Greasing the Slippery Slope

December 2, 2001

by John K. Bates

I was recently shopping for items to fill gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child, the annual gift drive by Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse. The purpose of this event is to send shoeboxes filled with toys and essentials to children all over the world in an effort to share the true Christmas message of the love of Jesus Christ. To accentuate this message of love, I like to add a few trinkets from the Christian gift store to each box.

I discovered something interesting when I looked at some of these items. Many of them were manufactured in the People’s Republic of China. This is interesting because there is a school of thought in Christian circles that Christians should avoid purchasing items from China, which is perhaps the world’s leading repressor of Christianity. This is not a crackpot idea, relegated to the fringes of radical Christian theology. Rather, it is an issue that has been discussed and debated in the highest levels of government, in terms of the annual debate of granting China favored trading status. Though I have never actively avoided purchasing products from China simply because they were manufactured there, I am aware enough that if given a choice I usually will choose a product made somewhere else.

Which raises a bit of a dilemma. The items I purchased for the gift boxes were quite inexpensive. I have to believe if I had managed to find similar items made elsewhere (say, Mexico), they would have cost about the same. Competition does that; even if a product is not made in China, similar products made by China will certainly cause them to be lower in price. Even if I were to enforce a total boycott of Chinese products, I would still benefit by their existence. Moreover, the children I seek to help via Operation Christmas Child will also benefit, as I am able to purchase more for them. In a backhanded way, the repressive regime in China helps Christians, and consumers, elsewhere.

I bring up this dilemma because it points to a much more serious issue confronting society. Stories this week revealed the disturbing news that researchers in Massachusetts have succeeded in cloning human embryos. This was inevitable; once sheep and cattle were successfully cloned, it was only a matter of time before someone, somewhere succeeded in cloning a human. And although the scientists stated that the embryos had died before developing far enough to produce embryonic stem cells, by stating the goal was to create life in order to destroy it they crossed a stark ethical line.

Let me say right off that I oppose this sort of research. Life should not be created simply to serve as research matter. Besides this obvious moral argument, there are frightening possibilities with this science, especially when combined with our society’s increasing disdain for human life and the utter selfishness of the times. Once cloning and genetic manipulation mature into viable commercial science, it would not take long before society starts to create “perfect” babies with the genes of famous athletes and actors. As parents disappointed in the failed dreams of their youth reach for a final attempt at glory, they will manipulate and select their offspring, with “imperfect” fetuses discarded as casually as yesterday’s newspaper. Let us not forget the possibilities if government gets involved. Nazi Germany gave us a chilling look into what is possible when government desires to create a “better race” of people. Imagine political correctness, for example, invading genetic engineering. This is, as they say, a very slippery slope. The cloning of humans adds many gallons of grease to the grade.

So the solution, many on the right (and some on the left) would say, is to ban this practice. Just lock up the science and prevent such research from happening. Or give it to the government, in a desperate hope that tight control (of a presumed benevolent government) will prevent the misuse of such an explosive technology. Drastic problems require drastic measures, and society must act before it is too late.

The House of Representatives has already voted to do just that, and the Senate is rushing to vote on the issue with a new sense of urgency. But just as the simple solution of boycotting Chinese products does not really work, the banning of cloning will not work either. First off, the technology is simply too easy to get hold of. Unlike nuclear technology, which requires high-grade materials not attainable on the common market, the raw materials for cloning are available to any scientist. It is not possible to block access to the technology or the know-how required to clone. And even if somehow the United States bans the practice, it is a certainty other nations will not. Europe, in particular, is very receptive to this type of research. They will go forward with or without the benefit of American research.

That still does not make cloning right, and certainly Christians and others who oppose genetic research will avoid any direct association with it. And here is the problem, the same dilemma as I noted when I purchased my gift box items that were manufactured in China. Remember that I benefited - and the poor children I was trying to help benefited - from the imported Chinese goods. Whether I ultimately purchased them or not, the free market allowed me more purchasing power overall. In the same manner, those who oppose cloning will still stand to gain from whatever benefits it may bring. Christians, like everyone else, cannot stop the world and get off. We are all along for a ride in which we have very limited control over future events. If cloning and genetic research end up providing cures for disease or human genetic improvements that benefit society as a whole, we will partake of those benefits as surely as we enjoy the overall lower cost of goods that result from trade with China.

Unfortunately, we who oppose this sort of science have to accept that it is a reality. We must understand that this will happen. We should, where possible, continue to oppose it, and to exercise vigilance and control wherever possible. We must also insist this work be done in the light of public scrutiny. But we can no longer blind ourselves with the illusion that there is a way to stop this.

Humans have been cloned. That is a fact. And we will only slide down the slope from here.


John K. Bates is a part-time freelance writer who works in the energy engineering field and lives in the Denver, Colorado area. He enjoys many outdoor pursuits and the company of his family of three cats. His columns can also be seen on

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