January 13, 2003

ID and Human Cloning


By Paul Nesselroade

Does the Intelligent Design (ID) movement have anything to say about current experimentation with human cloning?

On December 27 the scientific director of a group named Clonaid claimed they had successfully produced the first human clone. Whether or not the Clonaid claim is true (many close to the issue have serious doubts), the prospect of human cloning will not go away and promises to continue to be divisive as lawmakers and ethicists wrestle with this emerging possibility.

Clearly, starting points are critical in shaping how we view the appropriateness of any action. If our starting point is the belief that human life was accidental and brought about solely by the impersonal forces of natural selection and random mutation, then, any purpose or meaning for life has to be assigned by us, chiseled out of the void of meaninglessness with our own hands. Starting here, the idea of cloning new life explicitly for the enhancement of our own lives (through organ replacement, stem cell harvesting, or for reproductive purposes) can be legitimized. The human ‘cost’ associated with both fine-tuning the cloning process (animal cloning rarely results in birth and virtually all of those born have serious abnormalities and/or die early) and creating life expressly for sacrificial purposes, may be considered unfortunate, but can hardly be considered wrong. That’s why the Darwinist Michael Shermer, commenting in a recent L.A. Times article, can unashamedly endorse “[running] the cloning experiment [to] see what happens.”

If however, our lives are the product of intentionality and design, then purpose and meaning as well as right and wrong may not be just arbitrary human constructs. In fact, the reverse might be true. Far from needing us to carve them out, purpose and meaning could form part of the very template from which we ourselves were stamped! With this starting point, cloning looks quite different. Are we just enhancing our lives, as we would with a new invention or tastier dish, or are we hijacking the designer's machinery and pirating it for our own exploitation? And what about the possibility of fundamental human dignity that design implies? Enhancing one life at the expense of another involves value assignments and selection between them. It all starts to feel uncomfortably reminiscent of 1940's Europe. Who assigns the values? Who makes the selections?

Often the critics of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement make the claim that ID is a ‘science stopper.’ Well, if by ‘science’ they mean unrestrained experimentation on human beings, they may be right. After all, if those at the helm of human cloning can justify its necessity and are bent on walking it forward, then, I suppose, any dissenting voice could be labeled a ‘science stopper.’ But let’s not confuse walking forward with progress. If we’re headed down the wrong path, the person who first turns around is the most progressive. If life is intentionally designed, then acknowledging this will be a first step towards a new science that asks new questions and begins to delve deeper into the mystery of human purpose as well as the nature of reality itself. In this sense, ID is really a science starter.

Starting points are important. Because of the relevancy the ID starting point has for many of today’s bioethical dilemmas, it is imperative that its proponents continue to communicate the mounting scientific evidence suggesting intentionality behind human life. Thanks to the recent school-board decisions in Ohio and Georgia, a number of provocative books written by IDers, and some enlightening new videos such as “Icons of Evolution” and “Unlocking the Mystery of Life,” we are well on our way to getting this message out.

Copyright 2003 Paul Nesselroade. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 01.13.03