Embryo: A Defense of Human Life

by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen

VOICE: The Glenn Beck program presents more truth behind America’s march to socialism.

GLENN: That is right. We’re actually, we’re actually going to kind of go off the beaten path here. I mean, I know I like the sound of the boots and everything, but I want to go off the beaten path just a little bit. I want to bring in Professor Robert George and talk a little bit about the fixing science in her seat again, as Barack Obama stated during his inaugural address, putting science right back on the top of the food chain, which is always a spooky thing. Robert George is a professor at Princeton University and can comment a little bit on a couple of items, what’s happening in Connecticut with the Catholic church and also stem cell research, the ban of federal money being lifted yesterday by Barack Obama. And Professor George, you actually say that this is much worse than what it appears on the surface. Why?

PROFESSOR GEORGE: Oh, yes, that’s exactly right, Glenn. The expectation was, of course, because he promised to do it is that Barack Obama would lift President Bush’s restrictions on the funding of embryo-destructive research in the case of embryos that were left over in in vitro fertilization, in clinics in a frozen state and would likely not be used by their parents for another pregnancy. The theory is that these embryos are likely to die anyway and therefore good use could be made of them. I never bought that argument, but that was the argument. An awful lot of people did buy it. But Obama went so much farther than that. What he did in his executive order yesterday was open the door to the creation of embryos, whether by cloning or by other technologies, specifically for research in which they would be killed, creating new human life. And all an embryo is, a human embryo is an early stage of life. You and I were once embryos as we were adolescents and children. It’s just a stage of development. So this opens the door for human beings for research in which they are destroyed and that’s just contrary to the basic principles not only of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition but of the American tradition that says each of us as human beings throughout our lives has dignity and worth and cannot be reduced to the mere status of an object or disposable research material.

GLENN: The guy who started embryonic stem cell research, I heard a quote from him yesterday, said if you haven’t — if this whole concept of research on embryos hasn’t given you pause, then you haven’t thought about it enough.

PROFESSOR GEORGE: Oh, yes, that’s Jamie Thompson you are quoting who was the first person to isolate human embryonic stem cells. He is a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin. And he said that in explaining why he had done path-breaking work, very important pioneering work to create alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells, pluripotent just means like embryonic stem cells, cells that are able to be manipulated to become any sort of cell tissue so they would be very useful in regenerative medicine if all things work out. But Thompson was explaining why he went down another path and created a technology for which he’s likely to win the Nobel Prize called induced pluripotent stem cells which can be created without using embryos or destroying embryos or killing embryos. So yes, even somebody like Thompson recognizes that there’s a huge ethical issue here. But President Obama’s just swept past it, just swept past it.

By the way, there was something I think very disturbing about the president’s speech yesterday. He said that he was opposed to reproductive cloning, and a lot of people took that to mean that the president was against cloning in general. But he’s not. In fact, he’s not against cloning at all. He’s in favor of using cloning technology to create new human embryos, human beings that would be destroyed in research. What he’s opposed to is permitting those embryos to live. By reproductive cloning, he just means a ban on implantation once the cloning is complete, the human embryo is created and it’s there. He wants them to be used in research and destroyed but not implanted. That’s not opposition to cloning.

GLENN: I tell you, it’s so disturbing. I’m getting a lot of heat today because yesterday on television I talked about this and I said, you know, it was the progressives and the scientists that brought us eugenics. The idea that science — if evolution is true, then science should be able to help it along, and it was the guys in the white jackets. It was the scientists and the doctors that brought us the horrors of eugenics and it’s because —

PROFESSOR GEORGE: Glenn, can I fill you in a little bit? Because you are absolutely right. Let me tell you a little bit of the history. It’s fascinating. Those guys in white coats were not even during the Nazi period. These weren’t guys working for the Nazis. This was years before the Nazis during the Weimar Republic.

GLENN: It was here.

PROFESSOR GEORGE: When progressive, as they were then called, doctors and lawyers and others, decided that there were some lives unworthy of life. And two scholars, a guy named Bending and a guy named Hoka (ph) who were not Nazis who were opposed to the Nazi federy and so forth, they saw them as really sort of lower class thugs. But these two guys, a law professor and a medical professor, wrote a book called Lebens unwürdig von Leben, life unworthy of life which was a roadmap for taking the life destroying the lives of retarded people, people regarded as inferior because of their low intelligence or physical impairment or so forth. That was the roadmap. It was before the Nazis. You are 100% right.

GLENN: And a lot of this stuff, I mean, started here originally, did it not? Didn’t some of the original thinking —

PROFESSOR GEORGE: Well, it didn’t just begin in Germany. It’s certainly true that there was a strong eugenics here among the elite, among the progressive, the people who regarded themselves as the forward thinkers. Just the name, one figure from my own field of philosophy of law, Oliver Wendell Holmes, the great American jurist and philosopher and eventually Supreme Court justice who was with the program entirely of eugenics before the Nazis gave it a bad name. So it was here in America just as it was in Germany.

GLENN: So here’s what I’m afraid of and, you know, call me crazy, but whenever you unplug from ethics and you put science at the top and then you surround it with a bunch of progressive elitists, that usually doesn’t spell, you know, spell out anything that’s good.

PROFESSOR GEORGE: It does not spell out the word human dignity, or the words human dignity. And that’s what we should be concerned about. Another thing that was so disturbing, Glenn, about President Obama’s remarks yesterday, he depicted this debate as a question of science against ethics. It’s not a question of science against ethics. It’s a question of whether we will have ethical science or unethical science. Of course, he doesn’t use the term "Ethics" in his depiction. He accuses his opponents of doing politics or ideology. So it’s science against politics or science against ideology. But the real question is are we going to do science in an ethically upright way that respects the dignity of all human beings, respects the fundamental worth, the basic human rights of all members of the human family. Are we going to adopt war or are we going to adopt the utilitarian ethic that decides killing some human beings or human beings in some stages of development in the hope to help others is okay. I know where I come out on that and it’s certainly not on Barack Obama’s side.

GLENN: Do you know the story of, what is it, I’m trying to remember his name, Baby Nos or Noch?

PROFESSOR GEORGE: Noah, Noah. In fact, I begin my book Embryo which I coauthored with Christopher Tollefsen who is a wonderful professor at University of South Carolina. That’s not the biblical figure, not the person we have in mind although he’s named for the biblical figure. Noah was a baby who was born 16 months after he was conceived. Now, you ask how could he have been born 16 months. Isn’t human gestation nine months. Well, Noah was conceived by in-vitro fertilization. He was stored away as a tiny embryo in a clinic, in a frozen condition when Hurricane Katrina hit. And some rescuers, some guys in boats, policemen and firemen in boats, knowing that those embryos were stored away in the flood and that the electricity was going out and they would all die actually took risks to themselves to rescue those embryos, and one of those embryos was later implanted in his mother’s womb, Noah, and he was brought to birth and he’s a healthy baby boy today. Now, when everyone thinks of in vitro fertilization, there’s a big controversy and difference of opinion on morals about in vitro at all. The reality shows that that baby, Noah, was the same human being 16 months before he was born as when he was born. We don’t need to discard or throw away embryos. We certainly shouldn’t create embryos in order to be killed in biomedical research. We should respect all human life. And by the way, Glenn, there are good alternatives. We don’t need to do this to advance our scientific goals in biomedical science.

GLENN: All right. I want to take a quick break with you and I want to come back. There’s something going on and I’m just assuming that you are aware of it, in Connecticut, where the state is trying to get in and cross the line of church and state and try to tell the Catholic church exactly how they can run their operation which, if I’m not mistaken, you know better than I do, I thought we had a constitutional amendment that would stop things like this but we’ll talk about that here coming up in just a second.

(OUT 9:45)

VOICE: And now another letter from Glenn Beck.

GLENN: Dear American people, babies are annoying. Yeah, I know. They’re cute and everything, but they cry and they cry and cry and then they scream and cry some more and then they poop. But do you think maybe we could avoid the harvesting babies for their organs or stem cells or cloned bodies? I mean, am I missing something? Is there something really truly appealing about ripping out a baby’s liver and the cells that I’m missing? Let me know. Love, Glenn.

VOICE: That was another wonderful letter from Glenn Beck.

GLENN: That’s all I’m wondering. Okay, let me go back to Professor Robert George from Princeton University, one of the great conservative minds in America today. And I want to talk to you a little bit about what’s happening in Connecticut. I am — and maybe I’m overblowing this, but it concerns me that once government gets a foot in the door in any church, we’re all in trouble. Can you explain what’s happening in Connecticut,


PROFESSOR GEORGE: Sure, and I can put it in context and I think make it perfectly understandable to your listeners. This is not a difficult case to fathom or understand. What you have are two Connecticut legislators. Let me name names. State senator Andrew McDonald and state representative Michael Lawlor who have introduced a bill that’s basically a blatantly unconstitutional, anticonstitutional attack on the Catholic church. It’s an effort to take control of the Catholic church away from the bishops and the clergy and place it into the hands of lay boards in each of the Catholic parishes or church communities. This is a grotesque intrusion of the state into the affairs of the church. It’s a violation of the First Amendment. I do not see how it can possibly withstand constitutional scrutiny. I would say at most it would get two votes to uphold it on the Supreme Court. Even the liberal members of the court for the most part are going to see this as what it is, a blatant attack on the freedom of the church and a violation of the First Amendment.

GLENN: So for —


GLENN: Should we not worry about it then?

PROFESSOR GEORGE: Oh, yeah, you should worry about it. I’m going to put it in context and you’ll see it’s part of a larger project here on the cultural left. Why do you think these two guys have introduced this bill, why this attack on the Catholic church? Think about it in context. Any church that has opposed the redefinition of marriage; that is, to change marriage from being the conjugal union of man and woman, husband and wife to include same-sex marriage or perhaps other forms of sexual union, any church that has opposed that has come under attack by the proponents of redefinition of marriage. We’ve seen it with the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormon church, going all the way to invasions of church property and desecrations of churches. We’ve seen it in attacks against evangelical churches. And make no mistake about it: The two legislators who are responsible for this bill are doing it in the retaliation for the church’s opposition to the redefinition of marriage. This is all about marriage, sexual morality and nothing else.

GLENN: Professor George, I’ve only got about 45 seconds. I don’t know if you can answer this. Isn’t the — wasn’t the death of the church and faith in Europe really when it became politicized, when the church first — when the government first got their foot into the door, once you start doing that, and it seems to me that between this action, the reduction of charitable deductions for income tax, I mean, it seems to me that they’re going to try to get their political correct agenda into everybody’s churches.

PROFESSOR GEORGE: You know, Glenn, socialism is sometimes depicted as an attack on individual freedom and it is that, but that only tells part of the story. More centrally in a way is the attack of socialism on the institutions of civil society; that is, families, churches, other private associations, organizations such as the Boy Scout. What Father Richard John Neuhaus, the late Catholic priest theologian called the mediating structures, the authority structures that provide a buffer between the individual and the state, the state wants to remove them from the scene, weaken them so that there’s a direct imposition on the individual. You see this in the communist countries. The first thing they do is weaken the church. They try to corrupt the church.

GLENN: Okay. Robert George, Princeton University, thank you very much. We’ll talk again, sir. Bye-bye.

(OUT 9:53)