April 18, 2010

Defining "Objectionable" as "Not This"

Justin Katz

People don't like the idea of human cloning, and large constituencies aren't comforted by proposals that would require scientists to kill the humans whom they create through that process. Fr. Nicanor Austriaco notes that the supposedly pro-life Congressman Jim Langevin has come across a curious means of skirting objections:

The proposed legislation permits cloning-to-kill by redefining the scientific definition of human cloning. According to Langevin's bill, "[t]he term 'human cloning' means the implantation of the product of transferring the nuclear material of a human somatic cell into an egg cell from which the nuclear material has been removed or rendered inert into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus." In contrast, the scientific consensus defines cloning as the creation and not the implantation of a cloned embryo. By manipulating the definition of cloning, Representative Langevin and his congressional colleagues want to reward scientists who would derive stem cells from the cloning and killing of human embryos, by giving them federal monies to fund their research with these embryonic stem cell lines. This bill would lead to the creation and the destruction of innocent human beings, and thus, like the President's executive order, is immoral and unjust.

It's always been my approach to seek agreement on the terms of the debate and argue from there. Whoever wins the debate wins, and whoever loses the debate has a lot of work to do persuading, developing new arguments, and then moving through the process of changing policies. There's not much room for fair debate, though, when people attempt to define the very points of contention out of the discussion.