Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Diana Schaub, Star Trek , and bioethics

Diana Schaub was due for some good press. Lord knows, she was lambasted by libertarians and the science lobby when President Bush appointed her (and my good friend Peter Lawler) to his Council on Bioethics.

While not quite as puffy and fluffy as this piece or as perfervid as this one, the Baltimore Sun treats her views respectfully. She’s a conservative, yes, but not particularly religious; and she’s catholic (small "c") in her sources of inspiration--looking to Abraham Lincoln and Star Trek for grist for her mill.

You can find her two most famous or infamous bioethics articles here and here.

Schaub’s most provocative statement on cloning comes from the first of those pieces:

Cloning is an evil, and cloning for the purpose of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion.

Her view, it should be emphasized, doesn’t depend upon religion, though it is certainly compatible with a religious view. In that respect, she harkens back to the early rather heterodox Lincoln, who abhorred slavery as an evil long before he began to utter vaguely orthodox religious sentiments.

The second piece, on aging, is one that I read just last week, in preparation for a paper I’m writing (on Tolkien and bioethics) for
this conference. She uses two Star Trek episodes to elucidate some of the issues connected with the natural (but problematical) desire to prolong our lives. Here’s a brief snippet:

Apparently, in the research conducted thus far, the most common (though not universal) side effect of age retardation is sterility or reduced fertility. It seems as if, in pursuing an ageless body, the balance between the individual and the species is altered. When we choose vastly longer life for the individual, the propagation of the species is sacrificed. The society in the Star Trek episode is a drastic rendition of the trade-off. In pursuing immortality for themselves, the residents of the planet made clear their hostility to the succession of the generations. They sought to make themselves irreplaceable.

If I may be permitted an editorial comment based upon my reading of Schaub, the Council on Bioethics materials, and Tolkien: the desire "unreasonably" to prolong life is a selfish and distorted response to our finitude, while reproduction and child-rearing are natural and ultimately "pious" responses. The former response leads us to dwell ever more intensely on ourselves; the latter to think of our responsibilities to others.

When the Tolkien paper is finished (gee, I still have almost three weeks!), I’ll have more to say and will share my half-baked thoughts with anyone who wants a copy.

Discussions - 6 Comments

"Perfervid"? When I come to your defense some day, you may feel otherwise. (.;) PS, a loyal friend and reader.

Sorry, Paul. A poor choice of words, now forever archived on the Ashbrook server, along with many other of my stupidities.

No problem, Joe. BTW: I agreed with your "editorial comment" above. See you at Berry at the end of the month? I’m responding to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s book.

Popular culture and literature can and does reveal many of the dilemmas of the human condition and the moral framework of bioethics. The "Space Seed" (Khan) episode revealed the great danger of bioengineering for utopian ends. The movie "Gattaca" with Ethan Hawke also comes to mind. "Brave New World" and other such great books also deal with these issues and their danger.

Yes, many movies/series have dealt with dysutopias based on genetic engineering, but what you less of are dysutopias based on social and cultural leveling (like Orwell’s ’1984’). Why? Because Hollywood wants to rag on "nature" arguments but buys completely into the dogma of nurture. Roddenberry’s ’Star Trek’ is one of the worst offenders (although the original series is palatable...the 3 that followed were much more difficult to stomach). One grows weary of being preached at.

Calling Schaub a thocon is like calling Bloom one. They may have similar political takes the so-called thocons, but the way they live their lives are hardly conservative or traditional.

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