Cloning and the Moral Imagination

One of the biggest problems we face in the battle over cloning is that our opponents' point of view is so limited. They argue passionately for the rights of the sick and disabled to find cures for their diseases. But they never consider the issue from any other perspective. They certainly never think of it from the perspective of the people whose body parts might one day be used to help save others. Nor do they consider that in helping victims of illness, they might create a whole new class of victims: victims of health care. In other words, many of our scientists, politicians, and lobbyists are seriously lacking in what's sometimes called the "moral imagination." Fortunately, there are some people who still have this quality -- including some of our best fiction writers. Kazuo Ishiguro is one of those writers. You've probably heard of his most famous book, The Remains of the Day, which was adapted into a successful movie. Ishiguro's new novel is winning similar acclaim, and there are plans to make it into a movie as well. This book presents the cloning issue in a new and troubling light, to readers who may never have seen it that way before. The new book is called Never Let Me Go, narrated by a young woman named Kathy, who looks back over her experiences at an English boarding school. In the beginning, her story is just like that of any other schoolgirl, but soon, disturbing details begin to leak out. It becomes clear that Kathy and her schoolmates are different from the rest of the world. Finally -- forgive me for giving this much away, but it's essential to my point -- we realize that the students are clones created to help provide cures for other peoples' diseases. Their fate was decided before they were born. As you can imagine, it's a bleak story. Part of that bleakness comes from the fact that Kathy and her friends are normal in so many ways. And while strange things happen to them and some people fear them, they're still human beings with feelings of love, hate, jealousy, and fear. Their greatest struggle is that they know what will probably happen to them, that they will be killed to provide body parts for others. That struggle is what makes the book so moving and memorable. And it makes the cloning issue real and chilling. I don't know what Ishiguro's personal beliefs are, but in this book, he shows a deep understanding of human nature. He helps us understand what life might be like for this victimized group. He shows the terrible lengths to which people would go to preserve their own health and happiness. This is a book reminiscent of Jonathan Swift's classic "A Modest Proposal," a fictional account of cannibalizing Irish children, which affected the debate over Ireland. I recommend this book for adults and older teens (there's some material here that is not suitable for younger children), and I encourage you to share it with people who don't fully understand the cloning issue. Never Let Me Go is a powerful work of art that, by impacting the imagination, reaches us at the deepest level, which is often more powerful than the best scientific and political arguments.


Chuck Colson


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