SCIENCE AND HUMAN LIFE
A great deal of work is being done by scientists in the area of the manipulation and control of human life. Some recent articles in Newsweek magazine tell of the nature of this work and the justification for it.
One such article describes recent work being done in attaining to a long-sought goal: the creation of life. Many of the chemical compounds which are a part of cell structure have been isolated. And from time to time scientists have made the claim that they have been successful in synthesizing these compounds and creating some form of life. Usually these claims are mere empty boastings and one hears nothing more about them after a short period of time. Now again some scientists are making the same claim. They claim to have created “test-tube life at a higher level,” in what is supposed to be “the first artificial synthesis of a living and reproducing cell.”
The work was done by isolating the three basic parts of the ameba cell. The ameba is a small single-celled creature which reproduces by dividing into two when it reaches a certain size. The three basic parts of the ameba were taken from three different amebas and put together into a new one which lived and, after a period of time, divided. This experiment was only successful however, when the parts of the ameba were taken from identical strains. If different strains were used, the tests were usually unsuccessful.
Now all of this is still a far cry from creating life. To pull apart three different amebas and put the parts back together into a fourth is not yet making a new ameba from its chemical compounds. But what is so frightening about an experiment such as this is that the scientists involved in the experiment immediately begin to speak of its application and possible use. For one thing, they suggest that there might be ways to use this technique in the fighting of disease by creating new types of microorganisms which would be able to attack the bacteria and viruses which bring human sickness. This is not so bad, although one wonders if, in their experiments, they might not form a microorganism which, rather than destroying a disease-bringing virus or bacteria, would bring a new disease for which there would be no cure and which would bring a plague upon the human race which would do awesome damage.
But for another thing these scientists immediately begin to speculate about the possibilities of making new egg cells that could produce better babies for animals and man. One scientist in the project boasted: “If we wished to do so, within twenty years we could possibly be making new mammals.”
Somewhat along the same lines, Newsweek reported on work being done in creating “test-tube embryos.” strikingly, the article was written under the title: “Playing God.”
At Cambridge University in England this year, a medical-research team successfully removed, fertilized and cultured human ova to produce nearly two dozen “test-tube” embryos. And in time, some biologists believe, researchers will be able to produce a mature baby entirely outside the womb. . . .
Through these and other experiments in biological and medical technology, modern science is rapidly learning—much faster than society at large yet realizes—to play God with human nature. Advancements in genetic engineering, in particular, offer the prospect of controlling human reproduction for generations to come. . . .
To produce these so-called “test-tube babies” means, of course, that scientists will also be able to control the development of such a baby and alter its nature in fundamental ways. Scientists speak of acting as “God’s co-creators in the evolution of new forms of human life.” And the goal is the creation of some kind of super-man far superior in physical and mental abilities from anything present on our planet today.
Interestingly enough Newsweek enters into the moral and spiritual questions which this sort of thing inevitably bring up. Some theologians are not at all happy at the prospect of producing babies in ways other than the God-ordained ways; but the majority seem not to be too fazed by it all. There is one fundamental argument which is adduced in favor of this, an argument which has several ramifications. The argument is essentially an evolutionistic one. Although not stated in so many words, it is assumed that since evolutionary development means that higher forms of life are constantly being produced by the evolutionary process, man has the obligation to continue in this endeavor. He has reached a point in his upward climb on the evolutionary ladder when he can control these processes inherent in the world and manipulate the processes himself. In bygone eras evolutionary development was by blind-fate. Through what were basically chance changes in the genetic structure of animals, higher forms of life which were able to adapt more successfully to a hostile environment, the climb from some primordial ooze was upward. But now there is no longer any need to leave evolution to chance. Man can control the process and steer it in the direction he wants it to go. He need not wait any longer for mere chance to bring about change; he can bring about the change himself. And so, by a modern technology he can aid in the production of yet higher forms of life and push man by his own work to the highest rungs of the evolutionary ladder.
Thus scientists (and many theologians concur) claim that man ought to do what he can do. “If man can breed better races by genetic engineering or by making babies in test tubes, why shouldn’t he do it? The idea that there are certain things which you don’t do is far from my mentality. Basically, it is up to man to shape his own life.” This is the general consensus among those who study the moral implications of the problem. Another says: “We are on a unique threshold where, for the first time in history, man has a chance to do something about his own nature. . . . The central questions are what do we mean by ‘human nature’ and what do we want to make of man? Religion has always operated on the premise that man is not his own maker. But we have also learned from the debate over abortion that human beings have the right to stipulate what is human in light of social consequences.”
It is interesting to note in the above quote that the recent liberalization of abortion laws is used for justification of genetic engineering. The argument, quite obviously, is that if man has the right to terminate the life of an unborn baby, he has also the right to determine the nature of that baby if it lies within his power to do so.
Another aspect of this problem is the whole question of the mental manipulation of people. Scientists have recently developed equipment by which they are able to control the behavior of animals. Through the use of electric impulses sent into various parts of the brain by means of implanted electrodes scientists have altered the behavior of animals and changed their personalities rather drastically. Depending upon what part of the brain is given doses of electric impulses, the actions, desires and even “thought processes” of monkeys and other animals have been substantially altered.
The purpose of such experimentation is, of course, to apply it all to man. Many have objected to such experimentation and point out that this will lead to the horrors of “1984” with its programmed people. Scientists scoff at such fears and justify their experimentation by speaking of the vast benefits to be gained through such work for various diseases. The thought is that this type of “treatment” may assist epileptics and victims of Parkinson’s disease. But even scientists speak glowingly of the work that can be done through the use of such techniques in controlling undesirable behavior in people judged to be mentally ill. Anxiety, fear, violent behavior, anti-social behavior—all these and many more undesirable traits in humans can be controlled and corrected by such techniques.
The important questions are, of course: Who is going to decide what is undesirable behavior? There have been many instances in the past where the holy and sanctified walk of the child of God has been judged by the powers that be as undesirable behavior which constitutes a threat to society and which makes it necessary for these people to be eliminated from society. It is not at all far-fetched to ponder the real possibility that the world may once again think that the Christian who walks antithetically in the world and maintains the truth of Scripture is undesirable in his life and ought to have his behavior changed by these techniques to which he would be forcibly subjected.
That these questions involve moral considerations goes without saying. And certainly, the very fact that the chief justification for all this is to be found in the theory of evolution shows the moral bankruptcy of it all. We have often argued in these columns that evolutionism is not merely a scientific theory which deals with questions of an understanding of the creation, but that it is a theory which involves a whole “world-and-life view.” Evolutionism is also an ethical system. And when one sees what kind of ethics evolutionism implies, cold shudders run up and down one’s spine. It goes without argument that all these experiments are indeed justifiable on the basis of evolutionism. Evolutionism ultimately means free sex, abortion on demand, physical and mental manipulation of the human species and countless more awful consequences which our sorry world is just beginning to realize.
But the opposite is also true. If evolutionism is false, then all this experimentation is evil and from hell. If evolutionism is a theory which openly denies all that Scripture teaches and all the truth of God, then the ethics which follows from such a system is hellish and devilish as well. Because all these wild and fearful experiments are justified on the basis of evolution, they are to be condemned along with evolution.
This is not, of course, going to prevent man from pursuing his way of sin. We need not have any doubts about the fact that man will pursue his course in the years to come and continue his evil work. It is to be expected that man will indeed reach a point where he produces babies by test-tubes and manipulates human behavior by electric impulses and alters human nature by genetic engineering. We shall have to live in such a world in the not too distant future. Nor need we doubt that, from a certain point of view, man will be successful in these areas to perform what he desires.
But one thing is certain. Though man refuses to reckon with the fact that God curses the creation and that the curse is in the very fiber of the world and in the very center of the life of man, this curse is a reality from which man can never escape. God’s Word of hatred and anger, of judgment and vengeance is in the creation. And it works in all men too. What terrible consequences this will have as man pursues his experiments is impossible to say. Sometimes there are warnings of the consequences of man’s evil experimenting, as, for example, in the thalidomide tragedy of a few years ago. But wicked men do not see these things as warnings. In fact every warning of God simply serves as a goad to man’s evil nature to pursue his path of sin with greater devotion. He sees what he terms a set-back as added incentive to continue his way.
It will be a strange and awful world in which the Church shall have to live in the years ahead. There is always the very real danger that even the Church will be deceived by it all. Jesus warns against this very thing when he discusses with His disciples the signs of His return in Matthew 24. The deception will be in part because the world has a way of making her defeats look like triumphs, her hellish tamperings with things sacred like marvelous scientific progress, her hollow accomplishments like salvation in this world. And for those who will be faithful there is nothing but danger ahead—fearful danger which makes the soul shudder. But the faithful servant of God must shake off his fears and deliver his soul from anxiety by quiet and earnest trust in Him Who is Lord over all.