“Affirming Ourselves to Death”

Meilander, Gilbert

First Things, June 1998

pp. 13 - 14

In the name of compassion we've been out there affirming everybody. We hardly dare disagree with anybody for fear we'll look like we're condemning people. E.g. Laurence Tribe had once rejected cloning, or had leaned that way. But in a Times op-ed piece he stated his “second thoughts.” Why second thoughts? Because rejecting cloning might oblige him to reject other things too--e.g., any “non-standard” way of producing babies. Pretty soon any “unconventional ways of linking erotic attachment, romantic commitment, genetic replication, gestational mothering, and the joys and responsibilities of child rearing” would become suspect, and that’s bad. But mainly, Tribe is worried about an actual cloned human being who definitely will appear one day. Suppose we have spoken against cloning? How will that make the clonee feel? Marginalized. Outcast. Not fully human. And that would be terrible. Remember, he says, that children of unmarried parents were once stigmatized as “illegitimate.” We had no compassion. What Tribe does not notice is that “the struggle to undercut the ideal [by him and others] . . . has helped to create a world in which children are worse off than they were when the ideal held sway.” Compassion unstiffened by “deeper, richer understandings of our nature and destiny, kills morality.” So with Tribe. “In order to assure that we do not risk making any person feel marginalized, we are suddenly forbidden to condemn what seems wrong to us.” But of course Tribe is right to worry about the equal worth of a clone. It wouldn’t be equal in one monumental way: The cloned one would be “a product rather than a gift. And when we make products we determine their point and purpose.” The entire article can be found at Affirming Ourselves to Death