Mal Fletcher examines the consequences of progress
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As reproduction moves from the bedroom to the laboratory, sex may be seen as nothing more than just another pleasure drug.
Perhaps the greatest reason to be cautious is that genetic technologies will impact on our basic humanity. If some people get their way, we may soon see the McDonaldisation of human reproduction. Genetically modified DNA sequences will be patented and sold to those who can afford them.
Reproductive technologies may show up some of the worst characteristics of our human nature - the desire for control, for one. We've had some success in getting control over our physical environment, but we want more.
Reproductive technologies will allow us to control our children -- even before they've arrived. Is that healthy? Does young Johnny really want to know that we meddled with his makeup even before he was born?
Gene manipulation can be eugenics by another name. In the last century, ethnic cleansing took place through guns and bombs. This century may produce ethnic cleansing via the test-tube.
You might think I'm just being alarmist. But we honestly have no way of knowing how the genetic changes we make today will play out in the world of our children's children. We're making decisions that will affect many generations to come. Can we take that kind of responsibility?
There will always be a compassionate reason to release some new technology quickly. But compassion without moral parameters is only sentimentality - and it's dangerous. When there are momentous issues at stake we must slow down and consider the big picture.
Modern science grew largely out of respect for the idea of rational, orderly design found in the Christian worldview. C. S. Lewis wrote: 'Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a law-maker.'
Today, Western science is largely cut off from the guiding principles of theology. So its technology often disconnects knowledge from wisdom.
The kind of pragmatism that seems to rule much of science today says, 'If a thing can be done, it should be done - even if we haven't shown how it pans out in the long run.' But one of the things that makes us human -- different from other creatures -- is that we can 'decide not to do something we are capable of doing.'
Our morality is part of what defines us, and morality is all about choices we make between what we could do and what we should do.
The biblical prophet Moses wrote that 'Man doesn't live by bread alone; but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' Another way to read that is to say that human beings can't function simply at a material level - they need to interact with the divine, on a spiritual level.
With the rush to develop genetic techniques, we must become accountable to something higher than human expediency.
Today, the culture of the machine, the genetic machine, is threatening to swallow up respect for our spiritual side. We may be entering, as Omar Bradley put it, 'a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants...[who] have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.'
Obviously, we can't stop the forward march of human knowledge. We wouldn't want to...Curiosity is what leads us to new frontiers.
Yet each of us must take responsibility to think about where new technologies - especially in genetics -- might take us. We must hold science accountable. If we don't get involved in inventing the future, someone else's vision of the future will re-invent us.
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
This article is an edited excerpt from Mal Fletcher's script for the forthcoming EDGES TV film on 'The Genetics Industry'. Follow the production process behind-the-scenes, with Mal's EDGES Blog. To watch EDGES online, go to www.edges.tv
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