The Biotech Century

Nations around the world are banning human cloning. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the practice to be banned everywhere. In addition, one of the biggest and most newsworthy human cloning experiments, in Korea, turned out to be a complete fake. Well, it would look like the “Biotech Century,” as some have been calling it, is off to an unpromising start. If so, that’s something for which we can be grateful, because the closer we get to the cloning and commodification of human life &#0151 even for purposes that seem well-intentioned &#0151 the more we endanger all human beings. President Bush put his finger on this when he said in his State of the Union address, “A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life.” The president went on to ask Congress for a ban on “the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms.” Notice that includes both reproductive cloning and so-called therapeutic cloning. It’s tremendously important that the president made that distinction clear, because it’s an appalling sign of our times just how many people &#0151 including many of our United States Senators &#0151 think it’s perfectly fine to clone a human embryo so long as you plan to experiment on it and then destroy it before it can be brought to birth. You may recall I talked recently about former senator and ambassador Jack Danforth and his slams against his fellow Christians. One of the many things he blames us for is “criminaliz[ing] research because we want to save cells in a petri dish that will never be implanted in a uterus and never become people.” That kind of dreadful misreading of such a crucial issue is unpardonable, especially coming from a Christian. Unfortunately, however, it’s all too common among lawmakers who, unlike Danforth, are still active in politics and have the power to make laws that would allow us to buy, sell, and experiment on human life. And that’s why, despite so many promising developments around the world, we’re having such a hard time pushing through a comprehensive cloning ban in the US. And as if that weren’t bad enough, we have another threat to deal with on the biotechnology front: the advancing science of nanotechnology. If cloning threatens to redefine what it means to be human, nanotechnology takes it to the next level. My friend and colleague Nigel Cameron, of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, puts it this way: Abortion and euthanasia are taking life, cloning is making life, and nanotechnology and cybernetics are faking life. Nanotechnology &#0151 which, again, is being promoted as helping those with dread diseases &#0151 holds the dangerous potential of controlling or possibly even re-engineering human nature. I know this stuff is complicated, and if you’re like I am, science is hard to understand sometimes. But this is life-and-death stuff, and we have got to know more about it and be able to press for ethical guidelines.


Chuck Colson



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