The Advanced Cell Technology Institute recently announced that it has successfully cloned the first human embryo.
Does this make man the most intelligent or most foolish of God's creations?
On that question, intense debate is brewing.
On one side are scientists who maintain that cloning procedures can help develop stem cells that would serve as replacement tissues for patients with a range of diseases including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.
On the other side are those ethicists that chafe at the notion of creating and then destroying human embryos in order to harvest stem cells. They rightly point out that human embryos have a unique genetic code. Therefore, they regard embryos as living human beings, rather than a random collection of cells. By this way of thinking, the purposeful destruction of human embryos is no different from, say, abortion or murder.
This rousing point has not been lost on Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. "Unless Congress acts quickly," warned Johnson, "this corporation and others will be opening human embryo farms."
Scientists seem comfortable with this. "We've taken the first step toward what we hope will be a whole new era of medicine," proclaimed biologist Michael West on CNN's "Late Edition." "It's been called regenerative medicine. The idea is to be able to give replacement cells and tissues, like the way we repair a car when it's broken,"
That's very clinical of West. I would, however, suggest that there are some things in this life that we ought not be so clinical about, some things that cannot simply be reduced to right angles, such as poking and prodding at the raw material of life.
Consider: With the ability to create life in a lab, man takes His rightful place alongside God. Just one thing: We're not God! Plainly, exerting our will over the very creation of human life propels science well beyond our ability to reason, ethically and morally.
Into this moral vacuum rushes human egotism, or the desire to exert our will over every aspect of our surroundings.
We cannot allow such egotism to obscure the moral consequences of destroying human embryos. Scientific advancement alone is no justification for the destruction of human life. Murder is murder whether it occurs in a science lab or on the street.
Such subtleties were lost on Nazi scientists, who routinely experimented with humans. In strictly pragmatic terms, their results were a triumph of science. In terms of moral consequences, their experiments formed this century's most frightful travesty of human dignity.
In the aftermath of World War II, with the dangers of indulging man's will fresh in everyone's mind, the international community adopted the Nuremberg Codes, which specifically prohibited the use of human experimentation without consent.
On such matters, there should be no room for compromise. Science can never be allowed to supercede the sanctity of human life.
The House of Representatives has already voted against allowing human cloning and President Bush has urged the Senate to condemn this godlike tinkering with human embryos, before such experimenting reaches its logical conclusion: the cloning of soulless humans and the triumph of science over the sanctity of life.