SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO CLONE? There is a standout article in today's online edition of the Weekly Standard by Wesley J. Smith entitled "Constitutional Cloning."

Smith is responding to a recent article by Brian Alexander in the New York Times Magazine that argued for a constitutional "right to research" that would treat scientific experimentation as expressive conduct, and thus entitled to free speech protection.

Now, I am by no means at the forefront of all these bioethics debates and controversies, but upon reading Alexander's article I was struck by how ABSURD that proposition of a "right to research" is. It's ridiculous to me, but then again, I wasn't surprised to see it, given the all far-fetched thinking that goes on in academia these days. If cloning were to be considered speech, for all intents and purposes, then what on Earth would NOT be considered speech?

Smith rightly asks what the text of the First Amendment has to do with cloning. As a plain reading shows, the answer is: absolutely nothing. He rightly castigates an extreme sort of "philosophical scientism," which is very utopian.

For the record, I oppose utopianism of any kind. I am definitely an optimist and progressive in the sense that I think history has a direction and that progress and advances in knowledge and civilization takes place. However, all efforts that lead to utopianism are ultimately futile and completely disastrous. (Remember communism and fascism?)

One of the problems with utopianism is that it usually involves the propping up of a narrow constituency who will decide how the rest of society will live. Contra Smith:

Wisdom and prudence thus prescribe that we do not leave all of this to scientists, but instead erect reasonable checks and balances through democratic processes to ensure that the scope and breadth of research remain consistent with the moral values of society.

Indeed, Smith's closing paragraph is quite excellent, discussing such a constitutional "right to research." As Smith notes: "Not only would it craft a narrow constitutional right open only to a very narrow category of people, e.g., scientists, but it would imbed the amoral beliefs of scientism into the Constitution..."

(Downtown Seattle, WA)


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