This statement is entirely misleading. Under Clinton, the NIH formed a panel in 1994 (on which I served) that recommended federal support for human embryo research, including research on embryonic stem cells. If the panel's advice had been heeded, we might be five years ahead in this research. President Clinton accepted almost all of our recommendations, but the Gingrich Congress and Dickey-Wicker shut everything down.
Cameron notes that Canada has outlawed research cloning in March as have France, Germany, Australia and Norway. "Which of these nations," Cameron asks, "is ruled by the 'theology of the few'? Does the power of the U.S. pro-life movement and what Ron Green calls its 'extremism' extend to the governments in Ottawa and Canberra, and the whole of 'Old Europe'?"
Yes. If Nigel looks carefully at the religious demography of his "world tour," he will find that in virtually every constituency he mentions, the prohibition on embryo research is carried by Roman Catholic and/or (conservative) Protestant groups--the same groups that now drive U.S. law and policy. A possible exception here is Germany, whose Catholic citizens are supplemented in this effort by many still haunted by Nazi eugenics. (The German law for the Protection of Embryos is one of the strictest in Europe.)
In contrast, in Great Britain, where a middle-of-the-road Protestant culture predominates, embryo research, including research on therapeutic cloning, is both legal and governmentally funded. In nations like India, China, Singapore, Korea, Israel, and India, where there are no substantial Catholic or conservative Protestant populations, this research is moving swiftly forward.
It is commonly said that stem cell research opponents are wrong to try to impose their theology--a "theology of the few"--on everyone else. That is true. What's more appalling is that so many of these people do not realize that they are being driven by their personal religious beliefs. Nigel's remarks shows how prevalent is the tendency not to perceive the potent role of parochial religious views in our national debates.
I can't remember when I last saw such a vivid illustration of Peter Berger's brilliant epigram on America and its religion than in Ron Green's dismissal of religious views as "parochial." Berger, our most distinguished sociologist, has said that the most religious nation in the world is India; the most secular is Sweden, and America is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes. Berger's point is that the assumptions of American public culture are secular and grossly out of step with the deep religiousness of most of the American people.
But having dismissed religious views as parochial, Ron Green goes on to illustrate the role that religion is, as it were, required to play in this debate. It is evidently necessary to ascribe any and all opposition to mass-production cloning to parochial conservative religion. Why? Because if that can be done, there is then (given the assumptions of American public culture) no need to answer the arguments and address the moral force of those who see this as the first great global policy engagement of the "biotech century," and who have determined that the ethical health of biotechnology and the fundamental dignity of human beings require that it be won. That was exactly Ron Reagan Jr.'s disreputable strategy: blame it on religion, and it will go away; the health of the nation versus the "theology of the few."
But to do that Ron Green proposes a truly incredible thesis: that the total prohibitions on cloning recently passed in a clutch by Western nations result from pressure by adherents of that "theology"--pro-life "extremists." The notion that, for example, the policy of the French state is determined by "Roman Catholic and/or (conservative) Protestant groups, the same groups that now drive U.S. law and policy" is risible; France is widely recognized as the most secular major state in Western Europe, with church attendance so small it is hard to measure. As to the recent Canadian cloning ban, it was contained in an act of parliament that on several occasions nearly failed; its most vigorous opponent was the Canadian pro-life movement. (The Catholic bishops finally elected neutrality on the bill, and were promptly attacked by the pro-life movement for doing so). The notion that state policy in these countries is determined by "Roman Catholic and/or (conservative) Protestant groups" rather suggests that the theology of the few is the theology of the very many!