There was a discussion this weekend on FReeRepublic.com on eugenics. It always amazes me how determined some of our ancesters were to breed “fitter families,” how few people know the history of eugenics in the US, and how quickly the conversation ends up at the question about the children who might be produced who are not Homo sapiens: “Will they be human?”
This is a question that can’t be answered “yes” or “no” without bringing in morals, philosophy and even religion. No longer will it be sufficient to rely on species definitions, as prolife activists often do now. We should have our answers ready for those who already define “person” according to a set of qualities and abilities, that seems to become more specific each day so that more and more members of even our species are discriminated against when it comes to qualifying for protection from harm by other members of our species.
(Personally, as a Christian, I’m convinced that all of our children, both those in our arms and our children of the future, are human, even the ones who may not be Homo sapiens. For those who believe in the Creator, it should be simple: you can’t divide the image of G_d.)
My husband joked about breeding the short people (his term: “squatty bodies”) out of the family by marrying me back when we were teens. There’s a case to be made that there is nothing wrong with looking at and considering how to help our children, as long as no one dies for it.
( As a moral issue – proven to be correct by social science – I do believe that it’s best for the family and the children for procreation to take place within marriage of a man and woman. As a practical matter, isn’t the fact that such a large proportion of our children are being raised outside this traditional family a form of accidental, social eugenics?)
The good news is that no one has ever been able to clone a human being that lives beyond the first few cell divisions. The bad news is that Hwang of South Korea used over 2200 human eggs, that the attempts are ongoing in the UK and at Harvard. Probably in California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas, too. Who knows? The next “tweak” to the science may be the key to allowing New Jersey and California to open their cloned human embryo “greenhouses.”
Each of these embryos that are created appear normal for one or two divisions. They are organized, with a top/bottom, right/left, front/back axes, just like the “naturally” generated embryo from in vitro fertilization.
Unfortunately, California’s Proposition 71 mandates that $3 Billion go into “regenerative medicine,” and that much of it go for cloning and embryonic stem cell research. And New Jersey law is written to allow the gestation of embryos, as long as no live person is produced. Now, let’s see. What is the current definition of “person”?
The immediate, urgent, problem – is that children are being harmed at very young ages.
Beyond the life issue: we don’t know what we’re doing, because the basic research in animals was not done first.
Instead, scientists and doctors rushed to be the first to publish, and justified much of what they have done by appealing to our compassion. It’s hard for the most pro-life mother or father to protest actions that are sold as giving other mothers and fathers the children they so desperately crave.
The result: hundreds of thousands of the brothers and children of these children who are now in their parent’s arms, are themselves in frozen limbo. They were created in harm’s way, and are coveted by researchers who would disassemble them for their parts.
However, there are thousands of children who were begun by IVF. They are just now beginning to have children of their own.
From time to time, we hear some debate about whether to allow research that might change the genetic inheritance that will be passed on to the children of these children. Since the research is largely unregulated – and has never been paid for with federal funds – some private labs and universities using private funds are going ahead with attempts to change the germ line of embryos. Two examples:
1. The little boys born from intracytoplasmic sperm injections, a technique that places sperm that can’t swim in the cytoplasm of the egg, are turning out to have immotile sperm themselves.
2. There are at least 15 children who have two mothers: the woman who bore them had defective mitochondria in the cytoplasm, so the embryos created from her and her husband were fused with an egg that had had the nucleus removed.