As it was in the days of Noah

Remember the public outcry regarding growing genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK?  The hostility is still widespread.  How much more public opposition should there have been towards genetically modified babies!  After all, the techniques involved are highly experimental, and the experiment is on a human being. 

No!  Genuine concerns about the new genetic treatment have been swept aside in the rush to boast that we’re the first nation to push the scientific boundaries.  Our MPs would rather be known for being the first parliament worldwide to approve ‘three-parent’ fertility treatments (mitochondrial DNA transfer) to families who want to avoid passing on mitochondrial diseases to their children.

But no-one can predict what the consequences for future generations will be, since the treatment involves genetic modification.  By allowing such procedures we are ‘playing God’ in a new way.  A boundary has been crossed.

It’s worth noting that the procedure Parliament has approved is potentially very dangerous.  Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Centre for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California has argued that it would cross ‘a legal and ethical line’ observed by the entire international community, that genetic engineering tools should not be used to modify gametes or early embryos and so manipulate the characteristics of future children.  Any changes or unpredictable genetic problems will be passed to future generations.

Whether or not the treatment will be successful remains to be seen.  The techniques are similar in some ways to those used in therapeutic cloning, which to date has failed to deliver.  The claims from top scientists that animal-human cytoplasmic hybrids (cybrids) would save millions of people in the course of time caused them to push Parliament into legalising and licensing animal human hybrid research back in 2008 - but ‘cybrids’ haven’t worked and investors have voted with their feet.

However, it’s the ethical question that is the most pertinent.  The research requires a large number of human eggs, and these have to be harvested from many donors.  That procedure alone carries significant health risks for the donor, and inevitably thousands of human embryos will be destroyed as part of the research.  Most importantly, if the procedure is ever successful, what issues of identity confusion will arise in children with effectively three biological parents? 

There’s no doubt that man’s knowledge is increasing at an amazing rate.  Who would have dreamed a hundred years ago that medical science would be able to even contemplate the kind of surgery which has been given the go-ahead this week.  Leaps in science have oftentimes made our lives longer and more comfortable, but they have also pushed the ethical boundaries, and often these get blurred when our emotions are tugged by suffering people who could possibly be healed or assisted by the cutting edge of new scientific techniques.

We’re told in the book of Daniel (Dan 12:3-4) that at the end of the age there will be an exponential increase in knowledge.  At other times in earth’s history when man’s knowledge sharply increased, it coincided with a rise in wickedness resulting in God’s judgement.  Take the time of Noah, for example, or when the Tower of Babel was constructed. 

The knowledge that will increase at the end of the age is not confined to scientific knowledge alone, but since man’s original sin was to choose knowledge apart from relationship with God the creator, what might appear to be an exciting prospect (increased knowledge) on closer inspection has very ominous implications.  In Noah’s day there were hybrids being born, which were not entirely human (Gen 6:4).  It would be a terrible thing if genetic modification of embryos, cloning, animal-human hybrids, and other results of increased scientific knowledge opened the door to unforeseen consequences which until now have been merely the domain of science fiction. 

There can’t be a happy ending, while man doggedly and proudly pursues knowledge as the highest accolade of his existence.  Superior knowledge boosts man’s sense of identity, self-worth and self-confidence.  But sadly man pursues knowledge as a god, with no reference to, or humility towards, God the creator and sustainer of the universe (Psalm 33:9). 

For example, in 1978 when embryo experimentation was in its infancy, and the first ‘test-tube baby’ was born, Robert Edwards, who pioneered the procedure with Patrick Steptoe, remarked at the time:

I wanted to find out exactly who was in charge, whether it was God himself or whether it was scientists in the laboratory . . . it was us!

Our God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, and the one who puts boundaries, including ethical boundaries, in place, out of genuine love and concern for his creation.  Man, including our foolhardy politicians, denies this at his peril.  Isaiah said this:

He (God) will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure (Isaiah 33:6)

For more, see Dr Peter Saunders’ blog at: 


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