Stem Cells

[recorded for NPR “Morning Edition” December 2003; postponed to wait for a “news hook,” eventually lost in a system crash]When reports of human cloning first began appearing in the news, a lot of us had the initial reaction, “You're kidding, right?” They weren't kidding. This bizarre field of medical research is rarin' to go. We don't have much time to consider the question: should it? The idea of a full-grown human clone is creepy enough, but what about cloning for medical purposes--making an embryo with a patient's cells, then killing it to use in the patient's treatment? Even here we know instinctively that something's wrong. We know it isn't right to mix up a baby in a test tube and then, when it starts growing, chop it up for medicine. It isn't right to make medicine out of people.

The Lessons of Roe

[National Review Online, January 22, 2003] I was what the sociologists call an “early adopter” of feminism. Soon after arriving at college, in 1970, I knew that it was the religion for me. I had discarded the religion I grew up with, Christianity, as an insultingly simpleminded thing, but feminism filled the gap. Like a religion it offered a complete philosophical worldview, one that displayed me as victim in the center, a feature with immeasurable appeal to a female teenager. Feminism had its own gnostic analysis of reality, by which everything in existence was decoded to be about the oppression of women; it had sacred books, a secret vocabulary, and congregational gatherings for the purpose of consciousness-raising.

Roe v Wade 30th Anniversary

[NPR, “Morning Edition,” January 22, 2003] Thirty years ago, when I was an idealistic college student, I volunteered at a feminist newspaper called “off our backs.” The Roe v Wade decision happened the first month I worked there. Our editorial said it didn't go far enough, because Roe requires a woman to have medical reason for abortion in the third trimester. I thought abortion rights were going to liberate women.

Abortion in the Tides of Culture

[First Things, December 2002] Where did the pro-life movement go? A half-dozen years ago movement activists were everywhere, drafting statements, holding press conferences, staring fixedly into the blind lens of a remote-studio TV camera. But a tide of silence has gradually come in. Abortion, which had defined “hot issue” for our time, mysteriously cooled off. Magazine cover stories have moved on to other topics; college students no longer crowd into abortion debates.

Of Stem Cells & Starry Nights

[Again, December 2001] You must think of something immense: a star standing still in the indigo sky, reigning like the sun. It casts back darkness and illuminates even the corners of the cattleyard, so that all that is humble, dirty and scuffed is revealed. The star waits. Three kings come into the pool of its light, and find there a greater King, greater than any blazing star. Now you must think of something very small: in a cold, dark place there are miniature children suspended in frost, snow babies, unmoving and unbreathing.

Mark Pickup

[Citizen, October 2001] Here’s the problem. The audience, a couple of hundred doctors and nurses, are clustered along conference tables and in rows of chairs all around the room, waiting for the next speaker. But he’s still a good twenty feet from the podium. Between him and that microphone, up on a raised dais, there’s a short flight of stairs. And that’s the problem.

Three Bad Ideas for Women

Few book titles have had the sticking power of Richard Weaver’s “Ideas Have Consequences.” Even people who’ve never read it find the blunt title instantly compelling. Weaver’s thesis was that the ideas that we absorb about the world, about the way things are or should be, inevitably direct our actions. Though the book was published in 1948, before many current bizarre ideas had fully emerged, the thesis is an eternal one. It sets people to wondering which ideas were the seeds that sprouted our present mess, and which new ideas might be helping us out of it — or further in.

Monkey Can, Monkey Do?

[Beliefnet, May 29, 2001] It's got the head of a monkey and the body of a monkey. But not the same monkey. You probably don't want to hear any more details of this Mondo Bizarro medical news item. According to pioneering scientist Robert White, the mix-and-match creature he fabricated in a 1970's experiment survived for “many days.” This experiment raised hopes, he told the BBC in an interview last month, because “People are dying today who, if they had body transplants, ...would remain alive.”

Moment of Silence

[Dallas Morning News, March 10, 2001] Listen. Do you hear the turmoil simmering over the nations’ most painfully divisive issue? Do you hear protesters and counter-protesters clashing in the streets? Do you hear opposing sides contending in a battle of rhetoric and passionate will? Me neither. Pretty quiet out there. Once there were magazine covers devoted to the abortion debate, panels earnestly arguing on TV, politicians sweating out meticulously vacant sound bites.