GAZING UPON THE BEAST
by Pat & Ed Vitagliano

HUMAN CLONING. The very words, used in a scientific context, still carry a hint of absurdity. After all, for much of the last century, any reference to the cloning of human beings was usually found in science fiction. It may arguably be said that most true scientists would not have graced such poppycock with more than a bemused smile.

Now everyone has to deal with the subject, because science fiction has become science. On November 25, Advanced Cell Technology Corporation (ACT) grabbed the attention of the world with its announcement that it had cloned a human embryo.

The story of ACT's stunning experiment indicates that science has jumped light years ahead of public awareness. In fact, the pace may even quicken. The day after ACT's announcement, renegade Italian doctor Serverino Antinori - who is not connected with the research company - declared that by next May he would clone a child to help an infertile couple.

All this echoes, and none too faintly, the familiar story of Dr. Frankenstein's monster which, since its original literary conception by Mary Shelley in her 1818 classic, has been the central figure in a host of films. That monster was also created by groundbreaking scientific techniques, but eventually turned against its human creator. Frankenstein has long been viewed as a cautionary tale about science unfettered by moral concerns.

Are we on the brink of creating a new monster without giving careful thought to what we are doing - or even if we should be doing it?

A child for the childless

Currently, human cloning experiments are conducted in pursuit of scientific goals which, when given a merely cursory glance, seem worthwhile. The first is reproductive cloning, through which, at least theoretically, a cloned child would be created for those who cannot have one of their own.

However, cloning is not - and at this point cannot be - conducted without the killing of embryos, or fertilized eggs. As currently practiced, cloning requires that many embryos be created and killed before one can be successfully implanted and brought to birth. For the pro-lifers, reproductive human cloning entails nothing short of murder. Creating a human life with the intention of killing it for utilitarian purposes, they argue, is always wrong.

Spare parts

The second goal of human cloning experiments is therapeutic cloning, which hopes to create a cloned embryo of a particular person and then "farm" that embryo to generate human repair parts for the "original version."

Also, some researchers involved in this new field of human cloning insist that, if they are allowed to experiment with fetal tissue developed in embryonic cloning experiments, dramatic cures to benefit all humanity may be forthcoming.

However, this goal falls upon the same rocky shoals as the first. As scientific explanations continue to unfold about therapeutic cloning experiments, it becomes clear that a human life is created and then killed by extracting the stem cells. In fact, ACT established guidelines to insure that all of its human embryos would be killed after 14 days of development.

In addition, opponents of human cloning also insist that it is a crime against humanity to create a person, use him like some sort of tissue or organ farm, and then discard the person. In such circumstances, precious human life becomes no more than brood stock, a unit production, or a machine to produce spare parts for the "owner." It is not only the enslavement of humanity, but the ultimate in selfish exploitation of it.

The are other spiritual issues involved as well. In Genesis 3:4 the serpent tempted Eve in the garden by flatly contradicting the warning of God that death would follow disobedience. "You surely shall not die!" the evil one said.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with scientific attempts to prolong human life - either by improving health or by curing disease, sickness or infirmity. Ethical medical research (that does not involve destroying human life) reflects God's glory, demonstrates His orderly creation, and manifests His healing mercies. There is no reason a Christian should not welcome medical advances that would extend life expectancy dramatically.

However, the experiment producing the first cloned human being seems to be motivated by more than that. Researcher Michael West, head of ACT, told The Boston Globe in an interview that his career is driven by a spiritual goal - to cheat death and achieve immortality.

West stated, "Immortality has been worshiped since ancient times. The early Egyptians noticed the sun was immortal, vanishing at night but always returning the next day. So they worshiped the sun as a god."

For thousands of years, men have devised many religions out of their desire for immortality. Many of the cruelest and most barbaric of those religions, such as the worship of Molech and Baal, required child sacrifices to placate the gods. Today, we are being told it is quite all right to create human life - a child - and then intentionally destroy it in the hope that we can extend our lives indefinitely.

For Christians, West's quest denies the reality that man's fallen state, which resulted in death, can only be undone by Christ's redemptive work (Romans 5:17, 21.)

A new monster

One of the most bizarre and - true to the Frankenstein story - horrifying aspects of ACT's announcement has been the revelation that the company has conducted experiments aimed at interspecies cloning. This more obscure third goal of this young science seeks to discover whether or not human DNA can be combined with that of an animal to produce an entirely new, "half-breed" species.

According to The Boston Globe, ACT researchers made 52 attempts to cross humans and cows. The company kept these interspecies cloning experiments secret because it feared public outcry.

Certainly a half-man, half-animal is a monster worse than Dr. Frankenstein's. From a biblical perspective, interspecies cloning overturns the created order, since each living thing is to reproduce "after its kind."

More importantly, these experiments violate the spirit of Scripture's prohibition against bestiality (Leviticus 18:24.) Like interspecies cloning, such sexual acts violate man's position in the created order, in which many alone bears God's image (Genesis 1:27) and thus remains distinct from the animal kingdom.

That such issues are even being raised - in a scientific context - indicates that mankind is about to embark on an entirely new path, without any clear picture of what strange new realities may exist a mere stone's throw away.

Christians must unite in horror at the human cloning experiments that are currently in progress. Regardless of noble-sounding niceties, we must enact laws that will prohibit human life from being created and intentionally destroyed, and we must enact laws that will prohibit interspecies cloning experiments. Otherwise we may soon find ourselves face-to-face with a vengeful monster of our own creation.

Reprinted by permission, AFA Journal, (662)844-5036, www.afa.net.

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