Down the slope we slide


So it will soon be legal in Britain to hybridize humans with other species, and grow humans from embryo for "scientific research" -- however medically unnecessary.

Two free votes on Monday established this, in the House of Commons at Westminster. Neither was close. They defeated amendments to the Labour government's Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, now certain of passage. The bill is advertised as the legal means to put Britain at the forefront of international biological research, as part of the government's broad commitment to "make Britain a world leader in science and technology."

Back in the 1940s, Germany and Japan were world leaders in medical research, thanks to what their doctors were allowed to do to Jewish and Manchurian human beings, respectively. Countries with less "progressive" views on the requirements for research risked falling behind.

In putting it this way I am being what the BBC, and other liberal media, call "emotive." And I could not reverse the charge, without arguing absurdly that "smugness" is an emotion.

In our contemporary version of Orwellian Newspeak, those who defend a position in logic and morals, that might well be unassailable, with any degree of passion, are "emotive" and deserve to be ignored. Whereas, those who advocate the most monstrous crimes in a cool and dispassionate spirit deserve, at the very least, to be spared the inconvenience of explaining their motives.

But no, I am not going far enough in exposing this hypocrisy.

The current British prime minister, Gordon Brown — the one who did not win the last election, and with any luck, will not win the next one — is naturally among the advocates of the legislation his government tabled. In campaigning for it, he has made shameless emotional use of his own small child, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

He would not himself recognize it as shameless, of course, for he is wallowing in confusion over ends and means. But using his own son, as his exhibit, he has very emotionally declared that the creation of hybrid animal/human embryos for research purposes is "an inherently moral endeavour, that can save and improve the lives of thousands and over time, millions."

This in turn allows such as his unpleasant public health minister, Dawn Primarolo (one thinks of Miss Hardcastle at the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, the "N.I.C.E.", in C.S. Lewis's novel, That Hideous Strength), to follow the argument through, and accuse those who are morally repelled by animal/human hybrids of actually willing that humans should suffer from incurable diseases. To be plain: emotional blackmail is being compounded with vile slander.

For Gordon Brown was uttering an untruth.

And now we have "advanced" to the cusp of the Frankenstein era, in which the wanton breeding and destruction of embryonic humans is taken for granted, along with the assembly of animal/human hybrids.

As even the leading "expert" advocate of the government's measures — Lord Robert Winston, the English fertility specialist, politician, and television personality — has admitted, there is no pressing need for animal/human hybrid embryos. He had already said that the loss of the hybrid clause "won't fundamentally alter the science of stem cell biology." The research could perfectly well go on with adult stem cells, to the use of which there is no moral objection. Even the Roman Catholic Church has contributed directly and materially to that research.

An emotional argument has thus been made, and accepted as perfectly legitimate, where "the end justifies the means." But where an opponent of the evil means speaks "emotively" in defence of a moral absolute, he is dismissed as lowering the tone of the debate.

We are most certainly dealing with a moral absolute in this case. Our entire civilization (including all legal codes throughout the western world) depends upon the sharp and unambiguous distinction between what is human, and what is not.

We do not abandon this "front line" without inevitably lapsing into the kind of barbarism of which fascist-era Germany and Japan served as terrible warnings.

Alas, we already crossed this line, in 1967 in Britain, in 1969 in Canada, when abortion was legalized. The definition of what is human, extremely sharp in nature, was made legally vague. The sharp line in nature can only correspond to human conception. From that moment of conception, a woman is carrying a baby, not some inhuman "thing" that becomes "relatively more human" with the progression of time. Ignore that sharp line, and no other line can be drawn and held. By comparison, childbirth itself provides no precision whatever, for a child may be born many weeks prematurely, and still survive and flourish.

In every subsequent battle, in which the darker angel of our human nature has attempted to "push the envelope" forward, those who defend the sanctity of human life have fought a hopeless rearguard action.

And now we have "advanced" to the cusp of the Frankenstein era, in which the wanton breeding and destruction of embryonic humans is taken for granted, along with the assembly of animal/human hybrids. My reader need not believe for a moment that it will stop there.


David Warren. "Down the slope we slide." Ottawa Citizen (April 21, 2008).

This article reprinted with permission from David Warren.


David Warren, once editor of the Idler Magazine, is widely travelled — especially in the Middle and Far East. He has been writing for the Ottawa Citizen since 1996. His commentaries on international affairs appear Wednesdays & Saturdays; on Sundays he writes a general essay on the editorial page. Read more from David Warren at David Warren Online.

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