We Must Protect Science

by | May 30, 2002

Currently on the agenda of the US Senate is legislation that would outlaw a scientist’s right to clone human tissue. This “Human Cloning Prohibition Act” was introduced last year by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. In what would be the greatest injustice against knowledge since the 17th century sentencing of Galileo for the crime of […]

Currently on the agenda of the US Senate is legislation that would outlaw a scientist’s right to clone human tissue. This “Human Cloning Prohibition Act” was introduced last year by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

In what would be the greatest injustice against knowledge since the 17th century sentencing of Galileo for the crime of arguing that the earth orbits the sun, this legislation would forbid a scientist from developing and applying his understanding of human genetics to create cells that are genetically similar to existing human cells. The prohibition is based on the fallacious argument that individual human cells constitute the essence of human life, and that scientists have no right to “tamper” with nature by entering into previously unknown realms because it offends the mystical sensibilities of those who oppose cloning.

I submit that it is precisely the scientist’s mission to know and exploit nature to human advantage and that such work is of essential benefit to mankind. In fact, science is the knowledge and manipulation of nature–man using his mind to manipulate and recreate the world to benefit and improve his life. A refrigerator is a “manipulation of nature.” Chemotherapy is a “manipulation of nature.” A farm is a “manipulation of nature.” Any idea which advances man beyond a primitive, survivalist existence constitutes an alteration of nature to suit his existence. To deny scientists and individuals the benefits of cloning would be to deny the morality of science itself. There is no material distinction between the technological processes that allows cloning and any other technological process.

Yet in its attempt to squelch science, the Brownback legislation confuses the moral line regarding the rights of human beings. The bill before the Senate would ban the production of “a living organism (at any stage of development) that is genetically virtually identical” to a human being. Sponsors of the bill want us to believe that the blastocysts produced by the cloning process is a being equal in legal and moral stature to living humans. Beyond that most Americans reject that definition, it is not even a rationally defensible statement of the facts.

A blastocyst is nothing more than a collection of undifferentiated cells with human DNA. It is not a “human being” by any standard. It is a collection of microscopic cells in a Petri dish. To ascribe it the moral stature of a human would be to misunderstand the very definition of humanity. These blastocysts are in fact private property, just as frozen embryos produced by a couple using in vitro fertilization are property. They cannot possess legal rights in the United States.

If, in the future, scientists are able to advance their knowledge of the genome to allow for the successful cloning of human beings for the purpose of bringing them to full term, then existing law would protect the rights of these clones after their birth. They would be no different from any other living human being; only the process by which they were created would be different.

The bill outlawing human cloning offers us a simple choice. We can either let the irrational fear of science & technology choke a budding field of great value, or we can let reason be our guide to a potentially better future. If one understands and accepts the value of science, then one will understand why any law that forbids human cloning must never be allowed to become the law of the land. Any legislation which provides a ten year prison sentence for the “crime” of engaging in legitimate scientific research is repugnant to our Constitution and society.

Nicholas Provenzo is founder and Chairman of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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