For years, some of us have been saying that the issues raised by advances in biotechnology will dominate the 21st centurynot just because new technology is always fascinating, but also because they will become the key issues in our culture and our politics. Think of the culture war over abortion, and then think much, much bigger. We will move from taking human life to making and finally faking human lifeby design.
The cloning/stem-cell debates have been a forerunner of that enlarged culture war. Yet it's important to make some things clear. Those of us who would be seen as "social conservatives" are not Luddites. We are not opposed to technology. We may be more skeptical than some as to its benefits or its harmlessness, because we tend to take a Judeo-Christian view of human nature. It is flawed; humans can do wonderful things, but they can also do incredibly evil things, and new technology always gives us the power to do more than we could have before. Furthermore, because we are flawed and finite, our technologies are flawed. Space shuttles explode. Microsoft Windows crashes. My PDA rearranged my schedule one day. We all have our own stories.
At a conference in Washington recently, the Center for American Progress made a push for "progressive" bioethics and against "bioconservatives." This is curious, because one of the most striking facts of our time is that just as economic and social "conservatives" have disagreed on key biopolicy issues, so also "progressives" are thoroughly divided. Many of them side with "conservatives" on a wide range of bioethics issues, from cloning to germline (inheritable) changes to the need for reform in the patenting of human genes.
Part of the problem lies with BIO, the trade group ...1
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