Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review March 30, 2001 / 6 Nissan, 5761

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

No time to clown
around with cloning -- AT this point, science is progressing like Germans on French soil, which is to say: unchecked. The question of how to respond has taken everybody by surprise. It was long assumed that technological advancement would increase the power of government.

Huxley's "Brave New World" and Orwell's "1984" popularized the idea that science was the ally of Big Brother. Later, admittedly less-well-done works like "A Handmaid's Tale" and "Logan's Run" predicted that the government would use technology to create - and destroy - human beings.

It turned out otherwise. Technology - so far - has been overwhelmingly on the side of the individual. The car, the phone, the birth-control pill, the computer and - my personal favorite - the rising-crust frozen pizza have served to liberate people not just from government interference but from all sorts of hassles.

In fact, the latest technological development - cloning - promises to liberate people from conventional human reproduction entirely.

One person who predicted the real challenge from technology was Irving Kristol. In 1975, Kristol gave a lecture asking, "Is Technology a Threat to Liberal Society?" (He was of course referring to "liberal" in the classical sense of democratic and free, not some liberal society populated solely by people who think like Jane Fonda). Kristol foresaw that just as technology would liberate individuals, it would also empower them - and not "empowered" like a feminist on Prozac.

"It's quite clear that, at the rate things are going, in 40 or 50 years almost anybody will be able to create explosives of a kind that can destroy an entire city," he said. "And if anyone can, it is possible to surmise that someone will, the world being what it is and human beings what they are."

Now, truth be told, Kristol is such a hero of mine, if Mattel came out with action figures of intellectuals, I would have bought the Irving Kristol with the Kung Fu Grip a long time ago. So maybe I'm a bit forgiving of his possible exaggerations.

Still, he was surely right in his observation that the tools for cruel mischief once available only to a handful of governments are increasingly available to countless groups and individuals. Timothy McVeigh hardly had trouble getting the supplies he needed for his Oklahoma City attack. In Kristol's lecture to the Polytechnic Institute of New York, reprinted in the Spring 2001 issue of Public Interest, he points out that while scientific advances are always new, the debate over what to do with them is very old.

For example, there is a longstanding debate as to why the ancient Chinese and the Greeks, who excelled in theoretical science and math, failed to translate their science into many new technologies. One school of thought says that things like slavery eliminated the need for cool new contraptions. Why give everyone a car when you can be the only kid on your block carried around by slaves?

The other side of the debate, according to Kristol, is that the Chinese and the Greeks understood that "although science is beautiful when contemplated in its theoretical aspects, when it is transformed into technology it becomes a form of power. And power is the power for good and evil." According to this theory, says Kristol, the ancients decided that certain technologies shouldn't be developed because humanity couldn't handle it. Regardless of the merits of this debate, today it's simply not an option to ban any technology, at least not for long. International competition, prosperity, human ingenuity and want conspire against any meaningful long-term ban of medical, military or other technologies that raise serious ethical issues.

Because technological power is neither good nor evil, Kristol says moral education becomes all the more important, especially for scientists - because only morality can tell you what to do with power.

"There are enormous decisions that will have to be made," Kristol declared in 1975. "And scientists, because they are the 'experts,' will be called in to say, for instance, do we clone, or don't we clone? Well how do you decide ? You cannot decide on the basis of science. You must decide on the basis of moral and political philosophy."

That's prophetic advice considering Congress' efforts this week to figure out what to do about cloning. It may be impossible - and wrong - to ban cloning forever, but the case for postponing it is ironclad.

Almost every responsible cloning expert - pro and con - agrees that using current technology to create a human clone will result in a horribly disfigured child. That is not progress; it is child abuse. Even the creator of Dolly, the cloned sheep, calls human cloning at this point "totally irresponsible."

It's too soon to tell what the societal consequences of cloning will be once the technology is perfected. But, since the technology is far from perfect now, why not at least ban it now until it's impossible to ban later?

To comment on JWR contributor Jonah Goldberg's column click here.


03/28/01: Cast a negative ballot for Internet voting
03/23/01: Hollywood's high on action films, for global market success
03/21/01: Republicans should be cautious of 'compassionate conservatism'
03/19/01: "Traffic" moves propaganda into drug-policy debate
03/15/01: Appeal of 'Sopranos' lies in strict code of honor
03/09/01: Organic claims are cleverly written fiction
03/07/01: Snow job: There the media go again
03/02/01: It's a vision thing
02/28/01: SAT is best measure of general aptitude
02/26/01: Easing the estate tax
02/23/01: Clinton defenders finally admit to his power abuses
02/21/01: Failed dot-coms missed rules of the marketplace
02/15/01: Clinton heeds my Harlem advice
02/12/01: Harlem could be Bill's best move yet
02/06/01: Lying, betrayal essential parts of journalism
01/18/01: How to polarize candidates
01/15/01: Dems never tire of using 'race card'
01/11/01: Taking the celebrity out of politics
01/08/01: Unfairly 'borking' Ashcroft
01/04/01: Want to be more efficient? Increase number of politicians
01/02/01: Whole lotta exploitin' goin' on
12/28/00: Hypocrisy police pounce on Clinton book deal
12/26/00: Sometimes, it's good to be a Grinch
12/21/00: Though symbolic, Bush's diversity sends a message
12/19/00: Gore concedes --- but why did it take so long?
12/14/00: Is 'Queer as Folk' what we asked for?
12/11/00: Election mess hardly a 'civics lesson'
12/07/00: Clinton's tacky legacy
12/05/00: Marriage civilizes the manly beast
11/30/00: Gore's speech more pompous posturing
11/28/00: Rabble-rousing Dems act irresponsibly
11/27/00: Duking it out with democracy
11/16/00: Issues irrelevant to most voters
11/14/00: Gore's us-vs.-them campaign
11/10/00: Dot-com disasters missing brand-name success
11/06/00: Conventional wisdom turns with the polls
11/03/00: Clinton photo, appropriately, hits below the belt
11/01/00: Electoral college ensures democracy
10/30/00: New Yorkers, media letting Hillary off the hook
10/23/00: Gore needs to put first things first
10/20/00: Treatment of Farrakhan glosses over odd issues
10/16/00: Secrets of election can be found in 'Star Trek'
10/12/00: Arafat hardly 'provoked' into violence
10/10/00: Undecided voters may be ignorant, not discriminating
10/06/00: The importance of character isn't debatable
10/03/00: Conservatives are the true friends of science You know why?
09/29/00: Symbolic 'born alive' vote makes sense
09/25/00: Conservatives adopt abandoned liberalism
09/21/00: Ventura's media backpedaling makes fiction of his new book
09/18/00: Tough questions target Hillary Clinton's elitism
09/14/00: Hollywood morality to blame
09/11/00: Specifically, AlGore's detailed plan is meaningless
09/07/00: Time-honored tradition: Insult the press
09/05/00: Scouting out justice
08/30/00: The ADL's historical revisionism
08/28/00: Sitcoms will survive, post-"Survivor"
08/24/00: Candidates' choice of movies shows refreshing honesty
08/21/00: An AlGore victory? Only if dead birds fly
08/17/00: AlGore is doomed, but Dems ignore warning signs
08/15/00: Proud and true: He's a Jew
08/10/00: Exploiting religion would be tragic mistake
08/08/00: Cheney serves up tempting appetizer
08/03/00: Republicans now 'nice,' media still nasty
08/01/00: Presidential campaign could use some anti-metric mania
07/27/00: Government shouldn't subsidize Reform Party
07/25/00: Campaign finance 'reform' gives too much power to liberal media
07/20/00: Hillary slur speaks volumes
07/18/00: AlGore's McCarthyism
07/11/00: 'Survivor' shows hypocrisy of animal rights groups
07/05/00: McDonald's deserves a break today
07/03/00: On July Fourth, time to reflect on America's founding
06/28/00: America bashing becomes international pastime
06/23/00: If Fonda is sorry, let her say so
06/06/00: NAPSTER exposes artists' hypocrisy
04/18/00: Not much difference between TV journalists, TV actors

© 2000, TMS