia Daily Telegraph, 12 March 2001.


Chuck Colson


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