Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died

Timothy Stoen


October 26, 2007

That’s the title novelist Tom Wolfe gave his 1996 article in Forbes ASAP on the threats posed by biotechnology, published two months before the Rubicon announcement in February 1997 that Dolly the sheep had been cloned.

In 2001, Francis Fukuyama wrote Our Post-Human Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Quoting Wolfe, Fukuyama describes the following “distinct possibility”: “The wealthy routinely screen embryos before implantation so as to optimize the kind of children they have . . . . Human genes have been transferred to animals and even to plants for research purposes and to produce new medical products; and animal genes have been added to certain embryos to increase their physical endurance or resistance to disease . . . . [Y]oung people begin to suspect that classmates who do much less well than they do are genetically not fully human. Because, in fact, they aren’t.”

Evangelicals have been slow to wake up to this threat to human dignity. While we have slept, environmentalists and pro-choice feminists have taken the lead in seeking a ban on human cloning. In 2003, however, while Congress was succumbing to the biotech industry’s spin machine, Charles Colson and Nigel Cameron took a first step, drafting “The Sanctity of Life in a Brave New World: A Manifesto on Biotechnology and Human Dignity.”

Signed by many Evangelical leaders, the manifesto seeks a “comprehensive ban on all human cloning and inheritable genetic modification” as well as the prohibition of discrimination based on genetic information. The manifesto quotes a prescient statement from C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man: “If any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after are ‘the patients of that power,’ slaves to the ‘dead hand of the great planners and conditioners.’”

In 2004, the drafters of the manifesto followed up with a lucid primer entitled Human Dignity in the Biotech Century. With chapters written by authorities on various issues in the biosciences, it presents a call to action, citing as a model William Wilberforce’s sustained and successful struggle against slavery in the British Empire.

Pro-life Christians need to do four things, say the authors. First, they need to expand the pro-life paradigm from “saving babies” to “human dignity.” This involves more heavy lifting in policy debates, including the hard work of becoming familiar with developments in biology. Second, they need to challenge nonstop the biotech industry’s “experts” who want no regulation by rules of ethics. In a twist that should not surprise anyone, BIO, the industry group, has named its chief lobbyist “vice president of bioethics.”

Third, pro-life Christians need to develop “durable collaboration” with environmentalists, progressives, and pro-choice feminists (who dread the commodification of women) against the increasing number of libertarians who want biotech business to be free to do what it chooses. And fourth, say Colson and Cameron, pro-lifers must work with the Council of Europe, UNESCO, and other international organizations for a “universal instrument” in bioethics.

As to philosophical approaches, there are, says Fukuyama, three springboards to action on biotech issues: religion, utilitarianism, and human nature. Evangelicals and Catholics will be motivated by the conviction that humans are created in the image of God. The biotech industry will rely on utilitarianism. Conscientious secularists, says Fukuyama, can be reached through a revived understanding of the laws of (human) nature.

In sum, the biotech future of compromised human beings is upon us. Christians have no luxury of dalliance now. We must take ground in the human-destiny battle forced upon us by the corporate juggernaut of hubristic Biotech.

—Timothy Stoen, Attorney
    Mendocino, California

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”