A BIOLOGICAL TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT
The announcement that a Massachusetts company has cloned a six-celled human embryo has given rise to a number of voices denouncing the procedure. Some lawmakers, the Vatican and George W. Bush have, among others, called for outlawing human cloning. President Bush said: “We should not as a society, grow life to destroy it, and that’s exactly what is taking place.”
He is right. This society and every existing society and nearly every society that ever existed did just that: grew life in order to destroy it. Or to be more precise: grew life in order to reap, harvest , and slaughter it and then to consume it. Every mouthful of food that is ingested by anyone is killed prior to ingestion or is killed in the process of ingestion. It is not news to cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, fish and other animals and thousands of varieties of plants and their fruit that they are grown by society, sometimes in atrociously unnatural conditions, to be destroyed and served on the tables of man and woman in an infinite number of variations. If Mother Nature’s mandate was that man should not kill anything, man would be a killer at least three times a day, or he would starve.
There cannot be life without death. The difference in sand, which will grow little, if anything, and soil that will, is that the latter is laced with death and decay. All of life depends upon the generations of the departed and their mouldering remains. If one grows crops and year after year, harvests them and returns nothing to the soil, he will soon have no crops, because death hasn’t fertilized his field. Thus, no life will come from it. No city, however sophisticated and technologically smart, can long endure without death having given life to the meat and vegetables that are trucked into its walls and consumed from its tables, often with no notion by the consumers that death is their host. And without awareness of someone somewhere having grown life to destroy it.
Man’s sentimentality with regards to corpses, his cosmeticizing them, bedding them in silks and velvets encased in oak, all finally cocooned in a copper vault or earthquake-proof mausoleum is an inorganic lump in the maw of nature, which will take her eons of digestion to reach the dead and introduce them again into the mainstream of life where all dead naturally belong so they can give and sustain life of future species of every kind, animal and plant.
There is a dignity and nobility, not to mention a sensible frugality, about the Eskimo solution to the termination of life for the old and invalid: sailing into the sea under the sun and stars on an ice floe into eternity. Anyone who has spent time in a nursing home surely has considered such an end for the living dead therein and probably immediately aborted it in deference to custom and majority opinion, if not in deference to medical, legal and religious mandates. Plenty and surplus make room for sentimentality, give it status and shame reality, resulting in the abomination of warehousing the aged.
President Bush could gain perspective with regard to life, its origin, nurture and end, were he to take a course in basic biology in an institution divorced from faith and dedicated to empirical derived knowledge. He would learn that all life had a common ancestor, animal and plant; that every species, including homo sapiens, is dependent upon all other species; that plants produce oxygen without which man cannot survive and that man produces carbon dioxide without which plants cannot survive; that all life lives from the death of all other life. And that man grows life for no other reason but to kill it and consume it.
But the howl will be that man is not to be mistaken as just another form of life but to be enthroned as a species particularly created by God in His image, a species that is endowed with a spark of divinity, which spark has the potential of eternal life if it conforms to some dictates revealed to God-inspired males. But there is no persuasive evidence that there is a God and that even if there is a God that He is more concerned with homo sapiens than He is with any other species. Of course, man thinks he is God’s favorite, that He looks over him, protects him and finally makes a place for him in a Heaven of eternal enjoyment. If he is obedient.
Man wrote the Book that is suppose to be evidence beyond question that man is favored by God of all species and endowed with a soul. Man’s predisposition to see himself as created in the image of the Creator and his having written the Book causes skeptics to question the Book’s claims. Without earthly evidence, beyond question, of his claim to uniqueness among the species, man depends upon faith, a supposition fathered by wish and mothered by hope — or “an implausible hypothesis irrationally held” — to validate his claim to be semi-divine; and regardless of the tenuousness of such a belief, he is adamant in it and hostile to any doubt about his dogma that he has a soul, even at conception, and that any intervention by man inimical to that conception before and after birth is an abomination to God and an unpardonable and damning sin.
So, certainly a case can be made that the controversy over cloning an embryo for medical purposes, that is, growing a life and killing it in order to cure maladies — in the perspective of nature’s prodigality with life and man’s prodigality with all other species but his own—is not much more than a tempest in a teapot.
In view of nature’s profligate waste of life — a nature created by the Christians’ God — one is hard pressed to brief a case in opposition to cloning for curing, except that it is man playing God and displaying his secular and scientific powers — even though he is relatively blind as to the full consequences of such play and powers.