Friday, January 18, 2002


Before 9/11, this topic was dominating the news and was heavy on my mind. Now it looks sure to heat up again in a hurry. A National Academy of Sciences panel came out Thursday against reproductive cloning, but in favor of cloning for medical research (sometimes confusingly referred to as "therapeutic cloning"). The same day, the President's bioethics committee, which was announced in his half-a-loaf speech on stem cell research months ago, met for the first time. This committee, chaired by the very well-respected and amazingly Luddite Leon Kass of the University of Chicago (much more on him and his positions in a later installment), is packed with opponents of all this research, and dollars gets you doughnuts its recommendations will be to stop it.

This is a complex topic and it's going to take me a number of posts to lay out the issues, which involve the most basic questions about humanity and our place in the universe. A few teasers:

1. The "destroying embryos destroys human life and is therefore wrong" argument, while a powerful and emotional weapon, is not the fundamental objection that Dr. Kass and the deep thinkers opposing this research raise. They'd be just as opposed if no embryos were involved, because they perceive the ultimate ends of the research to be so wrong, they should be forbidden to everyone. I think their conclusions in this regard are a betrayal of man's destiny, not to mention the Western tradition of intellectual inquiry and fundamental liberties.

2. There is equally vehement opposition from the Left to the ends of this research, and an equal betrayal of human destiny lies in accepting those views.

3. The implications of this science are on a par with, say, the discovery of fire (and remember what happened to Prometheus).


Following a guilty plea, this Symbionese Liberation Army (remember Patty Hearst?) figure just got 20 to life for her involvement in an unsuccessful 25 year ago conspiracy to bomb police cars in Los Angeles. She has been lving in Minnesota under an assumed name. She married and raised a family. A colleague I respect queries whether it serves any purpose to imprison this woman, who she argues has spent her life at large rehabilitating herself.

I say shoot the bitch. Irrespective of how exemplary a life she led as a fugitive, remaining at large compounds, not mitigates, her crime. By depriving the state of the opportunity to incarcerate her through the prime of her life, a punishment she richly deserved, she thumbed her nose at society -- not surprising, given the contempt for society the SLA represented -- and accounts must be settled.