Human Cloning, Ironic Immorality, and the Unlearned Lessons of the Manhattan Project

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J. Robert Oppenheimer

The greatest minds of the 20th century worked on the Manhattan Project – the scientific military endeavor that produced the atomic bomb – and many of them, like J. Robert Oppenheimer, grew to resent the role they played. It was he who quoted the Bhagavad Gita in saying, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Consumed with the humility of guilt, he and fellow scientists from his era grew to oppose the misuse of science to such a degree that some came under the distrustful eye of the McCarthy Hearings. Their lesson for us not to abuse science seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

I woke up this morning and checked my Facebook feed to find this disturbing piece of news.

The Boyalife Group, responsible for building the world’s largest cloning factory, says that it already has the technology needed for human replication, and that it is only holding back due to public perception.

But according to chief executive Xu Xiaochun, the group’s activities won’t stop at just cloning cattle. While the factory intends to produce thoroughbred racehorses and dogs, it is also working with a South Korean partner along with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in improving their primate cloning capacity.

The major temptation for scientists of Oppenheimer’s time was to end the war – for their own side – by any means necessary. Many were drafted into efforts by their governments to forge the weapons of the future. Today, a strange crossbreed of secular humanistic messianism – that man can be his own savior – and crass commercialism seems to have become the new temptation for the scientific community and it’s left much of the scientific community looking increasingly like short-sighted shills, hawking the products designed to play on the folly of modern man’s forward-looking idealism. While there are many good projects that really could help global humanity’s future, there are other projects that just make no real sense at all.

This latest news in human cloning is a perfect example. Does anyone else find it ironic that China, a country of more than a billion people – so many that it has resorted to the brutal, barbaric policy of forced abortion – is now producing the technology necessary to make more people? Of course, they’ll make them in a lab, which is somehow more acceptable than natural reproduction, right? No, of course not. Why would cloning people in a lab be better than making them via nature? How can a people who consider the earth dangerously hanging over the precipice of overpopulation promote something so contrary to that notion?

Because science! Well, a misguided conception of science. I saw the article linked through Futurism’s FB page and it has plenty of likes and positive comments. How could this happen? Along with the general collapse of morality around the world, science has also lost an interest in serving what’s good and what’s right; science has lost sight of its duty to ethics. Instead, scientists and laymen alike pursue novelty above all else; emphasis has been placed on man’s power to change his world, to do things previously unseen and undreamt. But this approach will – and has – resulted in scientific advances not only undreamt, but unnightmared. Even before considering the ethics, this Chinese company is ready to unleash this new immorality. They even seem eager:

From there, it’s not hard to imagine the next step in cloning technology: humans. “The technology is already there,” says Xu. “If this is allowed, I don’t think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology.”

Translated into everyday speech, this is nothing more than a man eager to do something he knows is ethically sketchy, and getting word out to the community that once it becomes a legal option, they should all come to him for their human cloning needs. It’s crass commercialism chomping at the bit to dismantle and reshape humanity.

One thing is for certain, if scientists continue to disregard the value of philosophy, this trend will only continue. The world once again needs scientists who are classically trained in the liberal arts and especially in ethics; only among such minds – acutely aware of human history and culture and morality – can science begin once more to serve the purposes of making the human race better and more knowledgeable about the awe-inspiring creation that surrounds us.

If the scientific community does not return to its obligation to serve humanity ethically, but instead focuses on the markets and the glory of human fame, it will be an increasingly less noble pursuit. Let’s hope today’s scientists can change their minds and hearts before detonating their own discoveries as Oppenheimer did.

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