New Blog Post: What should we think of DNA Experiments and Developments?

Jim ponders the most recent developments in the realm of gene editing and asks how Christians should be thinking about them.

READ: https://biologos.org/post/what-should-we-think-of-dna-experiments-and-developments/

What is the most concerning piece of news in your opinion? Did you know about all these developments? How can the church engage in these conversations?

Lots of stuff to think about. The monkey brain one was the most disturbing to me when I heard about it a couple months ago. If I think experimenting on primates is ethically fuzzy in any case but this experiment and all the Planet of the Apes memes that got posted in response seemed like it was getting close to crossing a line.

This article didn’t mention it, but I am all for those genetically modified mosquitoes they have now. We have another dengue outbreak where we live, and several people in town have died. Sometimes I think people get all nervous about the idea of genetic modification and think of it as all bad, but there are lots of ways we could be using CRISPR and DNA technologies to address diseases and I would love to see more stories about that and the technology made available to the communities that are most in need of it.

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Knowledge is power.

Now some people might think that is an endorsement for seeking knowledge whenever we can. Others might think just opposite. On a personal level I certainly think that grasping and seeking power is an example of misplaced priorities. But while seeking power for its own sake is not such a great thing for ones personal life, the community and world stage is a different thing all together. And forbidding the development of power is so much worse in many ways – that is a red flag that people are trying to maintain control over other people. And that kind of Orwellian Big Brother approach is not only difficult to justify but counter-productive in the development of life and human potential. Besides such an effort is almost sure fail in the end with everyone less prepared for that eventuality.

The thing is that power is always a two edge sword, facilitating both good and evil. So while on the personal level, the gathering of power can be a temptation for misuse, on the world and community level, failing to develop avenues of power can be terribly irresponsible, for it allows those who would misuse it to get the upper hand. For this reason, I would propose the following way of thinking…

Power is at least in some sense, life itself.

From the moment we are born, our lives are all about the gaining of knowledge and power as we learn to walk, learn to talk, learn to use all kinds of devices, learn to drive, learn to make all kinds of things, etc… etc… The battle between good and evil is learning to care about the well being of others at a pace that keeps up with our gain of power in the world. The selfishness of an infant is totally appropriate, because their own needs and desires is all that they can be responsible for at that time in their life. But that had better change when they gain the power to hurt other people.

Power and responsibility go hand in hand.

Therefore, I would suggest it is pointless to avoid the challenge new knowledge and power as the opportunities are presented to us. On the contrary, we need to step boldly into the challenge of life, stepping up and embracing the challenges of new responsibility that comes with new knowledge and power as it opens up before us. I would suggest that this is part of the challenge God put before us when He said, “I set before you life and death; blessing and cursing, therefore choose life.” We cannot turn back the clock. We must confront new technologies and the moral ethical challenges that they bring – think these things through and decide what is the right thing to do.

But I couldn’t agree more that just because we can do things doesn’t mean that we should. As a matter of personal morality (in the way that many people are vegitarian, opposed to abortion, or pacifist), I don’t like the whole idea of organ transplants, which in my thinking turns people into commodities. No judgments… people have to decide about things like this for themselves, but I personally refuse to participate in that technology in any way whatsoever (and no that doesn’t include blood transfusions, since blood is 100% replaceable).

For another example… a technology which is on the horizon which I have qualms about is the alteration of the genetics of offspring for enhancing abilities. Not even sure that correcting perceived genetic flaws is all that good of an idea, which doesn’t mean that we cannot find other technological means of dealing with the problems after the fact. Why? Parents have too much power over the lives of their children as it is, and I don’t see extending this to their genetics as being a good thing. But perhaps if it is not completely a parental prerogative then there might be situations where it might not be such a bad thing. Dangerous ground nevertheless and great caution is needed.

Perhaps a whole new post to deal with those in the article…

CRISPR babies and Chimeras… It does not sound like a bad thing to me, and it is China’s and Japan’s prerogative to try this out. That is assuming this had government approval. Public oversight is definitely needed in this sort of thing. I don’t think this should be a matter of free enterprise, or (do I even need to mention) secret government projects.

Gattica… I mostly covered this in the disapproval of parents genetically improving their children. But Gattica was more about prejudging people according to their genetics alone, which is another issue altogether.