Is it just me, or have we become totally fixated with the issue of capital punishment? Save abortion, I can’t think of a single issue with more passionate advocates on each side. Waiting for the controversy over capital punishment to be resolved is like waiting for Godot.
What amazes me most about all of this passion and fervor is the fact that, on the grand scale of things, it really doesn’t make a lick of difference. Oh sure, it matters to the guy who gets the needle in his arm, and it’s an issue of concern to the families of his victims, but it doesn’t really touch the rest of us one way or the other.
Do proponents of the death penalty really think death is a worse punishment than life in prison? Have you seen the state of our prison system these days? These places are so purgatorial that Dante should be taking notes. I’d say that execution is a merciful and favorable alternative to being incarcerated with this mélange of Darwin’s elite. Any sensible person would rather be skewered to death by toothpicks.
The interests of justice aren’t perverted just because a murderer spends 40 years dying of dysentery rather than getting a shot of Liquid Plumber in his veins. Either way, the guy’s not going to be making the same mistake twice.
On the other hand, opponents of the death penalty make it seem like all we’ve ever done is execute innocent grandmothers. Of course, there are probably a significant amount of innocent people getting whacked each year by the state. But as I said before, the alternative to dying for something you didn’t do is spending the rest of your life as some 7-foot tall Neanderthal’s girlfriend.
Critics of the death penalty often claim that it’s a racist system, evidenced by the fact that African-Americans make up 12 percent of the general population but 55 percent of death row inmates in Texas. But men only make up 48 percent of the population and they consist of 98.5 percent of the death row population. If we’re going to point out the prejudices of the system, sexism seems like a much more plausible complaint.
I’ll admit that when you look at the numbers, it certainly looks like a racist system.
Congress and Human Cloning
Congress and Human Cloning
This year Congress may face several decisions that could help forge, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “the path to a truly humane future, in which man remains the master, not the product, of his technology” (Address to President Bush at Castel Gandolfo, July 23). The first and most immediately urgent of these decisions regards human cloning.
The Weldon/Stupak Human Cloning Prohibition Act, approved 18-to-11 by the House Judiciary Committee, is poised for a vote by the full House. It should be approved without delay. Some researchers have already announced that they are trying to produce a live-born child by cloning — despite an overwhelming scientific consensus that about 99% of new humans created by this method would die before birth, and the rare survivor would suffer from massive medical problems. The Weldon/Stupak bill addresses this looming tragedy at its source, by banning the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a new organism of the human species.
This bill is carefully crafted to address only this specific problem. It has no effect on in vitro fertilization or any other reproductive technology in current use, but deals only with cases of asexual reproduction which do not involve fertilization of egg by sperm. The bill explicitly exempts any use of cloning technology to produce animals, plants, DNA, tissues, or cells other than human embryos (including stem cells which are not themselves human embryos).
Proponents of cloning nonetheless argue that this bill somehow interferes with a procedure that is essential to stem cell research. Until now, of course, these same groups were insisting that embryonic stem cell research could be fully pursued using only “excess” embryos created by in vitro fertilization that “will be discarded anyway.” Now they say that mass production and destruction of cloned embryos to provide genetically matched stem cells will be needed to take stem cell research from the laboratory into the clinic.
While the cloning debate is now forcing such groups to admit that their earlier statements may not be true, their new claim is also open to serious question. The National Institutes of Health’s new report on the science of stem cells cites cloning as one way to prevent rejection of embryonic stem cells as foreign tissue, but cites other approaches as well — and expresses great uncertainty as to whether these cells will provoke a significant immune reaction even without such manipulations (NIH, Stem Cells: Scientific Progress and Future Research Directions, June 2001, pp.