Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Response to Professor Volokh, II

We turn now to Professor Volokh’s first posting concerning our article, in which he suggests that we were a bit cavalier in suggesting that the good Lord wouldn’t approve of harvesting eggs from aborted fetuses to create new fetuses, nor mixing male and female genes into a kind of hybrid genetic cocktail.

Our point was largely intended as a slap—and a rhetorical one at that—at Senator Barbara Boxer and others who suggest that embryo manipulation is “doing God’s work.” Perhaps the sarcasm was not sufficiently apparent, but ours was not high hermeneutics, nor a genuine theological speculation—but we’re happy to speculate here.

As Professor Volokh thoroughly explains, the Lord’s name ought not to be taken in vain on matters like this. Precisely—which is why we weren’t comfortable with Senator Boxer’s deification of the acts performed by scientists on embryos. The Conspiracy takes us to task on this point, largely for failing to make clear the evils of human cloning and how we could be so epistemologically sure that God disapproves of similar Huxleyan efforts. Our article, of course, was not intended as a theological treatise, and it did take a few things for granted, like the general anti-human cloning bias of the NRO audience. Considering that several articles calling for human cloning bans have appeared on NRO, we were confident that most readers would at least recognize that human cloning will not afford us an unmitigated positive good (even liberal bioethicists like Arthur Caplan speak disparagingly of reproductive cloning’s ultimate utility); and we felt equally certain that no matter how one views the abortion issue, most would consider using aborted fetuses to fund the European egg bank a bad idea—to the point that we didn’t think it required much elaboration.

But if elaborate we must, then it’s worth noting that this fetal-egg-harvesting idea was floated at an earlier European conference in the late 1990s, and was torpedoed on “psychological harm” grounds. Imagine . . . some ethicists actually feared that a child whose mother had been aborted might suffer some fairly traumatic psychological effects.

We also boldly predicted that God would be less than enthused at science attempting hermaphroditic embryos. That this claim would be controversial is a bit perplexing. The Conspiracy makes a good point in noting that

“the risk of error inherent in guesswork about what the Creator must intend shows the importance of carefully articulating the argument, and giving a detailed, specific explanation of why the Creator doesn’t intend this, but does intend caesarian sections, or contraception, or in vitro fertilization, or hormone shots, or the use of incubators to care for dramatically premature babies. The risk of error shows the need for thoughtful, overt, and self-critical analysis of just why we fallible humans are making this particular guess about what the inscrutable Creator, who moves in mysterious ways, never actually chose to tell us about his ‘intentions.’”

Point taken. We’re all for self-critical analysis, and there is always risk in inferring modern rules from ancient sacred texts; but is it really all that dangerous to deduce from the Judeo-Christian scriptures and tradition at least that mixing male and female genes into a genetic he-she goes against the Divine plan for the human species? Even a glance at the early chapters of Genesis reveals that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Feminist theory aside, nothing in the biblical tradition suggests that God set out first to create hermaphrodites, nor that we as procreators should take it upon ourselves to do so.

What is clear, however, is mankind’s unique place in God’s created order, and we don’t consider it presumptuous to suggest that the Judeo-Christian God finds scientific endeavors that usurp the male-female relationship with hybrids and chimeras to be morally repugnant at best.

Perhaps our presumption was not taking the bandwidth to walk through these arguments, but then, that wasn’t the real point of our article, which was simply to bring attention to recent developments, and offer reasonable, constitutional alternatives to more knee-jerk Commerce Clause regulation.

[Update: The original posting included both Mr. Stewart’s and Mr. Alt’s name in the "posted by" line. Because this caused a glitch in our software which automatically tracks postings by author, the posting now reflects Mr. Stewart’s name. Mr. Alt happily concurs fully in Mr. Stewart’s sentiments.]

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