Nigel may see Germany a "guide" to our conscience. I prefer to view it as a land where a traumatic history has sometimes hindered careful moral reflection, led to extreme overreactions on many bioethical issues, silenced centrist voices in some debates, and provided an aperture for the views of a religious minority.

In sum, if you remove "right-to-life" inspired conservative Christian support from the anti-therapeutic cloning movement, that movement would probably not exist anywhere as a significant political force.

Finally, let me say about my use of the word "parochial." Not all religious moral views in policy debates are "parochial." Religious believers have often made very powerful-and positive-contributions to political life. The abolition of slavery, the U.S. civil rights movement, and the drive for women's suffrage owe enormous debts to religiously informed and inspired individuals.

But in all these cases, the core arguments were also sustained on independent reasoned grounds that could commend themselves to other persons of good will. That black people and women are human persons meriting the same rights as others were not esoteric positions that had to be defended primarily by appeal to religious authority, strained readings of religious texts, or assertions that many reasonable people found unacceptable. That each of these emancipation movements ultimately prevailed is due largely to the inherent power and persuasiveness of their claims.

In contrast, the core argument of most of those who oppose therapeutic cloning research-that a small cluster of undifferentiated cells is morally equivalent to and deserving of the same impassioned respect as the daughter of my dinner conversation partner-has little support outside the camp of religious believers devoted to it.

To be sure, this argument is supplemented by others, including various slippery slope arguments about alleged threats to human dignity. Potentiality arguments are also invoked, although no one would ever reasonably contend that potentiality alone could sustain moral respect - that an acorn has the same value as a mature oak tree. But these arguments are merely supplements. The core argument, often repeated by the Roman Catholic magisterium and now adopted by modern evangelical Christians, is religious. It rests on and is an extension of a 2000-year-long history of Christian opposition to abortion.

This view of the status of the early human embryo cannot commend itself to most reasonable people who closely examine the arguments. Some evidence for this is found in studies showing that Christians of all denominational backgrounds, including devout Roman Catholics, utilize IVF procedures to have babies, even when this commits them to the deliberate creation and destruction of spare embryos. Conservative Christians may oppose abortion (for various reasons). But their defense of the very early human embryo is a relatively modern fruit of older abortion anti-abortion teachings. And it is a fruit that most of the (infertile) faithful vote against in practice with their feet.

Nevertheless, when immediate personal interests are less pressing, many of these same people join their religious leaders in opposing embryonic stem cell and cloning research on the grounds of the "the inherent dignity, equality and sanctity of every human life." This improbable, unreasonable, and inconsistently held position attains the force of law whenever those who represent these people achieve substantial political influence. This happens because a determined minority is able to prevail when others are unaware of the significance of the debates or when their own interests are not sufficiently aroused.

All this will change, I predict, when the first type-1 diabetic is cured by therapeutic cloning or stem cell technology. Then, the sleepy majority around the world will wake up. They will not be persuaded by religiously based claims that early embryos are too important to use in lifesaving research or therapy. The weak supplemental arguments about slippery slopes and "instrumentalization" will be put aside, and the ultimately sectarian nature of this position will cause it to be rejected as a guide to health policy in a pluralistic society.

<>Ron Green's summing up of his position reiterates at considerable length the point I have already drawn attention to: his strategy to defend the mass-production cloning of human embryos requires him to pin opposition to it on conservative religion. This involves his reiterating the incredible thesis that the recent cloning bans in countries as diverse as Canada, Australia, Norway, and France are the result of the potent influence of the "extreme pro-life" movement in these nations, driven particularly by the Roman Catholic church. I pointed out that France is the most secular major nation in Europe, and noted that the Canadian legislation was chiefly driven by feminists and almost failed because of vigorous opposition by the pro-life movement.