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From the September, 2001 issue of Touchstone

 

A New Resurrection? by Thomas S. Buchanan

A New Resurrection?

“‘This will be the biggest leap for mankind,’ he says. ‘It is the central core of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus, the promise of eternal life!’”
From an article on human cloning in Wired magazine, January 2001

It is likely that 2001 will go down in history as the year the first human clone was born. Perhaps it will be the biggest leap for mankind. But it will be a giant leap backwards, back to the garden where Adam first ate of the tree of knowledge.

The technology for human cloning is now at the point where, with $50,000 and “a good cell biologist, you could do this with two people in a closet,” according to Wired’s Brian Alexander. Be assured that a number of ego-driven mad scientists are racing to have their names in the history books of the future as the reincarnation of Dr. Frankenstein.

Those of us who oppose such things will soon be labeled racists who discriminate against innocent children because of their genetic makeup. We will be compared to Nazis if we stand against the creation of this new race of people, accused of “annihilating them before they are born” if we do not support the right to clone.

The rhetoric of the future is predictable, but the gravity of this particular sin is difficult to fathom. Will it result in an even larger-scale destruction of embryonic human life than we now see in the quest for the “perfect child”? I heard one scientist proclaim that since having children was such an important event in one’s life, “who would possibly leave such a thing up to chance if he had a choice?” This is the new pro-choice: designer babies. How long will it be until the graves of the famous are excavated for traces of DNA by parents seeking to have the next Napoleon or Beethoven or Einstein?

And how will those children born to be clones of their parents or dead relatives or famous people cope with the expectations of greatness thrust upon them? We can clone cells, but we cannot clone souls. Although no human being cloned in a lab has ever been born, we do know that identical twins (who share the same DNA and are natural clones) each have separate souls. The soul isn’t cloned. Many of those who support human cloning really desire to clone their own souls—to live again in some mystical way. Eternal life, of course, is possible through Christ, but not through science. As for souls, it is most likely that few of the scientists involved in the cloning business believe they exist.

How have we come to this state of affairs? By not having spoken out against in vitro fertilization (IVF) long ago with a loud, clear voice, we Christians have allowed the foundation for cloning to be laid and to be accepted (the procedure for cloning is essentially IVF with an extra step or two added).

What is wrong with IVF? Here is how it is presented in Wired:

Today, thousands of women every year are having babies thanks to IVF. The success rate at well-run clinics has risen to between 20 and 30 percent per cycle—50 percent after repeated tries. Despite this great progress, there are still miscarriages, just like natural reproduction, and unneeded viable embryos are still discarded, two common criticisms voiced by opponents of cloning. But the downside is accepted as justified to help people have babies.

In other words, what are a few dead embryonic children when we can end up with a cute live one that we wouldn’t have had otherwise? This type of argument should not be convincing to Christian thinkers. We have no right to create life and then knowingly destroy it, even for a perceived greater good. Besides this, there are the more troublesome ethical cases where embryos are “created” with odd assortments of genetic materials from people who were hired for their services.

I have heard couples in church talk of their “miracle babies” who were conceived in test tubes (while many siblings created in the same test tube were presumably killed off). These children are, of course, welcomed into the church with open arms, but there is no recognition of the fact that their births were the result of man playing God.

Many such parents are well meaning and just don’t understand the process, and the modern church has done little to address this temptation. We are afraid to tell people that there should be a time when they accept the limitations God has placed on them, as difficult as this may be. Instead, we turn a blind eye to them as they try to usurp his role as Creator.

It is clear that human cloning soon will take place, if not first in this country, then in another. (In either case, those cloned first will probably have wealthy Americans as parents.) Have we thought of how we will respond? What will we tell our parishioners? Will we continue to speak as timidly—if at all—about this as we have in the past about IVF?

We have left open the gates, and the enemy is fast approaching. Let us speak out before it is too late.

Thomas S. Buchanan, for the editors


Thomas S. Buchanan is a member of the Orthodox Church and lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and three children.

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