Should mosquitoes be genetically modified?


(Laura) #1

Inspired by this article at Christianity Today: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/august/genetic-engineering-animals-mosquitoes-christian-views-pew.html

I’ve been reading a bit more about what this entails – I hate mosquitoes and live in a very buggy area, but I can also understand being wary of disrupting ecosystems, especially in an area where we don’t generally have to worry about fatal diseases from mosquitoes.

What do you think – is genetically modifying mosquitoes akin to “playing God”?

Also, do you think one’s understanding of evolution will impact their views on this? (i.e. would someone who believes in 6,000-year-old special creation be more averse to “messing with God’s design” than someone who believes things have been evolving for eons? I kinda wish Pew had included that question in their survey.)


(Christy Hemphill) #2

Great question. I’m interested in what others think. @Kathryn_Applegate do you know any other good resources for this topic to share?


(Phil) #3

Great subject. While not a true genetic modification, the control of screwworms (flies that lay eggs and infect umbilical areas of newborn calves with maggots) was done very successfully using irradiated sterile male fly release.http://www.fao.org/docrep/U4220T/u4220T0a.htm
I guess with genetic modification, it is more difficult to put the genie back in the box (lamp?) if things go wrong and there are unintended consequences.
I am cool with glow in the dark fish. The local science museum has some, though they say they do not survive very long, however.


(Laura) #4

Fascinating! It’s nice to see that something similar has been carried out successfully. I’m curious to see whether ticks could be cut back on in this way, since I live in one of the worst states for lyme disease.

I can see the arguments against glow-in-the-dark fish, but I guess I don’t know enough about it to have much opinion – it seems that if one thing is possible, it’s hard to know where to draw the line (or whether a line even needs to be drawn as long as it is not proven harmful).


(Mark D.) #5

While it would be well to tread very, very carefully I don’t necessarily think we should refrain from modifying an organism such as the mosquito.

After all we already actively work to annihilate some organisms (small pox, polio and so on) and to thwart the bacteria which would overrun our bodies when infected. It is a little late to worry about playing God now. That train has long left the station.


(Kathryn Applegate) #6

Hi there @Elle and @Christy! Sorry to be late to the party. I actually don’t know of much off the top of my head. I’ll ask someone I know who knows more about this…


#7

Being an atheist, my answer would be no. I would call it “playing human”. But semantics aside . . .

The only concern I would have is how it would impact the food web. Given the massive number of other bugs that serve as food, I don’t think the ecosystem would really miss them. So you have human lives on one side and barely any impact to the ecosystem on the other side. I think the choice is pretty clear.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #8

Your sentiment seems to be shared in this one Nature News blurb-
https://www.nature.com/news/2010/100721/full/466432a.html

I think that some Christians would fall more on the side of having great caution, especially those that believe God specially created mosquitos (yes they exist). That is the mosquitoes are not just ‘post-Fall’ menaces- a suitable torment for all humanity forever after one man sinned.


(Phil) #9

They might have some company with C. S. Lewis:

“Nor am I greatly moved by jocular inquiries such as, ‘Where will you put all the mosquitoes?’ – a question to be answered on its own level by pointing out that, if the worst came to worst, a heaven for mosquitoes and a hell for men could very conveniently be combined.”


(John Dalton) #10

I saw a documentary about this recently, it was interesting to see how they did it (here in Taiwan actually.) They take eggs from the target fish and manually inject the desired genetic material, egg by egg. I think they said it works in 1 in 10,000. It makes me think of grafting plants more than anything.


(Laura) #11

I’ve wondered about that too – even when I was YEC I was never really sure whether mosquitoes were purely a consequence of the fall, or whether they just became “corrupted” afterwards. Such as, before the fall perhaps bug bites didn’t itch, and people and animals didn’t mind losing a little blood for their fellow creatures.


#12

It’s not just christians who feel this way with regards to genetic manipulation. It seems to be a human reaction, regardless of religious worldview. We don’t seem to care much about changing our own physical features through things like plastic surgery, hair dyes, braces, and the like. However, we have a completely different reaction at the thought of changing our DNA to achieve the same things. I’m not saying this is a wrong outlook, or anything of the like. Rather, it is a really interesting look into the human psyche and how we view the world.


(Laura) #13

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