(This is the third part of a three-part article. Part I is here; Part II is here.)
The third democide by false morality differs from the Stalin and Carson democides in that, unlike its precursors, it was not a simple consequence of a false morality held my millions. Stalin headed a totalitarian regime whose main claim to popular legitimacy was enforcement of the traditional, originally Christian altruist false morality of Russia and Europe. Carson spawned a new, equally anti-human ideology and false morality that did not begin its toll of democide until after it had gained millions of adherents.
The third of the modern democides by false morality started out without a constituency and without anything resembling ideological conviction. It was - and is - mass murder of tens of millions of individuals, originating not from enforcement of false principles but from a false embrace of pseudo-principles, driven not by conviction, but by simple (and simple-minded) opportunism in the service of political power-seeking.
Dick Armey's world-wide de-facto prohibition against medical research into cloning-based organ replacement technology is not a case of political power in the service of false morality, but of false morality in the service of one politician's otherwise unprincipled pursuit of political power.
The first successful organ transplant, a kidney transplant between identical twins, was performed in 1954. It was successful because there is no immune rejection between genetically identical twins. Transplants between individuals who are not genetically identical always relied, and still rely, on chemical suppression of the recipient's immune system, leaving the patient at severe risk of premature death from diseases that someone with a healthy immune would have been protected against.
Genetically compatible replacement organs can be grown artificially, in a decorticated fetus created by replacing the nucleus of a newly fertilized human egg with the nucleus of a somatic cell from the patient. Once the first mammal, a mouse, was cloned in 1986, the combination of somatic cell nuclear transfer with subsequent organ transplantation has been the obvious least-effort technology whose development would essentially end the threat of organ failure as a cause of death in the developed world. Fetal transplantation technology has been routinely used, since at least 2004, in replacement of small organs such as the retina of the eye. All that remains for the complete organ replacement technology to become practical, is experience with growing an actual decorticated fetus cloned from a prospective patient. There are no objective ethical or scientific obstacles to the development of this technology - only political ones.
The moral aspects of cloning have been sufficiently addressed in several articles by Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute, especially his "Cloning is Moral," which specifically addressed the characterization of this technology as "growing human beings for spare body parts." To supplement the moral perspective, here is a rough estimate of the number of avoidable deaths that result from each year of delay in the development of cloning-based organ replacement technology:
In 2002 - the most recent year for which government statistics were available when I first wrote on this topic - 696,400 Americans died of heart failure, 124,770 of chronic lung failure, 73,247 of diabetes, 40,801 of kidney failure and 27,247 of liver failure. The total for these five is 762,465 deaths per year in the United States, out of a population of about 300 million. Half of the world's population, about 3 billion -- ten times the population of the United States -- live in countries advanced enough to use therapeutic cloning and fetal organ transplant technology if it were legal. The proportional estimate of death from failure of one of the above 5 major organs -- in advanced countries only -- is about 7.6 million. If only half of those deaths could be eventually prevented by application of cloning and fetal organ transplant technologies, then every year of delay in the development of those technologies results in 3.8 million preventable deaths.
Given its obvious usefulness for saving millions of lives, the prospect of cloning-based organ replacement technology was something that Americans who understood its potential, including American Christians, generally favored, from the first mouse cloning of 1986 onward. Cloning is an important - and generally benevolent - part of the projected technological context of the future society envisioned by J. Neil Schulman, a recent convert to Christianity, in "The Rainbow Cadenza," his 1986 futuristic novel on the theme of Original Sin. Toward the end of the novel, the protagonist is trying to have her mother, in stasis as a result of organ failure, revived by cloning. It is the protagonist's sister, Judge Vera, the most cruel and generally evil character in the book, who then voices the book's only objection to cloning: "I was supposed to cut out a baby's brain to bring her back?" Tellingly, the perversely anti-technology Judge Vera is a Wiccan. The book's Christians, the author's proxies, have no problem with restoring failed and amputated organs with cloning-based technology. Indeed, until Dick Armey's anti-cloning campaign in the late 1990s, no American would have associated opposition to cloning-based technologies with anyone other than the American Left's marginal anti-technology, anti-Western-Civilization fringe.
Dick Armey, an economics professor at North Texas State University, was elected to Congress in 1984, eventually becoming the leader of so-called "Economic Conservatives" in the Republican Party. In 1994 he collaborated with Newt Gingrich, the leader of the "Social Conservative" faction, in drafting the "Contract with America," which was credited with bringing about the Republican victory in that year's elections. In 1995 Gingrich became Speaker and Armey Majority Leader in the House of Representatives.
After the election, the Social Conservative faction expected the Republican majority in Congress to "deliver" on its key issues: immigration, abortion, and homosexuals. Until that time, Armey, himself a Bible Christian and a congregant of a Bible Church, had counted on, and had received, the support of Social Conservatives in his district. But that district also had many voters with friends and relatives among legal and illegal immigrants, and a university town with predictably libertarian attitudes on abortion and on the rights of Gays and Lesbians. Moreover, as an empirical social scientist of some competence, Armey understood that the three top issues of the Social Conservatives had no traction with the electorate. A genuine effort on those issues would cost him his seat, and could well lead to the loss of a Republican majority in Congress.
This left Armey in search of issues on which he could "deliver" to the Social Conservatives and the Religious right, without alienating his district's voters from his own candidacy, or the national electorate from the Republican party. Back in 1989, Armey thought that he had found one such issue in National Endowment for the Arts grants to Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, but the NEA backed down without a fight. In 1995 Armey was at a loss. And then came 1996, the year of Dolly the sheep.
Dolly was the first large mammal - not a mere mouse - cloned by somatic cell nuclear transfer. The path to a cloned human fetus was clear. The anti-technology left, including some among Armey's university town constituents, were on fire. Interestingly, now that medical cloning had come closer to imminent reality, its compatibility with Christian morals started to be debated. A part of that debate was an editorial by one Gino Concetti in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, calling for a ban on human cloning: "A person has the right to be born in a human way and not in the laboratory." Concetti was a working journalist and an ordinary priest, not a philosopher or a theologian or a member of the Curia, and a newspaper editorial was far from an authoritative statement of Catholic Doctrine. But the Washington Post, noting the "semiofficial" reputation of the paper that Concetti's editorial appeared in, headlined a story in its February 27, 1997 edition "Vatican Calls For Ban on Human Cloning."
Dick Armey had his issue.
Contemporary Religious Right Protestants in America are mostly Pragmatist and anti-intellectual. When they need doctrine, they turn to the Catholic Church; the Religious Right's men on the Supreme Court are, to a man, Catholics. Concetti's editorial gave Armey a cause on which, through collaboration with the anti-technology Left in Congress and in both district and national electorates, he had a pragmatic chance to win ("deliver") on an issue that, he may have thought, the Religious Right would care about.
From his position as House Majority Leader, Armey led the formation of a formidable anti-cloning lobby. It was the first lasting political coalition between the theocratic "Right" of James Dobson and the anti-technology Left of Jeremy Rifkin, whose followers and allies came to dominate Clinton's National Bioethics Advisory Commission. By March 1997, political pressure from this unprecedented coalition led President Clinton to sign an executive order banning research on medical cloning in any institution receiving US federal funds, or any organization or enterprise working under contracts with the US government. Clinton's ban effectively terminated any possibility of cloning research at any formal institution, from colleges that enroll students with government-guaranteed education loans, to medical practices treating Medicaid or Medicare patients, to medical drug and technology companies with Medicare contracts. This effectively outflanked Armey, who was left to legislate a more formal legal ban against something that in practice could not take place in America any more.
Armey went ahead, and in January 1998 submitted to the House a permanent ban on cloning humans in the United States. Armey's bill was announced at a news conference with representatives of the Christian Coalition, Dobson's Family Research Council and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Jeremy Rifkin simultaneously announced a symmetrical anti-cloning initiative from the Left, at first informal but eventually, when Armey's initiative stalled, producing a statement signed by "64 of the nation's leading progressive policy leaders, academics and activists" in support of Armey's legislation. Under the Senate version of Armey's bill, introduced by Senator Bill Frist, a scientist convicted of human cloning would face up to 10 years in prison.
And then things began to fall apart for Armey. Congressional Democrats, seeing Armey's legislation as a blatant attempt to wrest credit for a cloning ban away from President Clinton, whose executive order had already produced an effective ban, did not go along. Armey, on the strength of Jeremy Rifkin's support, had counted on the support of Congressional "progressives." He didn't get it. And in the Senate, Senator McCain, who saw in biotechnology, including medical cloning, a hope for reversing the disabilities he had suffered from North Vietnamese torture, organized enough resistance to stop Frist's bill. And thus Armey's hope of "delivering" a legislative result to Dobson and the Theocratic Right, a hope for which he was willing to kill millions - some 3.8 million per year of delay in the development of medical cloning - came to naught.
Armey continued to re-introduce his legislation banning all human cloning after each congressional election. After 2001, when Jeremy Rifkin's Foundation on Economic Trends published a statement from 64 prominent anti-technology Leftists in support of Armey's legislation, anti-technology congressional leftists rallied to Armey's bill, which passed twice in the House of Representatives, only to be blocked by McCain's efforts in the Senate. Given the threat that such legislation could pass at any time, thus wiping out all previous investment in cloning-based technologies, private investment predictably stopped. Some work on cloning was included in State-level stem cell initiatives, but the State-level legislation authorizing these initiatives mandated that any cloned embryos be used only to extract stem cells, and in any case destroyed within 10 days, thus eliminating the possibility of developing organ-replacement procedures.
With the election of a Republican president in 2000, Armey's effort acquired a world-wide dimension. George W. Bush aligned his presidency with the theocratic wing of the Republican Party, and while the Constitution limited how far his theocratic agenda could be taken inside the country, as President he felt entitled to conduct the foreign policy of the United States pretty much as he pleased. The legislatures of countries striving to maintain friendly relations with the United States found themselves under pressure to enact their versions of Armey's bill domestically, and to join Bush's push for an international treaty to ban cloning worldwide, even while in the United States a formal ban of this kind was replaced with comprehensive funding restrictions, regulatory directives, and, to back it up and intimidate potential private investors, the threat of Armey's legislation.
The reader is invited to refer to a lengthy scholarly article by Thomas Banchoff for a detailed study of the great theocratic power grab for a global ban on medical cloning. In brief, there was no consensus among the various Christian and Islamic sects about the morality of cloning; Jewish religious authorities were unanimously, even among the most Orthodox, supportive of cloning, declaring it to be no less than a religious obligation when done to save a fully developed human life (while also mandating early decortication of fetuses cloned for medical applications, "ensuring that the embryos used in this research are not brought to a point which constitutes human-hood.")
Countries with tax-supported, politically influential Catholic and Evangelical churches (such as Costa Rica and Germany) were, as would be expected, among the first to ban all human cloning in their national legislation, and to advocate a global ban through a UN-sponsored international treaty. Such countries, however, represented only a small fraction of the population of the world, and they would not have stepped forward to urge such a global treaty without the initiative of a trio of unusual allies: The United States (actually the administration of President George W. Bush,) the Vatican, and Saudi Arabia.
For the Vatican cloning was always a minor issue, minuscule in comparison with abortion, or with equal marriage for same-sex couples. But was also, as it was for Dick Armey, an issue with which they hoped to score deliverables. If a global treaty to ban cloning were successful, it would also establish a global precedent for an international regime based on religious rules rather than purported concern for the national interests of participating countries. Such a precedent would open the door to global bans on other supposedly "immoral" human action; abortion or equal marriage could then be next.
As for Saudi Arabia, its advocacy for a cloning ban was expected to be particularly effective in the Islamic world, as Saudi Arabia was both the site of Islam's two most holy pilgrimage destinations, and the model of strict enforcement of Islamic religious law. Saudi Arabia was an absolute monarchy, its royal family having close business, political and personal ties with President Bush, and more-or-less completely dependent on the United States commercially, politically and militarily. Kuwait, politically and militarily dependent on the United States for defense against Iraq, joined Saudi Arabia on Bush's side.
The Bush administration deployed every instrument of pressure it could to create an anti-cloning majority at the UN. That majority was largely composed of small countries that depended for their existence on military, political or economic support of the United States. This majority also included those Islamic countries that depended on Saudi Arabia or Kuwait for cheap oil and handouts. It also included Israel. Israelis, whether religious or secular, held (and still hold) an unusually positive view of science, technology, and especially of medical technologies, such as cloning, that promise to be useful in the defense of human life. In medical research and invention Israel was already a world leader, on par with the United States and Switzerland. But Israel's political leaders were (and still are) in the grasp of an expensive national-collectivist ideology that made them abjectly dependent on American appropriations, which could only originate in the US House of Representatives, which was firmly under the control of Dick Armey. And so Israel passed domestic anti-cloning legislation, and joined the US-Vatican-Saudi-led anti-cloning side at the United Nations.
On the opposite side was an equally ad hoc alliance of independent countries with secular majorities or secular constitutions, such as Great Britain, Turkey, and South Korea; the more secular countries of Europe; and countries determined to spite President Bush: China, Russia, and of course Iran. It was the ultimate inversion of sense: United States and Israel on the side of theocratic mass murder; Iran on the side of technology and of the freedom of science.
Ultimately, the world was saved from the prospect of a global ban on cloning by the fact that even the most abject of diplomats is not without some concern for the continuation of his own life. And so the ban was changed into a non-binding resolution that called on member states "to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life." They agreed to disagree, of course, on the exact meaning of "inasmuch" in that declaration. But the chilling effects of Bush's and Armey's efforts on investment in cloning technologies continues, and so do the regulatory barriers that stand in the way of research on medical cloning in the United States, and legislated barriers abroad.
As of 2009, medical research into cloning-based organ-replacement technologies has been at a standstill since 1998. With 3.8 million avoidable deaths for every year of delay in the development of these technologies, the death toll to date is close to 42 million, rivaling the number of victims of Rachel Carson, and close to the number murdered by Stalin and Hitler together. And what good did this exercise in mass murder do for Dick Armey?
James Dobson, who sponsored the press conference that announced Armey's legislation to the world, wanted a visible triumph of Faith. With both a legislative ban in the United States having no hope of becoming law, and a global anti-cloning treaty demoted to a non-binding declaration, a mere chilling effect was not the triumph of Faith that Dobson wanted, even if it was still killing 3.8 million people a year. And with only peripheral action in Congress on Dobson's big issues - on abortion and on equal marriage for Gays - the public perception of Dobson having enough Washington pull to be worth paying off was vanishing. As Armey was to write later, "As Majority Leader, I remember vividly a meeting with the House leadership where Dobson scolded us for having failed to 'deliver' for Christian conservatives, that we owed our majority to him, and that he had the power to take our jobs back. This offended me, and I told him so."
Offended or not, Armey practically conceded that Dobson had the power to "take Armey's job back" by resigning from Congress in 2002. Having sat on the fence between Republican Theocrats and Republican Pragmatists through his tenure in Congress, in retirement Armey began to identify explicitly with the Pragmatists. The name of Armey's political organization, "FreedomWorks," is an explicit riff on the Pragmatist anti-principle, "whatever works." Armed with the anti-principle of having no principles of his own, Armey has been known to talk about "separation of Church and State" as though he had not been theocracy's standard bearer when he advocated his cloning ban, and murdered some 40 million people by the threat of this ban, only a few years before.
A Personal Postscript
As recently as 1997, I had a reasonable hope of living long enough for cloning-based organ-replacement technology to become available - and then of going on tolive practically forever. After 11 years of delay, and the prospect of more delay to come, that hope is no longer reasonable. Like the millions of Ukrainians who lost their lives because Stalin's false morality prohibited trade in food, and like the millions of Africans who lost their lives because Rachel Carson's false morality prohibited spraying mosquito swamps with DDT, I am one of millions who are losing our lives because Dick Armey's false morality barred the imminent development of cloning-based organ replacement technologies.
Of course Dick Armey, like Joe Stalin and Rachel Carson, didn't do it alone. Dick Armey's unique contribution was to yoke together an unprecedented (and unlikely) coalition of anti-science, anti-reason, and anti-technology activists spanning the spectrum from James Dobson to Jeremy Rifkin. Armey eventually lost the support of some of his former collaborators, but he is still in the coalition business. Armey's new coalition - the Tea Party movement, sponsored and organized by Armey's FreedomWorks - embraces everyone who despises the Obama program. It is of course preposterous to think that Objectivists, who oppose ObamaCare because it would enslave the providers of health care, and Theocrats, who oppose it because insurance companies that provide coverage for abortion would not be excluded from selling policies under the proposed Federal mandate, have something (or anything) in common. Dick Armey is counting on his new coalition to take him to the White House in 2012. The good news is that by 2012 Armey will be older than any first-time presidential candidate in history. And by then, he may well be dead of organ failure. Or, more accurately, of suicide by false morality - and by lack of principle.