When Scientists Play God: How Far is Too Far?
The advancement of science in the last century is staggering. Its amazing to think of the progress that we have made and how modern science plays a role in just about every aspect of our lives. Undoubtedly, this progress will continue in the years to come. Much of what we now consider to be impossible will be well within our reach.
But, somewhere along the line we should probably stop and ask ourselves where the line of ethics is. Just because we can do some things, doesn’t mean that we ought to do them. How far can we push the line before we can say that scientists are “playing god?” I’ve heard that term a lot in the past, but its not really clear to me what that means. Can people really “play God?” Regardless of how far we get in our scientific progress, our abilities pale in comparison to omnipotence. Would God allow us to make progress on something that He didn’t see fit for us? We are on the brink of some amazing scientific advancements that will make the unbelievable possible. We have already made amazing progress, and not all of it has been without controversy.
Two weeks ago, we talked about human embryonic stem cell research because it is an area of science in which many believe that science has gone too far. Take a look at the comments section and you will see that this is not something that everyone is comfortable with. But this isn’t the only moral dilemma that science is currently capable of. Cloning has been a tool of science ever since 1996 when dolly the sheep was successfully cloned. Since then, we have cloned a myriad of animals, including a banteng for the San Diego Zoo and a monkey, one of our fellow primates. Granted the process of cloning is not perfect, we aren’t far from being able to clone humans. In fact, the process has already been attempted and may even be under investigation in other parts of the world. Human cloning has its own set of questions to ponder. Is a clone of me still me? Is he still human? Does he have a soul? Does a clone have human rights?
To take a step further, what if we created our own humans? Creation is definitely something that we attribute to God. If we hold the power of organism creation, are we then “playing God?” One of the most interesting scientific headlines around this time last year was about scientists who had synthetically created bacteria. The project leader, Craig Venter, was quoted saying, “This is the first self-replicating cell we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.” In the future, we will be able to synthetically make our own plants, animals, or even humans.
Another area of study which raises some flags is genetic engineering. The more we understand genetics, the more we can take control of it for our purposes. Have you ever heard of a spider goat? How about NeonMice? What if we applied this in less of a sci-fi way to the human genome?
Understandably, eugenics is something that people are naturally adverse to. The word alone conjures up thoughts of euthanasia and the way that it was used to discard anyone seen as unfit in a process of “Race Hygiene” in Nazi Germany. But long gone are the days where we need to kill people in order to remove bad genetics from the gene pool. Take a look at this video talk by Harvey Fineberg.
Does this still sound like its going too far? Genetic engineering could offer a way that we could cure genetic diseases before a baby was even born. Cystic Fibrosis, Down’s Syndrome, several types of cancer, hemophilia, and a ton of other genetic diseases would be a thing of the past. What do you think? Would this lead to a better world or GATACA?
THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!