On neither of these points is his response remotely convincing. The key evidence here is that in all these countries abortion is legal, and assorted pro-life movements are not exactly on the verge of banning it. So how come they have succeeded in making "therapeutic cloning" something that does not qualify you for a Nobel prize, but seven years' jail time?

So Ron's dismissal of the significance of other groups and other reasons to oppose mass-production embryo cloning is as unrealistic as it is insulting to them-but it is necessary to his argument. The feminists and environmentalists (and also liberal, mainline churches-he ignores them) who have sought to prohibit the use of this technology in human beings have many motives and arguments, but they share with conservatives a fundamental common concern: that cloning commodifies human nature, it radically de-humanizes our species.

That is why, far from representing a "strange bedfellow" coalition that may first appear, they show how general revulsion against this use of manufacturing on the human species is extraordinarily widespread. Look again at that list of nations with comprehensive cloning bans: how more typical could a list be, what better samples are there of democratic societies, than Australia, Canada, France, Norway? And, of course, less typically though always on matters of science and conscience so very significant, Germany? Across these varied, secular, and uniformly pro-choice states are we to imagine a vast, right-wing conspiracy? Someone has been reading "The Da Vinci Code."

Against these diverse nations, Ron lists some others from around the world which he says have got it right: India, Israel, Singapore, Korea and China. In these nations, he argues, "the 'right-to-life' perspective plays no significant role in political life." He also mentions the UK, which is a global anomaly in having invented the cloning technology as well as having had a very liberal biopolicy regime since its decision to allow embryos to be created for research purposes nearly 15 years ago.

These states have embraced research cloning. He could have added Japan to his list, although perhaps the reason he did not is that the debate in Japan, just resolved in favor of cloning for research, has been hard-fought - with vigorous opposition from many quarters that have nothing to do with pro-life religion. Korea actually has a huge and vibrant church, protestant and Catholic, so it does not fit the pattern either but for a different reason (and debate has been tough here; Koreans, for traditional reasons, actually count their age from the time of conception rather than birth). Israel has long been home of some of the shadiest bioethics in the free world, with constant stories of trade in organs and other shabby ethical practices. And if Ron is honestly wanting anyone to accept that the People's Republic of China is a shining beacon of ethical bioscience and medicine he has not been reading the papers.

Of course, there is nothing at all wrong with religion, nothing wrong with Christianity, and nothing wrong with religious people seeking to play a role in public life, advancing their views in the democratic process, and seeking what they believe is good. One would have thought that a debate on Beliefnet would have taken that for granted. In fact Green rants against the influence of religious people who think democracy gives them rights and responsibilities in public affairs.

Green gives away his anti-religious prejudice when in an unwary moment he adds this sentence: "partly at the Vatican's urging, Article 51 of the recently passed European Constitution requires governmental bodies to maintain 'regular dialogue' with churches and religious organizations." There has in fact been a vast debate in Europe on the Constitution, which, in its dire secularity, threatens to split modern post-Christian Europe from its profoundly religious roots. A vast right-wing conspiracy could surely have served up something better for Europe than this weak statement of the obvious, an obligation for governments to be in dialogue with the various religious communities in their borders.

Ron's overkill is also clear in his basic misrepresentation of the United Nations General Assembly's discussion of cloning, which resumes in October. He slams the Bush administration for kow-towing to pro-lifers (again) by pressing for a convention that would ban all cloning. Specifically, he says that "a small group of nations, led by the US and Costa Rica" have pressed for a global cloning ban, over against the original German-French proposal that would have banned only "reproductive" cloning to produce babies, and de facto protected cloning for research.

A small group? Let's do some math. When this came up last for a vote in 2003, there were 66 co-sponsors of the Costa Rican resolution, versus 22 for one from Belgium-Belgium having picked up the original German resolution after the German parliament voted overwhelmingly (all three major parties agreeing) to undermine the "German-French" position. I was in Germany early last year for some consultations and lectures on this issue, and the largest German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, published an interview with me under the title "Did Germany prevent a cloning ban?" Had Germany and France, which now both outlaw what Ron Green wants to do and would imprison him for long periods if he did it in their countries, thrown their weight behind the Costa Rican position, a global anti-cloning convention would now be open for signature. As it happens, they may yet decide to do just that when it comes up for a vote again in a few weeks-bringing their international policy in line with domestic legislation.

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