As the House of Representatives Tuesday votes on possibly expanding federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research -- legislation the president has promised to veto -- there are some real concerns about how far we've already stepped into a "Brave New World." With those concerns in mind, and a big-picture look at all the issues involved in this new world, Wesley J. Smith, a lawyer and consumer activist (friend and collaborator of Ralph Nader even!) recently produced A Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World. He addressed some of these issues Monday in an interview with NRO editor Kathryn Lopez. Bottom line: "All is certainly not lost." However...
National Review Online: With the news out of South Korea last week, are we all one step closer to "designer babies"?
Wesley J. Smith: Absolutely. Apparently the South Korean researcher Wu Suk Hwang has learned how to reliably create human cloned embryos. Human cloning is the essential step toward biotechnologists learning how to genetically engineer progeny, a new eugenics project that enjoys great support among futurists, bioethicists, and some within the science establishment. For example, James Watson, the co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, is a big booster of creating designer babies who have been enhanced for intelligence, health, looks, etc. There is even a nascent social movement that has formed around creating a "post human species-- known as "transhumanism.-- Princeton biologist Lee Silver put it this way in his book Remaking Eden: "Without cloning, genetic engineering is simply science fiction. But with cloning, genetic engineering moves into the realm of reality."
NRO: A federal ban on human cloning seems a no-go until at least after the 2006 election. In some real practical senses, though, might 2007 almost be too late?
Smith: It is never too late to do the right thing. Cloning would be outlawed throughout the country already had not the biotech industry thrown up one of the most dishonest and disingenuous propaganda efforts against such a ban that I have seen in my nearly 20 years of public advocacy.
But we should not be disheartened. All is certainly not lost. Much of the world is turning away from human cloning. The United Nations General Assembly voted by a nearly 3-1 margin to urge member nations to outlaw human cloning. While a few countries like Great Britain decided to be unilateralist on the issue, many nations have already outlawed human cloning, including France, Canada, Australia, and Norway. Indiana just became the seventh American state to ban cloning. If enough countries and states reject cloning and fund adult/umbilical-cord-blood-stem-cell research (along with the private sector), I believe sufficient treatments will be developed so that even the New York Times will be forced to report on the progress. At that point, public support for therapeutic-cloning research would likely collapse and the vast continuing public investment of tax dollars needed to further develop and perfect human-cloning technology would peter out. At least this is what I hope would happen, which is why so many people -- conservatives and liberals, religiously oriented people and secularists, pro-life and pro-choice on abortion -- are working diligently to continue to hold the line.
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