Anchored in our human DNA is the compelling temptation to “play god” that seems to be just too irresistible for many on our third rock from the sun. After all, Eve was once easily sold on it and humans have been struggling with the results ever since.
In a world spinning riotously out of bounds, a Chinese doctor using genetic engineering known as CRISPR claimed to have altered two human embryos into twin girls that are resistant to HIV. However, in order to successfully complete his work, numerous humans in their embryonic state were killed, which raises several moral and ethical red flags.
According to the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine, vast differences exist between gene therapy and genetic engineering. In gene therapy, the genetic changes affect only the patient in correcting genetic defects and preventing or curing genetic diseases. However, in genetic engineering, the entire genomic structure is modified to enhance beyond what is normal and the results are then passed on to future generations.
Gene altering technology may be promising, but aborting human embryos is business as usual. Wherever you stand on abortion, the intentional creation and destruction of human embryos does not bode favorably for scientific integrity because it kills.
Altering humanity’s genetic code will unlock a Pandora’s Box overdosed on steroids. Do we really want to create life in a lab that will replace procreation and bring with it designer babies?
Humans that were once welcomed as gifts will be treated as just another artifact of technology that can be manufactured, sold and discarded. Just because genetically modified babies are possible doesn’t mean we should continue the process.
The same technology is being used on livestock, but with adverse consequences. Pigs have grown extra bones and sheep were born with dappled fleeces, while rabbits developed inexplicably large tongues.
With technology advancing at Orwellian inevitability, I often wonder if our understanding has surpassed our wisdom. Who wants to live in a world where human life is treated as a byproduct that can be engineered, manipulated and then ultimately discarded at will?
Such questions that are best answered by a world view that comprehends that children are made in God’s image and not something tailor made. Instead, we live in a society where secularism reigns and religious morality is assuaged daily. The overriding thinking is we are just random products of evolutionary science in a physical world with nothing more beyond it, so anything goes, like euthanasia, abortion and genocide.
A genetically customized world would have profound societal implications resulting in the genetic haves and the genetic have-nots, making the divide between rich and poor beyond reproach.
You want to talk about privilege — look no further.
The parent and child bond would also be irrevocably tainted, erasing hereditary traits of those familiar imperfections that are no less endearing as they are enduring. The appeal and allure of parenthood would be bartered by the conceit of an engineer admiring their latest enterprise.
Since China has no problem ignoring bioethical standards, why wouldn’t the Chinese develop a brand of enhanced super soldiers with the intelligence of Einstein, the vision of Ted Williams, the athleticism of Michael Jordan and the magnetism of Chuck Stroup.
Skiing the slippery slope commences when babies are genetically engineered for intellectual and athletic ability unrelated to medical conditions.
Genetic engineering through in vitro fertilization (IVF) can assess for certain diseases and even select a child’s gender. Preferred gender choice would only lead to sex discrimination as witnessed in China, where their one child policy (now two) led to mass infanticide of girls throughout the Middle Kingdom, whose ripple effects still loudly echo.
Christians understand that life begins at conception and that screening for gender and health circumstances turns lives into fashionable commodities rather than gifts from the divine.
Perfection in all its glory will bring an intolerance for imperfection, while respect for the dignity of human life will certainly be significantly diminished.
Understanding the ethical and legal boundaries has been outpaced by technology.
The solution lies not in commodifying or stopping scientific research. Rather, we need to manage science and technology with altruism, ethics and integrity.
Can humanity, given our fallen human nature, handle such an arrangement without chaos ensuing?
(Maresca, a local freelance writer, composes “Talking Points” for each Sunday edition.)