Monday, March 9, 2009

Designer Children and Science

So did you see last week’s news about the new posh L.A. fertility clinic? You can now determine such traits as eye color and hair color for your new little family addition. What could possibly be wrong with this?

I can think of a number of things, but the simplest is that this procedure builds off in-vitro fertilization in which multiple embryos are created just to get one to survive when implanted in the mother.

With this new procedure, once again we are toying with things we don’t fully understand and human life is disregarded. This process used by scientists also creates multiple embryos and screens them, changing individual genes (gene splicing) around until they get just the right blend. What happens to the other embryos that don’t make the grade? These children are discarded.

Besides the obvious life issues, there is one concern getting lost in our quest for control. Though we’ve “mapped” the human genome, we still do not know many things about how characteristics work across separate chromosomes. For example, if you change eye color (these genes actually exist across three different chromosomes), what effect will this change have on the rest of the chromosomes? We do not have a good grasp on how genes interact with each other. How do we know that changing that one “C” to a “G” won’t change this child’s brain chemistry down the road?

We don’t know. But scientists are willing to take these risks…with someone else’s kids. Why are we allowing them to get away with this? Why do we sit back and allow these types of procedures to happen?

We claim it's science so it’s okay. We claim it's science and since we don’t understand, we shouldn’t get involved. But it’s not okay, and if we don’t stand up and say something, who will? Is there a big ethics committee somewhere who will put the kibosh on this? If you are waiting for Congress, then you’re looking in the wrong place.

We must learn not to shy away from science topics. It is our responsibility to be informed and to act on our knowledge. That is what it means to be a good steward of this earth, of God’s creation. He gave us the awesome responsibility to “fill the earth and subdue it,” (Gen 1:28) but that didn’t include the right to abuse creation.

That is what we are doing. We are abusing our privileges as stewards of this earth. We worry about global warming and greenhouse gases, but those issues won’t mean a thing if we are not here because we’ve mucked around with our genes and killed off humanity. (Think I've gone too far? With these gene changes, what will happen when this child grows up and tries to have children?)

There is another scientific issue we haven’t even touched here. Natural selection. Have we thought about the effects gene tampering on this scientific phenomenon?

Come back next week to discuss natural selection with regard to gene splicing and a completely different topic that has influenced humanity's future.


Jan Parrish said...

Well, we see what happens when a woman who doesn't believe in selective abortion gets in-vitro fertilization - "Octimom." I will have to agree with her viewpoint that selective abortion is wrong.

I believe Hitler tried a less advanced way of doing this - the Arian Nation. All blond hair and blue eyes. Interestingly, his hair was dark.

You raise some very good questions. Where are the moral boundaries in science and are we willing to enforce them? I believe the lawmakers are a bit shy about addressing this issues.

D. Gudger said...

I've always wondered about that. A bunch of years ago when gene therapy was all the rage, I wondered how the mutation of DNA in some cells would affect others? How do scientists contain the mutation to specific cells? Like you said, How do we know that bridge between A,T, or C won't alter something else.

I'm creeped out by this build-a-baby business. They need to keep it to Build a Bear :)

shelly_collings said...

This is such a valid concern. The choices we make have far reaching effects even though they may not be immediately apparent. So many people are all about instant gratification and unwilling to think about the future consequences of their decisions.