Whatever his weaknesses, Bush has no difficulties in categorical moral pronouncement. The War Against Terrorism has prompted from Bush the most exhilarating restoration of manichean language to the public forum. God bless Bush for being able to say ‘evil’ without irony, because it’s certainly nothing to be ironic about when it’s staring you in the face. However, it’s pretty aggravating when you’re on the wrong side of it.
“The use of embryos to clone is wrong,” Bush said. “We should not, as a society, grow life to destroy it, and that’s exactly what is taking place.” Ari Fleischer, WaPo reports, says that “the President has drawn a strong ethical line in the sand and said that line should not be crossed.”
In reply, one could say trivial things like, “I grow cucumbers, which are forms of life, just so I can eat them.” But Bush means human lives. There is no doubt that cloned embryos are humans. To be human is to have human DNA. However, having human DNA is far from sufficient for moral standing (unless you think there’s a special moral magic in some molecular configurations.) The point at which clusters of cells do acquire moral standing is a vexed question. Which is why Bush’s otherwise praiseworthy moral certitude is so chafing on this issue. Especially when you just think about it for a second. The lives that will be saved by stem cell research are the real deal: full-fledged men and women, boys and girls with hopes, dreams, fears, loves and conscious inner lives. People have been talking about “moral equivalence” lately. To morally equate bunches of insensible human cells to bona fide laughing, loving human beings is to assert a false equivalence of the cruelest kind.