June 8, 2005  

Dear Concerned Citizen,

by Wesley J. Smith
When human embryonic stem cells were first isolated in 1998, scientists immediately began clamoring for federal funding to further stem cell research. President Bill Clinton wanted to comply, but couldn’t. Embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) requires the destruction of embryos and a federal law known as the “Dickey Amendment” prohibits any federal funding of embryo-destroying research.

The funding issue was settled by President Bush in August 2001. Consistent with the Dickey Amendment and in furtherance of his belief that it is wrong to destroy nascent human life in research, President George W. Bush restricted federal funding of ESCR to cell lines already in existence as of August 9, 2001.

Bush’s decision and the Dickey Amendment are also consistent with long-standing federal policy prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortion. Such policies promote tolerance for diverse opinions in that they recognize that activities which are legal under federal law, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, are in the minds of tens of millions of citizens terribly immoral, indeed murderous. Forcing these dissenters to pay their hard-earned tax dollars for activities they detest would be to violate society’s duty to respect diverse opinions of its citizens. Indeed, even the socially liberal commentator Andrew Sullivan, has written with regard to federal funding of ESCR, “No American taxpayer should be required to fund from her own dollars what she regards as a moral outrage.”

But now, this policy of tolerance and respect toward opponents of ESCR is threatened. Despite tens of millions spent by the federal government funding research with qualified ES cell lines under the Bush policy—ESCR proponents want more. They have introduced legislation to overturn the Bush approach outright and force the federal government to pay for the destruction of human embryos. Toward this end, the United States House of Representatives has just approved a bill that requires full federal funding for ESCR. The United States Senate is expected to follow suit.

But President Bush has vowed to veto the legislation and he has the numbers in the House of Representatives to make the veto stick. Thus, the Bush ESCR federal funding policy will almost surely remain unchanged for the next three and one-half years.

While the fight over ESCR federal funding has made headlines, in actuality, it is actually a diversion that threatens to distract attention and energy away from the more important political battle that must be now be waged with energy and unwavering commitment. This battle is the crucial struggle to outlaw all human cloning.

Only four years ago, biotechnology advocates assured us that all they wanted was leftover IVF embryos that were going to be destroyed anyway for use in ESCR. But this assurance is already obsolete. Today, biotechnologists believe that human cloning, not ESCR with IVF embryos, offers access to the most efficient method of obtaining embryonic stem cells for use in research. Indeed, South Korean researchers have now learned how to reliably create human cloned embryos and plan to use this technology—sometimes called therapeutic cloning—to establish a cloned embryonic stem cell bank for the use of researchers all over the world. Hwang to Open Stem Cell Bank

In considering this disturbing development, it is important to note that the same cloning technique (which was used in creating Dolly the sheep) could also be used for reproductive cloning. Indeed, Dr. Woo Suk Hwang, the South Korean researcher who created the first human clones, admitted in an interview last year that “this technique [therapeutic cloning] cannot be separated from reproductive people cloning.” Korean stem cell research labeled recipe for cloning

Therapeutic cloning also takes us down the immoral road that leads to cloned fetal farming. Once researchers learn as much as they can with early cloned embryos, they will want to research on cloned fetuses, perhaps for the purpose of organ harvesting as has already been done in animal experiments.

Indeed, the legal ground is already being prepared to permit such macabre experiments. New Jersey has legalized human cloning, implantation, and gestation through the ninth month—only requiring the killing of the cloned baby just prior to birth. Welcome to the Brave New Jersey. Other states have had similar legislation introduced.

Meanwhile, biotechnologists want to use cloning technology to learn how to create designer babies. One scientist has vowed to create a mouse with a human brain. There is even a social movement known as “transhumanism,” which seeks to use cloning and other advanced technologies to redesign the human race into a “post human species.” World Transhumanist Association

The controversy over President Bush’s embryonic stem cell funding policy makes for good debates on television. But don’t let your attention be diverted. The real fight we face is over human cloning—the gateway technology to the Brave New World.

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Responses to: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Thank you for this insightful article. I know that I tend to get really strange looks when I say that the America's days as the "leader of the world" look to be numbered. (Of course there are all sorts of caveats to that, as you well know. If the Chinese can manage to continue to loosen their hold on the nation enough to prosper while still controlling the areas of the country that would like to break away, they appear to be "the" superpower of the future. Reminds me of an old cold war joke "The optimists are learning Russian, the pessimists are learning Chinese!" Now, of course, one must note this about the above. The Russians never did pull it off. An oppressive society has a real uphill battle. The Chinese, as I noted above, have to deal with this as well. - D. H.

As a reformed Christian I applaud you vision for an integrated "faith and live" view which you try to stimulate amongst your readers. Working to explain and apply this vision in the world of every day news and events has been a challenge throughout the times. Correct analyses of news and events are certainly an important element to maintain the credibility with the readers. Hence I take the freedom to react to the caption on your story about the EU Constitution. I don't think it is correct to state that France and the Netherlands have rejected the EU. Matter of fact nothing is less true. I as citizen of the last country working on a daily basis with both countries I am in a position to know that. The constitution is only the latest in a great number of documents which have been accepted by all member states throughout the years to govern their co-operation. Voting down a proposed governance document has happed before. We have seen that often they were accepted in a (slightly) altered form. This document- which indeed was a far reaching nature and called a "constitution" - was rejected but all the previous governing documents stay in place and the deepening of the co-operation continues to take place illustrated by the growing inter-member trade and cultural exchanges. The why this document was voted down in now two of the 25 states (by the way 10 have already excepted it) is not a simple answer. It is certainly also situational and mixed with local political issues. In France the government is in the process of changing the 35 hour work week in a 40 hour week. The same unions which are promoting the non vote are protecting against that change. Connection between the two? I would say so. My question to you. Didn't you know the difference between rejecting the EU and rejecting this particular document. If you did, why chose the title you did? Are we as Christian not to promote the truth? Living in Canada I often wonder "Why is North America so un-easy with a growing EU?". Why seems this un-easiness be even more pronounced in Christian circles? Why don't we celebrate the fact that countries which have a long history of war, now live in peace? Would be very interested to learn more about "To The Sources" attitude and point of view. - J. K.

Dinesh D'Souza worries about America's trade with China ("Looking Back, Looking Forward," June 2). I quote him at length. "Contrary to some of the foolish rhetoric of some free-trade dogmatists, this [America's trade deficit with China] isn't simply an accounting fiction. It's real money ($1,000,000,000,000) that the American people owe the Chinese. The Chinese could use it to lay a claim to $1 trillion in American assets: land, office buildings, corporate assets, whatever. Unlike the federal budget deficit, which represents money that the American government owes to the American people, the trade deficit represents money that America owes to foreigners." This passage contains flaws aplenty - too many to correct in a single letter. But one flaw that demands exposure is the assertion that the U.S. trade deficit necessarily is debt owed by Americans to foreigners. It's not. For example, if I spend $1,000 on goods from China and the Chinese seller then spends this $1,000 on Kansas real-estate, the U.S. trade deficit increases by $1,000 but no debt is created. This $1,000 portion of the trade deficit can become debt only if the Chinese lend it to Americans - say, by buying Treasury Notes. As it happens, the Chinese lately have bought a lot of U.S. Treasuries - a fact that belies D'Souza's uninformed claim that the budget deficit "is money that the American government to the American people." - D. B.

Thank you! For the past 10 years I have made a conscious effort to buy American products, not because I'm blindly patriotic, but because I am concerned. When the company I worked for built plants in Mexico, I was not concerned. I knew they did not have the resources or workforce that could produce the higher end electronics. When we contracted out not only chip manufacturing, but chip design to a Japanese company, I was not concerned. I knew they had the technology, but not the economic power, the will of the government, or sheer numbers to be a threat. But China has it all and will not hesitate to use it. Islam has been around almost as long as Christianity. There have been fanatics on both sides over the centuries, but we've managed to keep each others fanatics in check. There has been an economic interest in governments like the Saudis, to represent themselves as moderate, regardless of their inner thoughts and beliefs. In our children's generation there will come a time when China will no longer have to restrain their desire to become the leading economic and military power. Even without the nuclear arsenal that they are building, just the sheer numbers could overpower the West and without the regard for human beings that true Christians have, there will be no restraint. What does our government do? We condemn the repression of hundreds of thousands of citizens of Iraq by their own government, but not the repression of hundreds of millions in China. We give the Chinese most favored nation trading status. We build plants, not just toy manufacturing or clothing, but semiconductors....and along with it the better paying jobs that Americans so desperately need. Pat Buchanan was right when he ran for President over a decade ago. Wake up America. The threat to your future is not Islam, it's not a holy war, it's an economic war. When Ronald Reagan asked his advisers what we had more of than Russia, it was money! And he spent it on the military, not on ground troops to fight house by house as if we lived a hundred years ago, but on technology. - S. Q.

The article by D'Souza was very insightful and true. - A. B.

Dinesh, No Americans died in the cold war? What about the Korean and Vietnam conflicts? - J. P.

I would like to comment on some of the opinions expressed by Dinesh D'Souza in his headline article from your June 2 newsletter. Mr. D'Souza is quite right that it is better to fight a war on someone else's territory than one's own. He is also correct that this policy and attempt by George Bush is highly risky. The idea of "democratizing" the Middle East by force is ridiculous. I believe it is of paramount importance to understand how democracy comes into being, and how it is sustained. Democracy, by its very nature, must come about under the initiative of the will of the people to be governed. Not by foreign intervention. Democracy in the USA and Canada, for example, took place as the majority people of these societies demanded it. In the case of the USA, the will of the people was imposed by taking up arms. In Canada it was a gradual process, with some militaristic skirmishes and uprising, but ultimately through political mechanisms and transformation through the maturing of a nation. If the US is going to "democratize" the Middle East by force then they are "imposing" democracy on nations that likely were not ready for it, nor understood it, nor asked for it. This is not democracy. This is dictatorship, and, yes, a disaster ripening into an even greater disaster. There was no conflict nor threat from Islam, nor is there now. There was a conflict between radicalism and the widening western influence in sovereign nations in the middle east region. If the USA and other western powers weren't overstepping their jurisdiction and imposing their presence and political, economic and territorial motives in the middle east following the Gulf War then 9-11 then the subsequent deaths from terror attacks and US counter-attacks would never have happened. This is as basic and as old a story of escalation as any from the beginning of human history. As well, if D'Souza thinks that invading middle eastern countries under the guise of 'democracy' is going to increase the security of Americans, I am afraid that it may very well do the opposite. What we started out with was a very well-known and well-identified group called Al Quaeda. The US/UK invasion of Iraq has now scared the middle easterners and awakened middle easterners of fighting age to stand up to protect themselves against exactly what Alcaida propaganda has been warning them about. Up until the invasion of Iraq, Al Quaeda had only convinced a few thousand people that the US was a threat and was seeking to control the Middle East. The US has now successfully convinced the rest of the middle easterners that this seemingly ridiculous idea in fact now appears to be true. I believe the whole world sighed a great relief at the overthrow of the Taliban, as it was as threat not only to the West, but also to the Middle East regimes. The invasion of Iraq is a much different story. No longer is the Taliban a threat to the middle east. Now a much stronger and powerful force is becoming a threat to them - the US. D'Souza states "...3000 people were killed on 9/11, and that's more than were killed during the entire 50-year duration of the Cold War." I am not sure where he gets his figures from, but tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the cold war as a result of US, Soviet and Chinese supported regimes, alliances, projects, and "political experiments" in Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. Unless D'Souza is suggesting that the only lives that count are "American" lives? I am sure he couldn't possible mean this, and I hope he clarifies this. D'Souza claims that "Islam is today's greatest problem." I suggest that is Islam is not today's greatest problem. Rather, it is the USA's choice of response to Islam that is the greatest problem. - S. P.

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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  Wesley J. Smith
Smith is an attorney and consultant for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. His book Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder (1997), a broad-based criticism of the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement was published in 1997. His book Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, a warning about the dangers of the modern bioethics movement, was named One of the Ten Outstanding Books of the Year and Best Health Book of the Year for 2001 (Independent Publisher Book Awards). Smith is an international lecturer and public speaker, appearing frequently at political, university, medical, legal, disability rights, bioethics, and community gatherings across the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia.
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