Engineering - Part I
Mark and I became
friends through our mutual interest in high school sports. As
far as I knew, he was an only child. He had never mentioned
another brother or sister. I had visited his house on several
occasions, but had not seen other children. One visit, however,
revealed someone else. I do not remember if this visit was
unexpected or if Markís family knew me better and were less
vigilant. Walking through their kitchen, I saw a girl lying on
the floor on a pallet in such an awkward position that she
appeared to be a distorted assembly of thin legs and arms with a
head randomly placed somewhere among them. I was so startled
that I merely glanced and went on without a word. On another
occasion she appeared in a similar position in the back seat of
their car. Eventually, I asked about her. Briefly Mark said that
she was his sister and that she had been that way all her life.
After that exchange we never discussed her again. That day in
their kitchen became indelibly fixed in my memory. She was my
first exposure to the grotesque deformity that can occur from
like no other subject, brings us close to the extremes of the
scientific and the biblical understanding of man. Any discussion
of these areas can quickly move into deep water. The attempt,
however, is both worthwhile and necessary. It is worthwhile
because all ethics in general, medical ethics in particular, are
closely dependent upon the anthropology (view of man) upon which
they are based. Discussion is necessary because genetic
engineering brings the possibility of profound changes in the
most basic physical structure of man, his genes. My reviewers of
these pages have been keen to keep me within scientific and
biblical bounds, as best we can determine them reasoning
together. Since almost all accomplishment in genetic engineering
in humans still remain future, for once, evangelicals have a
chance to formulate ethical principles "before the fact." In
most other applications we have arrived extraordinarily late.
Perhaps this work will be a stimulus in that direction.
could be beneficial or demoniacal. Many severely debilitating
medical problems have long been known to be genetic in origin.
Virtual elimination of these problems is possible through
genetic engineering. More direct and indirect links between
genes and diseases are being found almost daily. Many think the
possible elimination of disease is only limited by time and
The other side of this
story is potential abuse. Bizarre changes in manís physical and
mental structure are suggested by some. Other changes are not so
bizarre but seriously bring into question basic human values.
The potential for abuse is limited only by the imagination. We
will explore both sides of these possibilities.
Physiology of Genetic Engineering
The individual cell, as
the most basic "unit" of biological life, performs all those
functions that are characteristic of living things. Some
complete organisms, such as bacteria, consist only of one cell.1
Aggregation of specialized cells form tissues and organs.
These are joined to form whole organisms, such as man. Even
these complex systems are derived from one reproductive cell
that receives the genes and other cellular material, with all
the necessary information to construct the whole. Although every
cell in any organism contains the information (see Cloning),
only reproductive cells and a few exceptions in nature (for
example, the onion root and the nuclei of the cells that line
the intestines of frogs) have the capacity to activate this
total store of information into a whole organism.
Since our concern is
medical ethics, I will confine myself to genetic engineering in
humans. In sexual reproduction genes from a male and female
gamete (germ cell) unite to form a zygote that will grow into
the adult organism. Certain plants and animals, however, do not
reproduce in this manner. Thus, everything here does not apply
to the entire plant and animal kingdom. The ethics of genetic
engineering in plants and animals is another complex ethical
subject in itself.2
Manipulation of genetic
inheritance began in 1865 with Gregor Mendel, a monk, who
noticed that certain characteristics of peas could be produced
by selection of the seed-producing plants. His work remained
unrecognized by the scientific community for 35 years. The
framework, however, for his work had been laid by Charles
Darwinís Origin of Species in 1859 that dealt with the
variability of characteristics within species, even though
Darwin had no idea how these were transmitted to subsequent
generations. In 1953 Drs. J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick
discovered the double helical structure of DNA. Later, they and
others worked out the sequence of the biochemical structure that
"encodes" (that is, carries the information) for its own
replication and the production of other chemicals within the
cell. Until these discoveries, genetic manipulation had involved
only experiments on the selection of mates with desired
characteristics. For example, thousands of experiments were done
with the fruit fly to breed various colors, wing structures, and
other variations. Some characteristics could be produced in
patterns that did not even occur in nature. These "new" species
were called hybrids. In agriculture, hundreds of plants have
been "engineered" in this way. Examples of animal hybrids are
the mule (from a horse and an ass) and "hybrid" bass.
As the genetic
structure and its relationship to characteristics in the
offspring became better understood, direct manipulation of the
genes themselves became a theoretical possibility. Desired
changes could be made more selectively and specifically.
Even though complex
information is stored in genes, they are formed from a simple
alphabet. The four basic chemicals ("letters") of this alphabet
are adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine (nucleic acid
bases). They are designated by geneticists by their initials: A,
G, T, and C. Together with other chemicals (deoxyribose and
phosphate) they form the basic unit of the gene structure, the
nucleotide. These units are then connected to each other by a
variety of chemical bonds into long chains, some with thousands
of sequences, called chromosomes. All the chromosomes are then
contained within the nucleus of the cell. The aggregate
complexity of the chromosomes is awesome. A single strand of DNA
inside a human cell contains the information of one billion bits
of computer memory (500 pages of double-spaced typewritten
pages).3 The translation of this information into
technical language written in English would require 1000 volumes
of fine print, single-spaced (if we understood all that it
says).4 The DNA found in the chromosomes of a single
human cell, that itself measures only a few thousandths of an
inch in diameter, when stretched end-to-end and not in its
coiled structure, would extend over a yard in length!5
When a sperm enters an
egg, each contributes one-half of its chromosomes. The zygote,
hen is formed with paired chromosomes from each parent and
contains all the information needed to produce the physical
characteristics of the future adult.
The first divisions of
the zygote produce individual cells, blastomeres. These cells
have unique characteristics:6
One or more
blastomeres can be removed from the aggregates, and the
remainder can produce a whole organism.
blastomeres can develop into a whole organism.
aggregates derived from two or more zygotes and combined
into one larger mass, can develop into one organism. Even
aggregates of different species may combine to develop into
These studies have not
been confirmed in man, but identical human twins become separate
individuals well after the first division of the zygote This
event is evidence that the same characteristics of blastomeres
are true in man. After the eight-celled stage of the cells of
the embryo begin to differentiate and lose their capability to
produce a whole organism. (Non-identical or fraternal twins are
caused by the fertilization of two eggs by different sperm.)
of the blastomeres are evidence that other parts of the nucleus,
as well as the chromosomes, carry instructions for the
development of the organism. This transfer of additional
information is rarely discussed in relation to genetic
engineering, but it exerts considerable influence on cellular
characteristics. (In the next chapter we will discuss this
non-nuclear mechanism at some length to explore the limits of
our knowledge of manís composition.)
Since the nucleotides
form specific sequence, certain chemicals (restriction
endonucleases) can be used to break their long chains at precise
locations. Then, the severed DNA can be "recombined" with the
DNA sequence that contains the desired changes. Thus,
recombinant DNA (rDNA) is the name given this procedure. The
newest and most promising technology in this area is the use of
viruses (more accurately, "retroviruses") to direct this
substitution of DNA sequences.7 In this way the
desired instructions can be written directly into the nucleus of
the cell. Retroviruses have been used to "design" bacteria to
produce human insulin and growth hormone, substances that had
been costly to produce and then only in small amounts.
Retroviruses have also been used to "engineer" a type of
bacteria that is designed to "eat" (more accurately, to digest
into harmless chemicals) oil slicks that occur from tanker
spills. Thus genetic engineering does not pertain to humans
alone but has a wide variety of actual, as well as potential,
Changes in multi-celled
organisms may be made in three ways. First, non-germ (somatic)
cells may be "engineered" without affecting the remainder of the
organism. For example, a defect in diabetes (mellitus) is a
failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to metabolize
glucose within the body. With recombinant DNA (theoretically; it
has not yet been done) the pancreatic cells could be altered to
correct this defect without affecting the cells of other organs.
Second, the DNA of the zygote could be altered and, since all
cells are derived from this one cell, all cells of the body
would have this change. For example, a propensity to one type of
diabetes (mellitus) is inherited through the chromosomes of the
parents. If this defect were corrected in the zygote, then
neither the person nor his offspring would develop diabetes.
Third, genetic changes could be made in the sperm or eggs of the
adults (germ line) so that their children would have normal
genes. This procedure is called "negative" eugenics because the
defect would eventually be eliminated from the human race. With
this inheritable type of diabetes, the parentís (only one might
be affected) or parentsí germ cells could be changed so that
their child would have the normal genes to produce insulin. Each
method raises its own ethical issues.
Defining an Ethical Approach
Dr. French Anderson,
Chief of Laboratory of Molecular Hematology of the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, approaches the ethics of human
gene therapy according to four levels: 1) somatic cell therapy
that corrects a genetic defect in the bodyís cells, 2) germ line
therapy that corrects the defect in the reproductive cells of
one or both parents, 3) enhancement therapy that would augment a
normal characteristic, such as additional growth hormone to
develop a taller and more muscular person, 4) eugenic therapy
that would improve complex human characteristics, such as
personality, intelligence, character, and the formation of body
These distinctions are
made on the basis of current and future development of
technology from the simplest (correction of somatic cells) to
the most complex (eugenics). The categories are useful because
changes in somatic cells only affect the one individual, but
changes in somatic cells will affect all subsequent offspring.
Enhancement and eugenics, however, are artificially separated
because both involve a change in the offspring supposedly for
the better. It is impossible to separate changes in a body from
the person who occupies it! For example, a child engineered to
make extra growth hormone to become a super-athlete may not like
sports and decides to become an artist instead.
A distortion between
monogenic and polygenic traits must also be made. Monogenic
traits are those determined primarily (or entirely) by one site
on one chromosome. Polygenic traits are those determined by more
than one site (and possibly on more than one chromosome). Most
traits that have actually been identified (that is, those that
have been "mapped") are monogenic. Much less is known about the
specific sites of polygenic traits. Obviously, polygenic traits
would be considerably more difficult to correct. Thus, it would
seem that there should be considerable success with the
correction of monogenic traits before the correction of
polygenic traits is attempted.
The most important
categories for ethical discussion are the correction of a
clearly defined disease or defect (gene surgery) and the
"improvement" of "normal" physical or mental characteristics of
a person (eugenics) regardless of whether they involve somatic
or germ cells. These categories may in some cases be difficult
to separate. For example, an offspring expected to be quite
short might be programmed to increase his production of growth
hormone. The extra height, however, is not necessary for that
person to achieve those successes that are most important for
life: his vocation and his relationships to God, to his family
and to others in society.
Assumptions of Genetic Engineering
Many scientists who
advocate and do research in genetic engineering make certain
assumptions that may not be readily apparent. First, they assume
that man is an evolved animal who is composed only of
biochemicals. That is, man has no component other than his body.
But the Bible teaches that man has a soul or spirit, as well as
a physical body.9 Moreover, he is made in the image
of God who is pure Spirit without a body. Thus, the erroneous
assumption of scientists who disregard biblical data is that all
manís problems are physical; they ignore the moral/spiritual.
Carried to its logical extreme, they must assume that there is
virtually no problem that mankind faces that could not be
addressed by genetic engineering!
Second, abortion is
likely to be a routine part of the protocol for genetic
engineering. We have seen how abortion is already routine in
many reproductive procedures. In fact, this "escape valve" is
probably one reason that scientists are not more worried about
"monsters" that might be produced through mistakes. Aberrations
could simply be aborted and the process repeated until
The technology for
genetic screening is already possible. By amniocentesis a needle
is inserted into the amniotic sac (the bag of waters that an
unborn baby lives in) and cells removed from the fluid for
examination. By chorionic villous sampling a piece of the
placenta (the organ that connects the baby to its mother and
allows nutrients to pass through to it, called the afterbirth)
can be removed for examination.
Third, the embryo is
not considered to be a person according to commonly accepted
criteria for "personhood." Thus, experimentation on the embryo
is possible with no expectation that it will be allowed to
grow beyond the time that is used for experimentation.
"Psychic (meaning certain brain functions) personhood is a
rationally defensible boundary for invasive research involving
human embryos and fetuses."10 This assumption is a
vital part of planned research because the necessary information
for genetic engineering will be learned only by experimentation
on embryos. Currently, experimentation is limited to the first
two weeks of embryonic development, but who will monitor
experimenters to see that this period is not extended? Who can
guarantee that it will not be extended beyond two weeks when
more knowledge is "needed?" It seems, then, that "personhood" is
more a term of convenience for researchers than an identity that
will guarantee protection under state or federal laws!
of the Art: Moral and Experimental
The state of the art is
best presented according to Dr. Andersonís categories. Possibly,
by the time that this book is published, the first human
experiments on somatic cells will have taken place.11
As currently planned, these experiments are conservative and
within moral bounds. They involve the extraction of bone marrow
from severely debilitated patients with neurological problems,
the insertion of the correct gene sequence in vitro, and the
re-insertion of the marrow cells back into the patient.12
These patients are so severely debilitated that it would
be difficult to make conditions worse. The worst result would be
death, although that is not likely. If these experiments are
successful, then the door would be opened to correct other
genetic defects in a similar manner. All future work has been
prohibited until these initial attempts have been successful
In Andersonís second
category "Ö gene therapy of germ line cells, would require a
major advance in our present state of knowledge."13
His conditions are interesting and pertinent.14 1)
"There should be considerable previous experience with somatic
cell gene therapy that clearly establishes the effectiveness and
safety of treatment of somatic cells." 2) "There should be
adequate animal studies that establish the reproducibility,
reliability, and safety of germ line therapyÖ 3) There should
be public awareness and approval of the procedureÖ"
Currently, his conditions are reflected in the proposed
guidelines of the National Institutes of Health. That is "The
Recombinant Advisory Committee will not at present entertain
proposals for germ line alterationsÖ"15
In his third category
Dr. Anderson states, "Except under specific circumstancesÖ
genetic engineering should not be used for enhancement
purposes."16 These circumstances do not include
engineering to satisfy "personal desires," such as increased
growth hormone to make larger athletes for sports, but only for
the purpose of "preventive medicine." For example, blood
cholesterol could be lowered in otherwise "normal" individuals.
The water muddies at this point, because the modern medical
ethic is so materialistic in its orientation. Since every person
has several such "problems," this exception could be "the thin
edge of the wedge" to allow for reasons that are only eugenic.
Finally, the science
for eugenic alterations simply does not now exist. Many years
will be required to develop the techniques to produce such
changes.17 Dr. Anderson does not think that we should
"meddle in areas were we are so ignorant."18 I agree.
We may, however, see that others are not so reluctant.
Image of God and "Kinds"
Timothy was an FLK
("funny looking kid"19 ) in the newborn nursery. He
had three extra digits, a cleft palate, and a family history of
retardation with early death. Eventually, he was diagnosed to
have Trisomy 13.20 By three years of age Timothy had
been seen by numerous specialists in three cities and had had
surgery for his cleft palate. Throughout his life he cried
almost constantly. His parents had financial difficulties
because of his medical bills and the extra time that they found
necessary to give to him. The stress that his condition placed
upon the family is evident in the fact that his mother became
depressed and attempted suicide shortly after he was born. Both
parents are Christians. They have one older, unaffected child.
Such children are cited
as reasons for the mindset that would declare only those who are
(more or less) without obvious defects to be persons. My
contention, however, is that even someone like Timothy is no
less created in the image of God and has the right to all the
moral, legal, and social considerations of any human being.
At first glance the
image of God in man would seem to have little relevance to a
discussion of genetic engineering. Admittedly, its application
is somewhat circuitous. It is important, however, to establish
that man is a unique creation. That he is "one of a kind" is a
fact that must be valued highly and he must be treated in a
manner consistent with the place that God has given him. There
are scientists who suggest applications for genetic engineering
that violate this position and their suggestions should
therefore be prohibited.
(at least those who are biblically consistent) believe
individual human life begins at conception. That is, a person is
formed when an egg and a sperm unite.21 Biblically,
three exceptions to this definition would have to be made. Adam
and Eve were not the result of the union of a sperm and egg
(Gen. 2:7, 21-25) and neither was Jesus Christ (Mt. 1:18-25; Lk.
1:26-38). Another definition excluding these exceptions is that
human beings are Adam and all his descendants.
Still another unique
characteristic that may be used to define human beings is their
creation in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). As we will see,
this image is present in the fertilized egg, the embryo and the
fetus. What constitutes the image is not entirely agreed upon by
our best theologians, but there is considerable agreement in
Because a discussion on
the image of God can be complex, I will begin with four
assumptions that should help us to simplify those matters that
concern us here. (Those who would want to pursue the full
argument should consult my references.22 ) 1) The
image of God is still present in man after the sin of Adam and
Eve, even though it is markedly distorted. 2) "Likeness" and
"image" are synonyms, even though some Christians have tried to
show that these words have different meanings. 3) Man is
dichotomous, that is, he has two components, a body and a soul.
I am quite familiar with the trichotomous view of body, soul,
and spirit, but I am convinced of the dichotomous view from an
extensive review of the subject. Within this view, soul and
spirit refer the same non-material component according to its
relationship to the body.23 4) The Reformed view of
the image of God is most biblical, differing substantially from
the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Arminian views.24
The image of God
consists of manís righteousness, his mind (intellect and will),
his assigned dominion over the animals and the earth, his
"in-created" (Kuyperís term) knowledge, and possibly, his
ability to communicate and have fellowship with others and with
God. There is room for disagreement here, but these
characteristics seem to be those that are unique for man in
comparison with the remainder of Godís creations.
Manís body is generally
considered not to be that image because God is totally spirit
without physical form or substance. Dr. John Murray clarifies
this perspective when he says that so far as the soul is
united to the body, the body can be considered to be one
dimension of the image of God. Thus, the position of some
pro-life Christians that forty-six chromosomes define a human is
wrong. Some animals have forty-six chromosomes and some humans
have more, or less than forty-six.25 The true
pro-life position, instead, is that human life depends upon the
presence of the soul from the time of conception.26
When Adam and Eve
sinned, they lost the perfect righteousness (sinlessness) which
God had initially endowed to the human race. In His marvelous
grace, however, He sent His Son as a sacrifice that we may be
"re-created" into that righteousness. Christians are familiar
with this re-creation or being "born-again." (The most accurate
term is regeneration.) Few, however, may be aware that this
re-creation may take place even before birth and, presumably, at
conception as well.27 Dr. Kuyper goes into some
detail in his argument that regeneration may occur prior to
birth. We should not be too surprised at this. Many Christians
believe that their children who die before birth are
nevertheless saved. Kuyper argues that if regeneration is a
prerequisite for salvation, then these unborn children must be
regenerated. Another argument comes from the biblical examples
of Godís work in individuals prior to their birth (Lk. 1:44; Jer.
Dominion is one aspect
of the image of God, even though unregenerate man, as he goes
about his tasks, is no longer conscious of subservience to His
creator and to His laws. This assignment, however, pertains to
the adult more than to the unborn child, so we need not discuss
it further here.
Our main focus is the
image of God as it is reflected in the mind and "in-created"
knowledge. My five theologians of reference (Louis Berkhof,
Abraham Kuyper, John Murray, John Calvin, and Gordon Clark)
agree that these characteristics are functions of the soul or
spirit. Since we have established that unborn children have a
soul, then we would expect them to have at least some evidence
of mind and knowledge. My task here, then, is to demonstrate
that unborn children have this aspect of the image of God. My
evidence is from the Bible and then from observed studies of the
characteristics of the newborn.
From the Bible we have
the example where John the Baptist "leaped for joy" within his
motherís womb at the arrival of Jesus who was also within His
motherís womb (Lk. 1:44). At this moment John was six months
post-conception. For Bible-believers this passage clearly
communicates a reasoning process. Somehow, John knew that Jesus
had appeared and he responded to the presence of his Lord with a
leap of joy.
Jeremiah is another
Before I formed you
in the womb I knew you,
And before you were
born I consecrated you;
I have appointed
you a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5)
At first what God is
doing may not be apparent. Notice that he is "programming"
Jeremiah to become the person that He has planned for him to be.
To be able to understand and proclaim godís Word, the prophet
must have certain intellectual abilities. Fashioning of Jeremiah
in this way is at least part of what this passage means. It is
Godís "in-created" knowledge (see above) of Jeremiah to perform
the tasks that God has planned for him. As an unborn child, he
could not have developed in this way without the presence of his
From observed studies
we have examples that the newborn already "knows" a great deal.28
As early as 42 minutes, a baby may be able to distinguish
between vision and muscular action. At two weeks, an infant
knows to avoid an object that is going to hit him. As a child
learns to communicate, he distinguishes those sounds that convey
language, (the human voice) from those that do not, (the sounds
of a refrigerator). Further, there is considerable evidence that
the ability to learn language is an inborn, not learned ability.29
We also have evidence
from studies of unborn children. Brian activity, an indirect
measurement of mental activity, can be measured electrically (by
an EEG or electroencephalogram) as early as 45 days. They can
squint, swallow, and move the tongue by 9-10 weeks. By 12-13
weeks they can suck the thumb and recoil from pain. (The can
even try to escape from pain as gruesomely displayed in "The
Silent Scream.") While these activities are little more than
animal instinct, they are the early parameters of the future
minds of persons.
of the image of God, not discussed by the theologians cited, is
communication or fellowship. Communication is an important
dynamic among the Persons of the Trinity, first in eternity and
then in time, when the Son was Incarnate. The Lordís Supper is
also known as Communion (a communication between God and man).
The Greek word, koinonia, used to designate this sacrament, is
also used to designate fellowship among believers, demonstrating
the similar nature of the two activities.
fellowship) involving the verbal dimension distinguishes man
from the animals. They are not able to communicate to the degree
that man may communicate with others and with God. This process
depends upon the message sent from a rational mind to its
reception in the rational mind of another in the form of a
rational communication. That communication can occur in children
and adults is easily understood, but its application in the
embryo, fetus, and infant seems to be limited, if it can be
applied at all. Thus, we would have to conclude that the image
of God in these states would be their potential to
develop rational though and communication.
Thus the image of God
as a profile of characteristics unique to man establishes that
he is "one of a kind." As such, he cannot be mixed with other
"kinds." He is the whole entity that comes into existence with
the union of a sperm and egg. He is composed of a physical
(body) and non-physical (soul or spirit) regardless of the
presence of defects or their severity (manís greatest defect is
spiritual, caused by Adamís disobedience).
The argument sometimes
put forward that the conceptus, the embryo and the fetus, does
not have a soul is specious. To select any time other than
conception for the entrance of the soul is completely arbitrary
because there are no parameters by which the presence of the
soul can be detected.30 The same problem exists at
the other end of life if one seeks to define death as the time
that the soul departs the body.31
As "one of a kind," man
is not to be combined with other "kinds." God created every kind
to procreate after its own kind (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25) and
He specifically prohibits the mixing of kinds (Lev. 19:19, Dt.
The problem arises with
the fact that a satisfactory classification of "kinds" has not
been developed.32 The most universal classification,
as defined by Linnaeus, classifies all living things by kingdom,
phylum, class, order, family, genus, species, and variety. This
system, however, does not correspond to the biblical categories
of "kinds" (e.g. Gen. 6:19-20; Lev. 11:1-47).33 It
has also been found to be inadequate apart from Biblical
considerations.34 Thus, Godís prohibition against the
mixing of "kinds" has some practical limit to its application.
Still, Christiansí approval of genetic "cross-breeding" and the
development of hybrids must not be automatic. That He has
established some limits is clear.35
One modification of
this principle should be made. Godís prohibition on the whole
does not apply to its parts. On this basis genetic sequences
could be taken from animals and inserted into human genes as
parts, rather than wholes. Many gene sequences in animals
are identical in their structure and function to those in
humans. If either were examined apart from the whole genetic
structure in vivo, no differences could be detected.
Thus, parts are distinct from the identity of the whole because
the whole would differ at many sites.36 This failure
to distinguish between the characteristics of a whole and its
individual parts is called Fallacy of Division, an informal
fallacy in logic.37
Thus, the substitution
of a normal gene sequence from an animal for the abnormal gene
sequence in a human would not be the mixing of kinds Ėas
transplantation of organs is not a mixing of kinds. Brain
transplantation may be an exception because the brain (physical)
has a unique and intimate relationship to the mind (spirit).38
The union of a sperm (or egg) from a human with the egg
(or sperm) from an animal, however, for whatever reason,
is biblically prohibited because each represents a "whole" of
The use of retroviruses
as agents to splice genes would not seem to violate this mixing
of kinds, either. We have seen that viruses are probably a unit
of life, as unicellular plants and animals are. Thus, their
incorporation into human genes is not a mixing of wholes but the
addition of a part (the virus) to a whole (the DNA).
Clearly, man is unique
among all other living things because he is descended from Adam
and is created in the image of God, and therefore, a "kind."
Union with any other living "kind" would be a violation of Godís
natural law that creatures procreate after their "kind."
The term "eugenics"
dates back to 1883 when it was applied to the hope that the
human race could be improved by allowing the brighter and more
productive members to have children and by restricting the
"misfits" from having any children at all. As we have seen
(Chapter 1), many laws were passed (that remain on the books
today) in the attempt to carry out the restrictive aspect. These
"designers of the human race" had to become more subtle in their
approach after Hitlerís program of undisguised eugenics.39
Today the phrase "quality of life" is substituted for
"eugenics" and genetic engineering has become the vehicle by
which this improvement of the human race is to take place. It
promises such planners greater and more specific design than
earlier advocates could have dreamed. WE must not let them blind
us to the past. It is possible that the atrocities of the past
could pale before those of the future, all in the name of
"improving the human race."
There are two basic
questions to consider concerning eugenics. What is the biblical
morality of the process itself, and what is the motive of those
who advocate it?
The morality of eugenics is determined by the characteristics
that are sought in the offspring. The most desirable goal for
those who advocate changes seems to be an increase in
intelligence. Dr. Joseph Fletcher has said that, "Öquality
control in birth technology should select for intelligence, on
the ground that control is human and rational, and is therefore,
to be espoused."40 Most notorious is the sperm bank
that carries only the sperm of geniuses and Nobel Prize winners.
Of course, that bank is concerned with intact sperm rather than
the genetic manipulation of the sperm or egg, but the intent is
The moral issue is
whether greater intelligence per se will benefit the
human race. Certainly, greater intelligence will produce greater
technology. The problem, however, is how to use that technology.
Alfred Nobel invented dynamite to move through earth and rocks
much faster than men and machines previously could. Immediately,
however, dynamite was used in bomb to destroy other men and
their property. Greater morality is the greatest need for
mankind; not greater technology. The morality of the users, not
intelligence, determines the great usefulness or destructiveness
For example, we can
look at the "intelligence" of two Nobel Prize winners. In 1974
Sir Francis Crick worked out the double-helix arrangement of
DNA. His plans included that "Ö no newborn infant should be
declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its
genetic endowmentÖ and if it fails these tests, it forfeits the
right to live."41 Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize
Winner, has suggested that every young person have a tattoo on
his forehead that represents his genotype:
"If this were done,
two young people carrying the same seriously defective gene
in single dose would recognize the situation at first sight,
and would refrain from falling in love with one another."
Such extreme views
clearly reveal that greater intelligence does not automatically
produce better morality. The very people whose work makes
genetic engineering possible cast serious doubts about whether
it should be done. Their plans do not include much personal
freedom. So much for the advantage of intelligence!
Such grandiose plans
should not blind Christians to the plans that God has to improve
the human race. That plan is found in the Great Commission. The
highest goal to which man may be conformed is the image of Jesus
Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). And, God has determined how
this transformation is to take place (John 3:1-8; Rom. 12:2; 2
Cor. 5:17). Further, His people are to develop the fruit of the
Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), righteousness (Mt. 6:33), and gifts of
the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:1-11). This program definitely does not
include genetic engineering! Such spiritually determined effects
cannot be produced by physical (biochemical) means.
Other changes include
the elimination of all genetic causes of disease, more
proficient athletes and manual workers, and various changes of
character and personality. These designs are similar to those
that are proposed for clones (which see).
Advocates of plans to further eugenics through population and
birth control and artificial insemination have shown that they
will use any means to achieve their ends. Theirs is an
attempt of a few to gain power over all. They have the
mindset that "superior" persons should control others. The issue
is the same as any other proposal that sets criteria for what is
"good" (moral) and what is "bad" (immoral). Who decides?
Dr. Francis Schaeffer
simplified the issue. He observed that such decisions can be
made in one of four ways: by one person (in effect, a dictator),
an elite group (who may be scientists or others of "special"
intelligence), a majority of people (ruled out by the
methodology itself), or biblical revelation.42
The central issue must
be clear: Whenever anyone speaks of what is good or bad for
an individual or society, regardless of the means, the moral
values of the decision-makers will inevitably be imposed on the
non-decision makers. For example, those scientists who
subscribe to Humanist Manifestos I and II, if given the
opportunity, would gladly attempt to program Christianity out of
existence because they clearly state that Christianity is not
"good" for the human race.
Goals of the eugenics
movement cannot be accomplished without complete control over
the sexual and procreative methods of everyone.43
Any omissions would allow the continued propagation of the
very characteristics that the planners are attempting to
eliminate. That is a power that no state has had in the history
of the world. As the eradication of smallpox required a global
effort, the eradication of "bad" genes would also. The ultimacy
of this power is illustrated by a parody of Godís creation of
man: "Let us make man in our image." With genetic engineering,
as with eugenics of the past and social programs of the present,
some men desire to make all men in their own image. The
contrast is striking: in creation man is made in the image of
the perfect God; but scientific design is to make all men in the
image of a sin-infested and sin-infected humanity!
To a great extent
Christians and non-Christians alike associate technology and
science, particularly in health and medical issues with a
general intention to do "good." The non-Christian, and even the
professing Christian, however, cannot determine the good apart
from a thorough knowledge of biblical revelation. Motives can be
misguided by biblical ignorance: "There is a way which seems
right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12).
C.S.. Lewis has provided prophetic insight into the motives and
behavior of scientists in two books, one fiction, That
Hideous Strength and the other non-fiction, The Abolition
of Man. We ignore his warnings to our peril.
that may not be explicit, is clearly implicit in genetic
engineeringóthe perfectibility of man.44 Since
earliest times philosophers and others have proposed means to
obtain some kind of utopia. The Christian knows this dreams is
impossible because mankind remains under the curse of the sin of
Adam and Eve and the ongoing maladies produced by personal sins.
Their orientation to sin cannot be eradicated from the human
race. Utopia for the Christian is heaven. This presently
unreachable goal, however, does not preclude an increasing
reformation of society through the Great Commission and an
increasing obedience to the Word of God. Utopia for the
unbeliever will never be realized.
This idea of
perfectibility obscures the fact that we are already "fearfully
and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14) and only "a little lower than
God Ps. 8:5a). Further obscured is the reality that without
scientifically engineered physical changes, the Christian is
being made into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). So,
biblically a balance must be maintained between the sinfulness
that will always characterize humans individually and socially,
the high status of man as he is created by God, the present
transformation that is taking place within believers, and the
future "utopia" that is our hope.
Another major fallacy
of eugenics is its hypothetical product. "Improvement of the
human race" has little to do with individuals. The individual is
sacrificed for the whole. Individual freedoms are given up
entirely. If one is fortunate, he may not be one of the
sacrificial victims. Even so, the entire control of his own
destiny has been taken out of his hands should he have "bad"
Central to a
biblical/medical ethic is a conscious recognition and practical
outworking of the "darkness" of manís mind and intentions
without regeneration and revelation. Two manifestations of this
darkness are a quest for power over other men and the dream of a
utopia in which peace and happiness exist for all. Eugenics
is not a scientific but a religious issue, totally wedded to
oneís anthropology. What man is determines how, and
to what extent, he can be manipulated.
It is a matter of
controversy as to whether viruses are "alive." From current
evidence, however, they do not appear to have an identity
separate from the cells that they parasitize. See Watson,
Recombinant DNA, 14.
Life; Anderson, Genetic Engineering.
of the Genetic Code."
Stambrook, "What the
Clinician Needs to Know about DNA"
Grobstein, "The Early
Anderson, Human Gene
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 75-79; Berkhof, Systematic
for Human Gene Therapy" and "Human Gene Therapy"
Anderson, Human Gene
National Institutes of
Anderson, Human Gene
Theological Perspectives": (Part I and II).
FLK, or "funny looking
kid" is a common euphemism in medical practice. Often, the
suspicion that a child has a genetic problem begins with the
fact that their appearance is somehow different from that of
other babies or children. It is not a derogatory term, but one
used until a more definite label is diagnosed or he is proven to
be genetically and physically normal.
Trisomies occur when
Chromosome 13 fails to separate entirely during its phase of
division. Thus, the child has part of an extra chromosome. This
extra part usually does not survive to be born. When it is, a
variety of abnormalities can be present. The most common trisomy
is Down syndrome and involves Chromosome 21.
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 143-151.
Theology; Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit;
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion; Clark,
The Biblical Doctrine of Man; Murray, The Christian View
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 75-79. The same non-material
entity, when viewed in conjunction with the body is called
"spirit." Although we believe that man is dichotomous, the
belief that man is trichotomous would not change the following
argument except to make it more complex.
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 152, note 21.
Work of the Holy Spirit.
Friedrich, "What Do
Custance, "Who Taught
Biblical/Medical Ethics, 148-9.
Since plants will
accept grafts beyond the limits of hybridization by means of
sexual propagation, biblical "kinds" may be identified with the
maximum extent of sexual hybridization.
Morris, The Bible
and Modern Science, 367-389.
Ultrastructure, Macromolecules, and Evolution, 559-565.
Institutes of Biblical Law, 253-262.
Iglesias, "What Kind of
As we have stated in
many places, man is a unity of body and spirit with their most
intimate association that which exists between the brain (a part
of the physical body) and the mind (a part of the non-material
spirit). It is likely that the brain of an individual has some
peculiar identity with the mind of that same person because of
this intimacy. Although brain transplants are not now a
possibility, we ought to begin to consider the morality or
immorality of such surgery. Certainly, the brain is not just
another organ like the kidney or liver.
Life, 4-5; Sobran, "Eugenics and Euphemisms."
Paraphrased in Jones,
Brave New People, 63.
Quoted in Gish,
Manipulating Life, 16.
The Church at the End.
Brungs, "Human Life."
Man, 1, 90ff, 122, 131; Gish, Manipulating Life, 28;
Anderson, Genetic Engineering, 37.
Man, 1, 90ff, 122, 131; Gish, Manipulating Life.