WHOSE ETHICS? | 1998-11-28

As Richard Boorsteen put it, "The greatest obstacle to progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge."

There is also nothing as dangerous as the idea that you know something that you do not know. This is most true when you are supposed to be protecting against a clear and present danger.

Today, science is moving headlong into new and dangerous areas. The most dangerous thing we can possibly do in this area is to throw up knee-jerk regulations and act as if we know what we are doing.

When a real danger pops up, what liberals want to do is use it to hire some bureaucrats and regulators. Respectable conservatives, naturally, ask for half as many knee-jerk regulations.

It is now possible for a person to begin cloning body parts for himself. That is, they are just beginning to grow, not identical human beings, but just the part of the body from your body that you need. No more heart transplants. You produce your own new, healthy heart. No more people hooked up to costly kidney machines for years waiting for a dead person's donated kidney. You will grow your own healthy kidney. This would save millions of people's lives, and restore millions more to health.

Naturally, somebody has to try to block it.

Who is trying to block it? Is it religious fanatics? Not at all.

While fundamentalist churches have obvious problems with whole-body cloning, they have said little so far about this process. This is not a matter of someone producing other human beings. It is a person producing new organs from his own body to save his life.

But, to repeat, somebody has to get in the way of this. Liberals cannot allow any productive endeavor to go ahead without their having control over it.

Liberalism does nothing productive. All it does is to regulate productive people. By the same token, liberalism cannot allow productive people to go ahead with what they are doing without regulation.

But in the case of scientific advances in dealing with human beings, liberals are in a bad position. This is not a matter of income redistribution or of defining education. This is a matter of ethics.

The political left has rejected every single basis on which our society has based its ethics. They have declared that all ethical values are relative, that there is no true right and true wrong.

So how is the left to suddenly come up with a code of ethics?

We all know what ethics is. It is a derivative of your traditions, like Western Civilization, or your religion. These bedrock beliefs and traditions tell you how you should behave, and that results in a code of ethics.

The problem is, to modernists, both Christianity and Western Civilization are outdated prejudices.

So here you are, you have rejected all your traditions and your religion, and you want to block scientific advances. Where on earth will your "ethics" come from?

Leftists do what they always do. They simply declare that they are now experts on ethics, and all the respectable conservatives agree with them.

We have an established religion in the United States. To be a priest of this religion all you need is a PhD. Professors of a philosophy department get together and declare that somebody is now an "ethicist." He teaches a course in Ethics.

Voila! "Ethics" is born, without any trace of religion, tradition, or anything else.

What do these new "ethics experts" do? They pronounce on morality. They tell us what we should do, something which our parents and our clergy once did.

Not a single respectable conservative has questioned this new profession.

What does this new Official Ethics do? Obviously, like every other liberal institution, it does nothing productive. Its purpose is to regulate -- and retard -- the activities of productive people.

While everybody talks about how fundamentalists and other religious people are supposed to be in the way of scientific advances, it is actually liberals who are fanatically anti-science today. For every active, productive scientist who is trying to make human life longer and better, there are several lawyers, several bureaucrats, and now some Official Ethicists to regulate them.

Right now, we have what is called the "controversial" prospect of human beings being allowed to replace their own organs. It sounds wonderful to me. Why is it "controversial?"

This new process uses the new technology of cloning, but it does not produce new human beings. I get liver cancer. Liver cancer is usually fatal. But with this technology, I give some cells from my own body, and they are put into the center of a cow cell, and the result is that I end up with a new liver.

"Ethicists" have declared this controversial. Why? I am not too sure. Could it be the cow? Nobody objects to saving lives by transplanting animal organs.

Could it be the cloning? I am making a new part of me. What could be Evil about that?

Could it be that the ethicist just wants to say something on a newly fashionable topic and get paid for it? Could it be that liberals simply cannot stand to have any aspect of human life exist which is not subject to their control?

Conservatives have allowed the Food and Drug Administration to provide thousands of bureaucrats with a cushy living by slowing scientific progress as much as they possibly can, all in the name of the public good. Conservatives have allowed a million lawyers to make a cushy living by getting in the way of every productive activity, especially medical and scientific advances. France produces all of its electricity by atomic power. In America, anti-nuclear radicals openly used the law to make nuclear power too expensive to produce.

Liberals are always talking about how backward the right is. Actually, in 1968, the only national political party which had a specific plank in its platform devoted to "Science and Technology" was the American Party of George Corley Wallace.

Modern science is absolutely and entirely the product of Western Civilization. Every other so-called Great Civilization stopped at the slave and rowboat stage of technology.

A true devotee of Western Civilization, a true conservative, is pro-science. Yes, science can get out of hand. But does anybody believe these so-called "ethicists" are going to have anything to do with reigning in the real dangers we face? Quite the opposite.

Instead of worrying about the real problems the new technology presents, we provide new jobs for leftist bureaucrats.

When cloning first occurred, we had silly arguments about whether evil rich people should be allowed to clone endless replicates of themselves. Meanwhile, the real technology continues on, while we hide behind fashionable college professors.

If you are going to seriously discuss any dangers in the advancement of science, you have to get beyond a People Magazine level of discussion.

There is no institutional substitute for intelligence.

By the same token, no matter how many slogans they repeat about being progressive, the political left always slips back into its natural enmity to any kind of productive endeavor. This makes the uniquely science-based culture of Western Civilization a special target of the left.