A Close-Up: Bioethics and the Human Cloning Debate

The U.S. Senate is expected to weigh in soon on the issue of human cloning, and President Bush has created a Council on Bioethics to deal with this controversial issue. Pat Robertson spoke with Dr. Robert George, a member of the President¡¯s Council on Bioethics, about cloning and the influence of bioethics.

PAT ROBERTSON: With me from our news bureau in Washington is Dr. Robert George. Dr. George is Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. He is the author of several books, including his newest, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion and Morality in Crisis. In January, Dr. George was named to President Bush's Council on Bioethics. It¡¯s a pleasure to have you with us, thank you for being with us Dr. George.

DR. ROBERT GEORGE: Thank you, Reverend Robertson, it¡¯s a pleasure to be on the show.

ROBERTSON: You have dedicated a special chapter in your book to the debate on human cloning. What are the real issues we are facing with this cloning war?

GEORGE: Basically, the issue is whether we are going to respect the sanctity of human life or whether we¡¯re going to bring new human beings into existence precisely for the purpose of exploitation so that we can take their body parts and stem cells and use them for biomedical research with the result of the destruction of the nascent human being.

ROBERTSON: Is there a distinction between so-called "therapeutic cloning" and "reproductive cloning" like some of the congressman are trying to make?

Robert GeorgeGEORGE: I¡¯m afraid that¡¯s a fraudulent distinction because all cloning is reproductive, it brings into being a new human being, a new whole living member of the species Homo sapiens. And no cloning is, strictly speaking, therapeutic because the person who is subjected to experimentation, the newly conceived human being, is not treated or benefited and rather destroyed for the benefit of others. So strictly speaking there¡¯s no therapeutic use there.

ROBERTSON: You are part of an 18-member commission on bioethics. Have you made a recommendation yet to the President on this issue?

GEORGE: We haven¡¯t yet Dr. Robertson, we are still in deliberations. We are carefully preparing a report, debating a report, and there is a mix of views on the council. Not all members of the council share the President¡¯s views like I do and as I believe you do. There will be further debate and discussion before we put anything before the President.

ROBERTSON: The so-called bioethicists have really abandoned, at least a number of them, the Judeo-Christian moral standards. How do you introduce those standards into such a discussion?

GEORGE: I think we press away at the rational arguments for the intrinsic dignity of human beings at every stage of development. The very people who are today calling into question the dignity of the newly conceived human being are the first to resist, as they should, discrimination based on race or ethnicity or sex or any other factor like that. They should be equally vigilant and we should demand they resist the idea of discrimination and exploitation based on age or size or stage of development or condition of dependency. Those are just as irrational as bases for discrimination and exploitation as race or sex or any other factor. So what we need to do is call them to consistency, rational consistency and logical consistency with what they proclaim to be their own principles.

ROBERTSON: Your book is entitled The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis, is there a crisis and how do you see it? Which orthodoxies are coming into conflict as you see it?

Clash of OrthodoxiesGEORGE: The principle concern of my book The Clash of Orthodoxies is to argue that, far from being a conflict between irrational faith and the forces of pure reason, contemporary cultural disputes over the sanctity of life and institution of marriage and the family really reflect two competing worldviews. And in fact, I argue that the Christian worldview, far from being based on irrational faith, can be shown to be, as I try to show it to be in the book, rationally superior to what I call the secularist orthodoxy, a worldview that claims to be based entirely on reason but in fact is filled with internal contradictions and logical inconsistencies which when brought to light show that secular liberalism, the secularist orthodoxy that prevails in universities and the journalistic establishment, professional associations, is in fact a failure at the bar of reason itself.

ROBERTSON: There seems to be a vendetta against God in our society on the part of the so-called intelligencia. Have they succeeded or is there a resurgence of Christianity and religious belief in your view?

GEORGE: Well, it¡¯s interesting. Of course, the Judeo-Christian morality is a minority position at least in the circles in which I ordinarily lead my life, in the university environment, professional academic associations and so forth. But it¡¯s not as if Christians and Orthodox Jews and other believers are not present in the academy. Too often their voices are not heard, but they are there and there are a number of distinguished contemporary philosophers, just to take one field, philosophers who are believing Christians and converts to Christian faith. In fact, some of the most eminent philosophers in the world; begin the list with Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Dummett, the late Elizabeth Anscombe was a devout Christian believer. So those Christian voices are there but they need to be heard.

ROBERTSON: Well, thank you very much for presenting this. And ladies and gentlemen, you might find this book interesting. The Clash of Orthodoxies by Dr. George.