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Natural allies

Culture | Greens and Christians both oppose cloning-and they should be able to join on other issues as well

Issue: "Remaking the family," March 6, 2004

THE TECHNIQUE OF CLONING HUMAN EMBRYOS for use as stem-cell tissue and quite probably to produce cloned human beings," says Margaret Wright, is "an assault on the sanctity of life." That kind of language is associated with evangelicals and pro-life activists, but Ms. Wright is an official of England's left-wing Green Party.

In Europe and Asia, environmentalists are leading the battle against human cloning. The parliament of the European Union voted in 2000 to ban not only reproductive cloning (producing babies asexually) but therapeutic cloning (producing embryos to "harvest" their stem cells). Though the United States Senate, with its Republican majority, cannot bring itself to pass the congressional bill that would ban therapeutic cloning, the usually liberal Europeans have taken that step, thanks to the Green Party.

Speaking about the EU's action, the Green lawmaker Paul Lannoye of Belgium said that "there is in practice no distinction of principle between 'therapeutic' and 'reproductive' cloning-they are merely different uses of the same process." Hiltrud Breyer, a Green member of parliament from Germany, said, "Today we have succeeded in drawing a line which should not be crossed," and called for the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to be amended to ban the creation of human embryos for research purposes.

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A recent attempt by Brigitte Zypries, Germany's justice minister, to rule that embryos conceived outside of the womb should not be accorded human-dignity protection was thwarted by a coalition of Greens, political conservatives, and Christian groups.

In Europe, Christianity-although present-has lost much of its moral influence. Environmentalism, however, commands a moral authority beyond its political influence. For Greens, cloning and embryo experimentation are extreme examples of the technological and corporate assault on nature.

The American Green Party is a mere ideological shadow of its European counterparts, having become a haven for generic leftists-radical feminists, gay activists, and unreconstructed socialists-rather than a party specifically concerned with the environment and the protection of nature. American Greens have passed resolutions against genetic modification of food, but they have been silent so far on the genetic modification of human beings. A search of their website turns up not a single mention of "cloning."

But in the urgent battle to stop human cloning, embryo experimentation, stem-cell cannibalism, and the other looming evils of genetic engineering on human beings, perhaps Christians could form a tactical alliance with environmentalists.

Christians will not agree with apocalyptic environmentalism (the notion that nature is doomed because of what human beings are doing to it), nor with anti-human environmentalism (the notion that humanity is nature's cancer), nor with Luddite environmentalism (the notion that all technology and all human dominion over nature are wrong), nor with animal-rights environmentalism (the notion that human beings may not use animals), nor with mystical environmentalism (the notion that nature is divine).

Still, Christians should be nature lovers. Christians believe in the doctrine of creation, that nature is God's handiwork. Christians have also historically seen God's moral law as having been built into that objective creation. Not that we look to nature-that realm of predators and prey-for moral models, rather than God's Word, but moral transgressions violate something in human nature and in God's created design.

Christians can agree with Greens that cloning is wrong, at least in part, because it violates nature in a fundamental way. God's design in nature for creatures like us is for new life to be engendered sexually and cared for by parents. For adults to replicate themselves by manufacturing a carbon copy, an identical twin, with no father or mother, is profoundly unnatural.

And if we can get Greens to agree with us on cloning, perhaps we could convince them that other things are also violations of nature. Abortion certainly is. So is homosexuality, despite claims that animals do it, since the very physiology of human sexuality is designed for procreation.

If we can take over some of their arguments, which seem uniquely persuasive to people today, and get them to fight on our side, we may have to give them some concessions and support them on some issues in return. For example, they are concerned about endangered species. And while this can be easy for us conservatives to mock, Christians, having a high view of creation, might pause.

We believe that God created the snail darter, which means that God willed that there be snail darters. On what theological grounds can we justify driving the snail darter or any other species to extinction?

Success in the political arena often depends on strategic and tactical alliances. Evangelicals have worked with feminists to fight pornography and with the ACLU to fight religious discrimination. So Christians can, in some things, be green.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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