Genetically Modified Human Embryo
- Important Step In Speeding Evolutionary Change
By James Donahue
Top world scientists, including
English Physicist Steven Hawking, are saying that the human race is in trouble because of radical changes occurring on our
planet. Hawking warns that normal evolutional change may not occur quickly enough and suggests that the answer may lie in
transferring our consciousness into complex computerized robotic machines.
Yet recent news that scientists
have for the first time genetically altered a human embryo drew criticism from religious moralists who warn that it is a “step
toward creating designer babies.”
Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, the author
of the study, was quick to deny a desire to make designer babies, but that the science was focused, instead, on stem cells.
Note that Rosenwaks is director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell
Medical Center. Somehow we envision the Christian cross appearing somewhere on the grounds or in the halls of that facility.
So what is the problem with
designer babies? The whole idea is that genetic research may someday make it possible for scientists to manipulate the genetic
structure of cells that launch human life, thus producing desired traits like intelligence, athletic, musical or other special
abilities. The genetic alterations also may assure an escape from imperfect inherited genes that produce diabetes, dwarfism,
mental retardation and a wide range of other unwanted problems.
The fear, which may be justified,
is that only the wealthy will be allowed to produce perfectly beautifully designed offspring thus creating an even more unequal
society than already exists. We would have the genetically enriched people and the genetically inferior working class that
serves the first.
Yet another fear, emerging
from science fiction novels, is the possibility that scientists also can produce superior fighting soldiers for military purposes.
Or that other humans can be designed with bodies designed for heavy labor as slaves to industry.
Indeed, humanity has had a
habit of creating both positive and negative ways of utilizing every new scientific discovery. Nuclear energy, which makes
the most dangerous bomb known to mankind, also can be used to produce electric power and run ships. Fire, which heats our
homes and cooks our food, also can destroy our homes, entire communities, and entire forests within hours. Electricity, which
gives us heat, light and the power to operate a wide variety of home appliances, also can be deadly when used for human executions,
shorts and causes homes to burn, or comes out of the sky as a bolt of lightning.
Yes, once we establish the
means of creating designer babies, we can be assured that unscrupulous doctors will be contracting with military leaders to
create better soldiers, with pimps to create more perfect looking prostitutes, and industry to produce low intelligent and
physically powerful slave workers. But there is also the promise of a physically perfect body, without inherited weaknesses
leading to heart disease, diabetes, premature baldness, arthritis and a wide range of other ailments that plague us.
The promise of long, healthy
lives in designer bodies that resist the ravages of aging, is so great that it is wrong for contemporary moralists to fight
against this kind of research. While those of us already living will never enjoy the full fruit of this work, there is a promise
that genetic repairs can still fix many of our problems, halt or even reverse the aging process, and grant us some additional
years of productive life. And we can be assured that our grandchildren and their children will have it even better.
Scientists like Rosenwaks,
who are working under the public light of public criticism and debate, do not dare to carry their research into fields of
genetic body repair. But you better believe that scientists working in labs elsewhere in the world are hard at work and moving
in the right direction. They have already started producing human body parts on humans and even on experimental animals, which
can be successfully used to replace worn-out livers, hearts and even decapitated ears. It may only be a matter of time before
the soldiers returning home from Iraq without arms and legs get to grow replacement parts for their own bodies.