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Misguidelines

The National Academy of Sciences is pursuing an "anything goes" approach to biotechnological research.

12:00 AM, May 4, 2005 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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What about reproductive cloning? The Guidelines merely refer to the NAS's 2002 book, Scientific and Medical Aspects of Reproductive Cloning, which opined that bringing a cloned baby into the world "is not now appropriate"--the key word clearly being "now." In this regard, it is important to note that the NAS's opposition to reproductive cloning is not morally founded, but primarily based upon safety concerns. Indeed, Scientific and Medical Aspects suggested that the proposed reproductive cloning ban be "reviewed within five years"--a mere two years from now. In the meantime, cloning for research--which the NAS encourages--may be used to refine the cloning process to the point where the "safety" concern can ultimately be declared obsolete.

The NAS's position on human cloning and embryonic stem cell research can best be described as "anything goes in slow motion." Most of what can be done today, the NAS recommends be permitted today, while that which can't be done, the NAS agrees to prohibit "at this time." But these guidelines are intended to be ephemeral. When today's permitted research expands the capacities of the biotechnological enterprise tomorrow, we can expect the NAS's suggested "ethical guidelines" to "mature." Thus through a cynical process of policy creep the NAS intends to take us down that long and winding road that leads from embryonic stem cell research, to human cloning, to whatever human biotechnological research scientists decide they want to do next.

Award-winning author Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His current book is Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.