Saturday, November 17, 2007

The brave new world recedes?

NRO reports that those who opposed cloning may well win, not because of a political change, but because science has found another way.
The Telegraph reports that Ian Wilmut—creator of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal—is giving up on his efforts to use cloning techniques in humans, to produce cloned embryos that could then be destroyed for their stem cells. Wilmut’s reason, the paper reports, is the potential of so-called “somatic cell reprogramming”, a technique to transform a regular adult cell into the equivalent of an embryonic stem cell but without the need for embryos. Wilmut says the new approach is not only “easier to accept socially” but also scientifically more efficient and, he says, “100 times more interesting” and capable of producing the same result. [more]
If these reports are true, the evil represented by creating embryos in order to destroy them will be evident. The only real argument for doing it was that it was necessary as a means to defeat other great evils - particular terrible diseases. Now those arguments will disappear and it will be conceded, even by those who considered it a lesser evil, that it should not happen.

I failed to see Amazing Grace when it was in the theaters, but now have watched it a couple of times on DVD. It is a very good film, not just as a movie, but because it is instructive about the political process of reform. Wilberforce persisted in his cause, not by going for "all or nothing," but by taking the cause step by step, using the political system, until public opinion and political circumstance shifted to favor his side of the debate.

Politics needs to guided by morality. Most political questions are ultimately moral questions. We need those who draw clear moral conclusions about issues like slavery and abortion, but getting from here to there requires political prudence and wisdom, clarity about the goal pursued with the "wisdom of serpents."

Sometimes stubborn obstruction is called for, until circumstances change. Sometimes gradual reform will eventually bring the best result.

The Corner on National Review Online

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