Surprise, surprise. In the midst of the current controversy in Congress about whether to maintain President Bush's principle that it is unethical to create human life for the purpose of destroying it, Hollywood released a big-budget pro-life movie.
The movie, called "The Island," is an expensive sci-fi action thriller that reportedly cost about $120 million. Its powerful message against creating human life in a laboratory came through loud and clear despite the ingenious and noisy special effects.
"The Island" tells the story of a government-funded billion-dollar laboratory hidden in the Arizona desert in 2019 where scientists do cloning on a mass scale. They sell $5 million "insurance policies" to rich people who want to live forever by buying replacement body parts.
The scientists agree to follow ethical guidelines in their cloning, and falsely tell their customers that the clones are in a "vegetative state" unable to know or feel anything. But the scientists get better results by violating the guidelines and so they go to extraordinary lengths to keep secret the very existence of their adult clones as well as the whole operation.
Hundreds of clones are quarantined and kept obedient in a totally regulated underground compound by telling them that the entire United States is contaminated by a worldwide environmental catastrophe and that anyone who ventures outside will die. The clones are deliberately educated only to a 15-year-old mental level and, for entertainment, are allowed to read Dick and Jane primers.
(Dick and Jane books were written for 6-to-8-year-olds. Was this a side commentary that kids are now so illiterate that 15-year-olds are able to read only at an elementary school level?)
The scientists conduct lotteries in which the winner is told he wins release to an uncontaminated island paradise. In fact, the winner is taken to be killed after his body parts are surgically removed for sale.
The lab chief tries to justify his enterprise by claiming to seek a cure for leukemia, but that's bogus; killing has become his daily business. It is far more profitable to manufacture humans, harvest and sell their body parts, and then kill the clones.
Like the old westerns where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats, "The Island" conveniently clothes the good guys (the clones) in all white and the bad guys (the scientists) in all black. The scientists are Dr. Frankenstein villains.
The movie teaches the lesson that scientists allowed to engage in what is called therapeutic cloning cannot be trusted to stick to ethical procedures. As the movie's top scientist says, they think they have discovered the Holy Grail of Science and can play God with life, so they just create and destroy human life like laboratory products.
When the top scientist feels threatened because one clone unexpectedly develops human curiosity about what is going on, the scientist hires a professional hit man. When he discovers that human lives are being created and destroyed with no likelihood of saving anyone, even the hit man can't take it any more and refuses to do any more killing for the lab.
In April 2002, President Bush warned that cloning will lead to experimental human beings, "embryo farms," and "a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts and children are engineered to custom specifications." "The Island" dramatizes the truth of his prediction.
Director Michael Bay denies that "The Island" has a message, but he admits that the movie will "open discussion," and he poses this question: "Would you be selfish enough to take someone's life to live longer?"
Indeed, that question exposes the evil behind cloning, which is an essential step in the proposed embryonic stem cell therapies. Cloning involves the creation and destruction of innocent human life for utilitarian and very selfish purposes.
It defies all we know about human nature to believe that if embryonic stem cell research were allowed and financed, it would never be used for unethical purposes. We couldn't enforce such a prohibition even if we stationed a policeman in every laboratory.
It also doesn't make sense to proceed with experimentation on human life without first demonstrating success on animals.
The public is smarter than the politicians who appear to be bamboozled by amoral scientists, universities greedy for more billions of taxpayers' money, and profit-motivated enterprises that want the taxpayers to finance their research and development costs.
Last year's most critically acclaimed movie was "Million Dollar Baby," advertised as a boxing movie. When the word got out that it was a pro-euthanasia-propaganda movie, it did poorly at the box office.
Let's hope that "The Island" will show Senator Bill Frist what's down the road he has started to travel, financed with the people's money. It's a future that Americans must reject before it's too late; 2019 isn't all that far off.