On 6 December, the members of the Australian parliament voted 82–62 to legalize ‘therapeutic’ cloning.1 This follows a much narrower vote in the Senate, where the pro-clone side won by only two votes. This overturns the parliamentary ban of 2002 which had almost universal support. The bill also allows stem cells to be extracted from the eggs of aborted late-term female babies.
We have covered many of the relevant biblical and scientific issues about cloning before (see Q&A pages on Abortion and Euthanasia and Cloning and Stem Cells), so this article will summarize the relevant areas and point to key articles. Then it will focus on some of the specific issues of this case, which also have universal application.
What was decided
‘The bill would allow scientists to create embryos through therapeutic cloning and extract their stem cells for use in medical research.’1 That is, despite the clear evidence that a human individual’s life begins at fertilization (see Antidote to abortion arguments), this law allows new human beings to be treated as commodities for research and destroyed. In fact, it goes further: a human being created as a genetic copy of another (clone) must be destroyed—so ‘therapeutic cloning’ is hardly therapeutic for the clone—because reproductive cloning, where the intent is for the clone to grow into an adult genetic copy, is still streng verboten. See First human embryo clone? What really happened, and what are the ethics involved?
But why the big push for this bill now? It is very much connected with embryonic stem cell research. To date, there is not a single cure from embryonic stem cell treatments (although plenty of tumours), which destroy new human beings. Yet the cloning supporters were seduced by the promise of miracle cures from such research.2 This parallels the American case where the late quadriplegic actor Christopher Reeve begged for embryonic stem cell research that would supposedly cure him (see also US Senate passes embryonic stem cell bill; President vetoes).
Adult stem cells successes ignored
There are over 70 clinically proven cures from ‘adult’ (or somatic) stem cells, which also kill no humans in the process. Yet we hear very little in the anti-Christian MMM (Mendacious Mainstream Media) about the many successes from ethical stem cells and much hype on the so-far non-existent benefits of embryonic stem cells. (See Stem cells and Genesis for detailed documentation). Indeed, in the very cause emoted by Christopher Reeves, umbilical cord stem cells enabled a 37-year-old woman in South Korea to walk after 19 years of paralysis (see Stem Cell Therapy Answer to Uncurable Diseases).
The abortion connection
If the pro-cloners were really interested in wanting cures, then they should be supporting the adult stem cell research with proven successes. But at least for a subset of this group, the issue of cures is a smokescreen. Their motivation for their putsch to extort tax dollars for ESCR is due to its major role in dehumanizing the unborn by treating them as commodities. That way, they can turn abortion from a supposedly necessary evil that should be kept ‘safe, legal, and rare’, to be viewed by the public as a positive benefit.3,4
Tissue rejection problem and the cloning ‘solution’
But one thing the MMM can’t escape is the problem of tissue rejection. Of course, this would not be a problem with adult stem cells extracted from the patients concerned. But it would be a major issue with embryonic stem cells, because the patient’s immune system would recognize this as foreign tissue. Their proposed solution: obtain embryonic stem cells from a clone of the patient—since this tissue would be genetically identical to the patient’s, his immune system would not reject it.5
Cloning and politics
Australia’s Prime Minister, The Hon John Howard, allowed a conscience vote, which meant that there was no official party position. Indeed, there were supporters and opponents on both sides of the House and Senate.6 [Note to Australian readers: You can see how your local member of Parliament voted in Ref. 7]
This should be a lesson that Christians should not too closely identify Christianity with any particular political party any more than it should be identified with a particular culture. C.S. Lewis pointed out the danger of any ‘Christianity and…’ viewpoint as denying the sufficiency of Christ, whether Christianity and socialism, Christianity and liberation … Abraham Lincoln rightly thought that the issue is not whether God is on our side but whether we are on God’s side. Thus CMI strives to be apolitical in both theory and practice.
However, this doesn’t mean that Christians can’t assess whether some political positions or cultural values are more consistent with biblical Christianity than others. Indeed, they should judge all things by Scripture.8
One notable feature is that both the Prime Minister and the newly elected Leader of the Opposition, Mr Kevin Rudd, voted to oppose cloning. Analysis of their reasoning would be instructive, especially as both are well known to profess the Christian faith.