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President Bush's Speech - Stand to Reason
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President Bush's Speech

Gregory Koukl

"Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience."


I want to kick off the show today with thoughts that are timely and morally weighty and also one of the best examples of late that I have heard of clear, concise, and in some significant measure, persuasive moral thinking. The irony is that such clear, precise, and persuasive moral thinking comes not from a philosopher or an educator or a radio talk-show host, but actually from a politician, specifically, the chief politician, the number one man in this country, the President of the United States. In just a few moments I am going to read a speech he gave and helped to write, on the issue of human cloning.

You need to be alerted to this piece for a couple of reasons. One reason is it is an important issue for which legislation is being considered. Whenever we make a decision about a significant moral issue in which the power of government is employed, we must have a proper ethical rationale with regards to those things. Aristotle said, "Law rests upon the necessary foundation of morality." Therefore, if your law does not reflect a moral rationale, then your law is an illicit law. Some people say you cannot legislate morality. If Aristotle is right, then morality is the only thing you can legislate. If power is simply used to secure the benefits of a select few rather than the common good, this is an illicit use of law.

When legislation on a weighty moral issue is passed it is meant to force people to act in certain ways or to refrain from acting in certain ways based on a moral justification for the use of force. In this case, the moral justification is, not just remarkably clear, but uncharacteristically obvious. Generally, politicians give speeches that speak in broad generalities with emotive language meant to evoke certain feelings rather than cause people to think carefully about the decision that is being made.

At Stand to Reason we have emphasized analyzing people’s arguments. We suggest, for example, in the Columbo tactic that there are two questions that you can ask to do that. The first one is, what do you mean by that? This is an attempt to get at the idea itself. The second question is, how did you come to that conclusion? This is an attempt to find the reasons that the person holds the particular point of view he does so you can judge whether the reasons support the view and determine whether you should hold that view for those reasons. That’s difficult to do often times in political discourse because there is no rationale offered. And dig as you might, you will not find a reason for a view. You will only find the view expressed in highly charged emotive language that is meant to compel response rather than convince and create conviction.

One thing that I have been admiring about our current President is that, though he is given to emotive language like everyone, especially politicians, he is capable, and frequently does, articulate a moral argument regarding a principle. And at this point he is expressing genuine leadership.

I have written in the past that leaders should lead. That is, they don’t put their finger in the air and test the breeze and follow which way the popular wind blows. That is not leadership. Instead, leaders ought to assess the facts of the matter, apply good thinking to the circumstances, integrate it with moral convictions that are defensible, and come to conclusions about where the people ought to be whether or not they want to go there. And then it is his job to convince the people and persuade them to follow him to do the right thing, rather than following them to do what they want. In this regard, the current President, I think, is a very fine leader. His speech on April 10 on human cloning in the East Room of the White House is a case in point.

What I would like to do is go over this piece because it is such a good example of careful thinking. Then I would like to mention some of the ways his speech has been characterized.

This comes right from the White House web page. He mentions three people who are there, Joni Tada, Jim Kelly and Steve McDonald, who are not political people, but are people who apparently he has talked with in regards to this issue and presumably agree with him. Then, he gives his point of view that he is going to address, even before he makes reference to the other dignitaries that are there. Here is what he says.

All of us here today believe in the promise of modern medicine. We're hopeful about where science may take us. And we're also here because we believe in the principles of ethical medicine.

As we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human dignity. And therefore, we must prevent human cloning by stopping it before it starts.

This is right at the beginning. He immediately makes his point of view known and suggests his reasons why. Make no mistake about my point of view, he is saying. He is straightforward about his convictions about this. "We must prevent human cloning by stopping it before it starts. Even as we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human dignity." So, to him the issue of cloning is a matter of not just seeking to improve human life, but also to do so in a way that preserves human dignity.

Let me tell you why this is so important in the nature of these issues, embryonic stem cell research and cloning. There are certain ends in view, ladies and gentlemen, as part of this debate. And there are certain means that are suggested as legitimate means to accomplish those ends. Virtually all of the public discourse has been about the ends. That is, all of the possible benefits medicinally, medically, that will come, allegedly, from untying the hands of scientists so they can proceed with the cloning process at least for therapeutic cloning. That is, to use cloning to make advances in science to stop diseases like Alzheimer’s and the like. All the focus has been on these good ends. But moral discussions do not look simply at the ends. Morality always examines the relationship of means to ends. In this discussion, generally, that is not done, but this President has done that and he signals it up from. The end is improving human life, but the means must be a means that also preserves human dignity.

Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience. As we seek what is possible, we must always ask what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means.

He is picking up on what he suggested in his opening remarks, that the question of cloning is a question about the relationship of certain means to certain ends. The reason that this is important is that some people have questioned the basic human civility or dignity of those who oppose embryonic stem cell research and cloning, as if we want people to die of these terrible diseases that allegedly this research will help to control. Wayne Resnick, a Los Angeles-based talk-show host, in responding to this particular speech said simply that President Bush wants you to get sick and die. That was his analysis. But the President makes the point here that this is not just about the ends. We can all want the same ends, not that you get sick and die, but that you are healthy, but the ends must be considered in light of the means. He is being careful here. This is very good.

Science has set before us decisions of immense consequence. We can pursue medical research with a clear sense of moral purpose or we can travel without an ethical compass into a world we could live to regret. Science now presses forward the issue of human cloning. How we answer the question of human cloning will place us on one path or the other.

This is great, ladies and gentlemen. He says you have a choice. You are faced with a moral issue in which there is a relationship of means to ends. How you answer this will put you on one path or another. This is a watershed event, this is what he is saying, and he is correct. He goes on to define his terms here:

Human cloning is the laboratory production of individuals who are genetically identical to another human being. Cloning is achieved by putting the genetic material from a donor into a woman's egg, which has had its nucleus removed. As a result, the new or cloned embryo is an identical copy of only the donor. Human cloning has moved from science fiction into science.

Here he has simply defined what cloning is, and he has defined it accurately for the most part. In the past, this was just science fiction, and now we are actually able to do it. He does say that the embryo is an identical copy of the donor. Strictly speaking, I would want to clarify that. I would want to say that the embryo is genetically identical. That is, the blueprint of the physical body is identical. You want to say that because when and if you were able to clone yourself, that clone would not be an identical copy of you. It would have the same building, the same physical stuff, but it would have a different inhabitant. You are living in your body; somebody else would be living in that body. So that is why I make the distinction that what is being cloned is the body and not the self. But it is a small oversight here.

One biotech company has already begun producing embryonic human clones for research purposes. Chinese scientists have derived stem cells from cloned embryos created by combining human DNA and rabbit eggs. Others have announced plans to produce cloned children, despite the fact that laboratory cloning of animals has lead to spontaneous abortions and terrible, terrible abnormalities.

Notice he says here that some companies are already producing embryonic human clones for research purposes. Remember, and this seems clearly implicit and I am just making it more explicit, that a human clone is a human made through the cloning process. A human clone is not something other than a human, like you have a real human over here and there you have a plastic human. A human clone is a genuine human made by the cloning processes. He is pointing out that one biotech company has already produced human beings through cloning that are in the embryonic stage of development that are being used for research purposes. Human clones are human beings. Remember Dolly the sheep? Dolly is a sheep, a real sheep. He is saying, right now what is happening is embryonic human clones are being used for research purposes and that must be addressed and not allowed.

I want to reinforce my motive for going over this material. It is not for us to get behind our President and say rah, rah, rah, we agree with him. That is not the point, really. I expect most of you, when you hear his views, are going to say, yes, that is my view, too. I hope you agree. What is significant about this is that the President is not just giving us an idea that in kind of a knee-jerk way all the conservatives can rah-rah about. Rather he is giving an argument to his constituency that either stands or falls based on the reasons. I see this kind of moral clarity and rationale as unique in political discourse. I want you to see that this man is making an argument.

Human cloning is deeply troubling to me, and to most Americans. Life is a creation, not a commodity. Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured. Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are engineered to custom specifications; and that's not acceptable.

In this paragraph he has given his first two reasons for his point of view. He said life is a creation, not a commodity. People should not be cloned and viewed as chattel, property. And secondly, we should not be using the means of science to make designer children. That is not acceptable, either. People should not be grown for spare body parts (commodity) or children engineered to custom specifications. I agree with the first, I’m not so sure about the second as a rationale. But, in any event, this is his reason.

In the current debate over human cloning, two terms are being used: reproductive cloning and research cloning. Reproductive cloning involves creating a cloned embryo and implanting it into a woman with the goal of creating a child. Fortunately, nearly every American agrees that this practice should be banned. Research cloning, on the other hand, involves the creation of cloned human embryos, which are then destroyed to derive stem cells.

He defines two different types of cloning. In both reproductive cloning and research cloning you start with the same thing — a human embryo, a human blastula, basically — a nascent human being. That means a very, very young human being. There are mixed views on this, he says. Some say that we should take this human being and allow it to grow to adulthood. Some say we should not allow it to grow to adulthood, but we should kill it and use its parts for research. And he doesn’t quite say this, but it strikes me as odd, that most people think it is immoral once the embryo is created to let it survive to grow into full adulthood. That would be called reproductive cloning. But it is completely moral to destroy this embryo and use its parts for research. This is therapeutic cloning. Odd, isn’t it?

I believe all human cloning is wrong, and both forms of cloning ought to be banned, for the following reasons. First, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be unethical. Research cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics, that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another.

He is taking a moral principle and employing it here as his first reason. We have a moral rule. We don’t use human life in an exploitive manner. Cloning does exploit human life; therefore, cloning ought to be banned completely. It is a great argument. Notice, he deals with the embryo as a human and not as a person. So there is not an implication that there are some humans that are not persons and only human persons are protected, but just plain old regular humans are not.

Yet a law permitting research cloning, while forbidding the birth of a cloned child, would require the destruction of nascent human life. Secondly, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos created for research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms. Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place. Even the tightest regulations and strict policing would not prevent or detect the birth of cloned babies.

This is called a causal slippery slope. Even if you say the first one is acceptable, that is therapeutic cloning, there is no reason to believe we can stop therapeutic cloning from turning into reproductive cloning, which people think is wrong. Therefore, in virtue of this causal slippery slope, one causes the other, we shouldn’t do the first.

Third, the benefits of research cloning are highly speculative. Advocates of research cloning argue that stem cells obtained from cloned embryos would be injected into a genetically identical individual without risk of tissue rejection. But there is evidence, based on animal studies, that cells derived from cloned embryos may indeed be rejected.

So, third is, it may not work.

Yet even if research cloning was medically effective, every person who wanted to benefit would need an embryonic clone of his or her own, to provide the designer tissues. This would create a massive national market for eggs and egg donors, and exploitation of women's bodies that we cannot and must not allow.

A fourth reason is that exploitation of women’s bodies would result. He starts to move to a conclusion now.

I stand firm in my opposition to human cloning. And at the same time, we will pursue other promising and ethical ways to relieve suffering through biotechnology. This year for the first time, federal dollars will go towards supporting human embryonic stem cell research consistent with the ethical guidelines I announced last August.

He agrees with the ends. And if you recall, we already have these stem cell lines, so just the cells themselves, we can use the ones we have, but we cannot create new human beings to take their cells from them. That was his agreement, and I think that is defensible morally.

The National Institutes of Health is also funding a broad range of animal and human adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells which do not require the destruction of human embryos and which yield tissues which can be transplanted without rejection are more versatile that originally thought.

This is a point of view that Scott Klusendorf with Stand to Reason has developed (and you can find a lot of material on the web site). There is good research that adult stem cells and not embryonic stem cells are a better source for the research and does not have with it the ethical problems.

We're making progress. We're learning more about them. And therapies developed from adult stem cells are already helping suffering people.

I support increasing the research budget of the NIH, and I ask Congress to join me in that support. And at the same time, I strongly support a comprehensive law against all human cloning. And I endorse the bill -- wholeheartedly endorse the bill -- sponsored by Senator Brownback and Senator Mary Landrieu.

This carefully drafted bill would ban all human cloning in the United States, including the cloning of embryos for research. It is nearly identical to the bipartisan legislation that last year passed the House of Representatives by more than a 100-vote margin. It has wide support across the political spectrum, liberals and conservatives support it, religious people and non-religious people support it. Those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life support the bill.

I’ll tell you why that paragraph is important. He is appealing to fairness. Most people see the legitimacy of this bill. But notice that he is not making a populist appeal. He isn’t saying we should vote for this because everybody thinks it’s a good thing. This is last on the list, not first on the list. He said we should be against cloning because it is a bad idea. He gives his reasons why it is a bad idea, and then he points to legislation that has broad-based support.

This is a diverse coalition, united by a commitment to prevent the cloning and exploitation of human beings. It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber.

I'm an incurable optimist about the future of our country. I know we can achieve great things. We can make the world more peaceful; we can become a more compassionate nation. We can push the limits of medical science. I truly believe that we're going to bring hope and healing to countless lives across the country. And as we do, I will insist that we always maintain the highest of ethical standards.

Thank you all for coming. God bless.

He reinforces what he has been saying all along. The ends are good but the means are in question. We must have moral means to accomplish moral ends. That’s the issue.

It is very easy to follow this argument, and therefore, to assess it.

1. Humans are not commodities. They should not be bought and sold like property.

2. Children should not be engineered to custom specifications.

3. All cloning exploits human life in an immoral way. It violates a fundamental moral principle of medicine.

4. Anything short of a ban on all cloning is not going to be possible to enforce.

5. The benefits of human cloning are dubious medically.

6. It exploits women.

7. There are other means to accomplish the same end.

Very simply, he said, you’ve got a good goal. You’ve got a wrong means and there are other ways of getting the goal you want that are not wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, this undercuts all the opposition. This is a very well-crafted argument. It is a good study just on that basis alone. That is why it is rather surprising when you see some of the response from the public.

Some have called this (this is an ABC White House correspondent) an expression of the President’s "religious faith." I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see anything about religion in there, did you? There was no appeal made to religion.

Ken Minyard and KABC said that this is an attempt to appease the right-wing base. Maybe it is a means to appease the right-wing base, but what does that motivation have to do with the argument that he has just offered? Whether or not he is trying to appease anybody is irrelevant to the question of whether a ban on human cloning is good or bad. You can only know that by looking at the argument itself. In this case, it is apparently ignored. Some have said that the President has a personal distaste for cloning and that President Bush wants you to get sick and die. Gee, I did not get that from this piece. In fact, he said that the ends were good ends and he is working hard to accomplish those ends.

Some people say all the experts disagree with him. He has a panel of experts and it is a great panel. These people know what they are talking about, and, by the way, it does not matter if the experts disagree. If you have taken our tactics material, you know that this is the time to employ the Rhodes Scholar tactic. It doesn’t matter that they disagree. What matters is why they disagree. So, once again, you cannot just cite the experts and say they are against him; you have to engage the argument. There are seven points that he has offered as reasons why we should ban human cloning. What do the experts say about the details of the seven points? And if they don’t deal with the seven points, if they just offer emotive language about the ends, and don’t address the means, then they haven’t dealt with the argument.

Unless you deal with the argument, you cannot simply dismiss the point of view. That is really my point.

This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©2002 Gregory Koukl

For more information, contact Stand to Reason at 1438 East 33rd St., Signal Hill, CA 90755
(800) 2-REASON (562) 595-7333

Resources for Additional Study

Title Author Contents Price
The Great Abortion Debate! Scott Klusendorf 2 CDs $8.95
The Death of Humanness Gregory Koukl cassette & study notes $7.95
Try Before You Buy? The Case for Premarital Chastity Gregory Koukl 22 pages $2.00
Ethics & Leadership (Masters Series 2001) Bob Vernon 2 cassettes $8.95


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