A Reply to Rifkin

By Barglow, Raymond | Tikkun, July/August 2002 | Go to article overview

A Reply to Rifkin


Barglow, Raymond, Tikkun


In his essay, "Why I Oppose Human Cloning," Jeremy Rifkin proposes that his view is widely shared within the progressive community: "many of us in the progressive Left are equally opposed to both therapeutic and full birth cloning.... Earlier this year, sixty-seven leading progressives lent their support to legislation that would outlaw therapeutic and full birth cloning. The signatories of the anti-cloning petition included many of the best-known intellectuals and activists in left circles today." In fact, the petition came from Mr. Rifkin himself (the document became known as "the Rifkin petition"), and two of the petition's signers, Stanley Aronowtiz and Quentin Young, have since withdrawn their support from the petition.

Some of Jeremy Rifkin's criticisms of reproductive cloning are well taken; I do not have the space here to discuss his argument in detail. But his campaign against therapeutic cloning (known by scientists as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, or SCNT, which is explained below) is not equally justified.

In the domain of biomedicine, progressives can readily identify with Rifkin's opposition to "efforts to reduce human life and its various parts and processes to the status of mere research tools, manufactured products, and utilities." But despite his assertions to the contrary, few among us can see the link he assumes between the research cloning of embryonic stems cells for therapeutic purposes and the larger doomsday scenario that he lays out. The stem cell issue-which is receiving a lot of attention from the national media-has provided Rifkin with a wedge for introducing his anti-biotechnology agenda to a wide audience at the cost of neglecting the specific intentions and prospects of scientists working with embryonic stem cells to better understand disease processes and to develop new therapies based on that understanding.

In its campaign to discredit embryonic stem cell research, the religious right has blurred the differences between therapeutic and reproductive cloning, creating in the popular imagination nightmare visions of cloned babies born into brave new worlds (evoked as well in popular entertainment like the movie Attack of the Clones). But therapeutic cloning provides scant supplies for these science fiction scenarios. This research is already subject to federal regulation, does not involve significant health risks to cell donors, does not alter existing genomes, and takes place in a laboratory setting with a handful of embryonic stem cells that will not be implanted in a womb.

Our task as progressives should be to expose the way that anti-abortion spokespersons twist the facts about this kind of research. Instead, Rifkin has allied himself with these very forces. He rightly points out that biomedical research needs careful ethical evaluation. And in his book The Biotech Century, he elaborated a fairly reasonable dialectical approach to such research, recognizing its enormous potential for good, while pointing out also the dangers. But now his blanket opposition to the cloning of human embryos abandons that balance in favor of dubious assumptions and misleading arguments. Banning therapeutic cloning would obstruct research paths that could lead to effective remedies for major illnesses such as childhood leukemia, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease.

Rifkin argues that "By concentrating research almost exclusively on magic bullets in the form of gene replacements, the medical community forecloses the less invasive option of prevention...." This is erroneous on two counts. First, it overlooks what may be the most valuable result of research cloning: A better understanding of disease processes. Researchers can take a diseased cell from an adult (the disease in question could be cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, or another disease in which genetic inheritance or mutation plays a role) and use embryonic cloning to create a stem cell line from it. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Reply to Rifkin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.