Dying to Clone
by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
January 22, 2008 - Stemagen, a private stem cell research and development group in California, claims to have become the first in the world to “create and meticulously document, a cloned human embryo using somatic cell nuclear transfer.” As it virtually falls on the eve of the 35th anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision, the timing of this announcement provides a poignant moment for moral reflection in the history of humanity.
The oft-repeated phrase, “sanctity of human life” is rooted in the moral principle that human beings have intrinsic worth – worth possessed by virtue of their being human. From the biblical perspective, this worth ultimately derives from God himself, in whose image human beings are made. At a minimum, the moral principle restrains the ways in which we interact with other human beings. In particular, it prohibits us from using other human beings as mere means to our own ends. In other words, part of what it means to say that human life is sacred is to say that human beings are not mere instruments to be used for our own devices.
Tragically, throughout human history, we have been guilty of reducing others to mere instrumentality. Yet since Roe v. Wade, the use of the most vulnerable human beings to suit our own purposes has not only become a protected right, it has also become a virtual cultural habit.
Stemagen’s recent announcement about its success in cloning a human being is simply another sad chapter in the 35-year-old story of our thirst for mastery over life and death. Of course, the quest for control is neither unique to Stemagen, nor is it merely 35 years old.
The ancient sin of which our first parents, Adam and Eve, were guilty is embedded in the words of the Serpent by whom they were tempted, “You will be like God . . .” The desire for control over life and death, as it exists in efforts to clone and abort human beings, is simply one more manifestation of a disordered desire to displace the Creator. Would that human beings learn to pray with the humility of Hannah who recognized, “The Lord kills and brings to life.” (I Samuel 2:6)