Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

If some were heartened at the recent nomination of Francis S. Collins—a committed evangelical who has forcefuly defended the compatibility between faith and science—to the director of that National Institutes of Health, Justin D. Barnard at Public Discourse points out that, unsurprisingly, Obama’s nominee is committed to supporting embryonic stem-cell research:

In a section of the appendix [of the Language of God ] entitled, “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is Fundamentally Different,” Collins argues that human “products” of SCNT are (or would be) fundamentally different from human embryos created with egg and sperm. So he concludes that while so-called “reproductive cloning” ought to be prohibited, “therapeutic cloning” represents the way forward. Collins writes, “I would argue that the immediate product of a skin cell and an enucleated egg cell fall short of the moral status of the union of sperm and egg” (pg. 256). The trouble with this view is that the “immediate product” of successful SCNT, just like the “immediate product” of the successful union of sperm and egg, is an embryonic member of the species. In the case of a human being, the embryo, whatever its origins, will, if permitted to live, develop by an internally directed process from the embryonic stage into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages, and ultimately into adulthood. A cloned human embryo, no less than a human embryo produced by the union of gametes, is an embryonic human. That is a matter of biological fact that Collins conveniently shuffles off stage. The moral implications are clear, and clearly contradict Collins’ conclusion: the embryo produced by cloning enjoys the same moral status, whatever one judges that to be, as the embryo produced the old-fashioned way.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles