On 'size-of-a-dot' humans
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
The handful of cells, certain advocates of cloning like to say, is no larger than the period at the end of this sentence. So also says Cass R. Sunstein in his review of Francis Fukuyama's worrying new book, Our Posthuman Future.
"If scientists will be using and cloning embryos only at a very early stage when they are just a handful of cells (say, before they are four days old), there is no good reason for a ban," writes Sunstein. "It is silly to think that potential is enough for moral concern. Sperm cells have potential‚ and (not to put too fine a point on it) most people are not especially solicitous about them." Heh, heh.
That Sunstein is one smart law professor. Well, not really. Sperm cells, even under optimal conditions, will never, never ever, become a human being. But that earliest embryo will, barring natural disaster or lethal human intervention, become what everybody recognizes as a human baby on its further way to becoming a fully developed human being. Contra Sunstein, potential is enough.
The truth is so blindingly obvious that many are blind to it: nothing that is not a human being has the potential of becoming a human being, and nothing that has the potential of becoming a human being is not a human being. Or, to revert to the favoured image of the cloners and eugenicists, all of them, including Cass Sunstein, were once no larger than the period at the end of this sentence.
Many years ago, a person looking at such a tiny dot through a microscope might have said, "That is going to be, and therefore that is, Cass Sunstein." One wonders if Mr. Sunstein really believes that that observation would have been "silly." Such an observation would have required supra-human prescience, to be sure, but can it be silly if, in indisputable fact, it is true?
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus is editor-in-chief of First Things, in which this article first appeared in the November 2002 issue.