Human Exceptionalism

The “Case of the Chilled Witness”

My point about academic opponents of all human cloning being threatened with career ramifications if they support abolitionist bills, is being discussed in the National Review’s blog, The Corner. Here is a specific example from The Corner of this anti-democratic and anti-academic freedom phenomenon:


From Shawn Mitchell, a member of the Colorado state senate:

As a (then) Colorado State Representative, I sponsored a bill to ban so-called therapeutic human cloning, in 2001 if I remember correctly.

A dean of the Department of Natural Sciences from a local university campus agreed, to my surprise, to testify in favor of the bill. She agreed with most the conservative critique of human cloning: the science isn’t there; the promises are overblown; adult stem cells are providing therapies now; and even if it did work, creating human life to kill it for the benefit of others is morally and ethically problematic.

A day before the hearing on the bill, she apologetically called to say that she had been spoken to by university leaders, and she would be unable to testify. I don’t know what threats were made, only that an academic willing to speak out against cloning was silenced by the administration.

By the way, the story might be a little more interesting if you know the campus was part of the University of Colorado system, whose president just departed after failing to quell scandals ranging from the football sex and booze scandal to Ward Churchill’s anti-American rants. Suppressing youthful hedonism or leftist incitement is unthinkable but muzzling a dissenter to the scientific agenda is par for the course.

In case Mr. Stuttaford asks, I never publicly identified the dean. If she was unwilling to risk professional damage, I wouldn’t force her. I was grateful for her initial willingness and frustrated at the bullying that silenced her.”

This is a huge story. It might be tough to report because most of the chilled witnesses and professors don’t want their names out for fear of job ramifications. But it is a story that needs to be told because it reflects a growing intolerance on university campuses and within the science and bioethics establishments for heterodox views.