Topics

The Brave New World of Cloning: A Christian Worldview Perspective

“I was convinced that there was still plenty of time.”(1) With those words the author Aldous Huxley looked back to 1931, and the publication of his famous novel Brave New World. Huxley’s vision of an oppressive culture of total authoritarian control and social engineering was among the most shocking literary events of the twentieth century. But just 27 years after the publication of Brave New World, Huxley was already aware of his underestimation of the threat represented by modern technocratic society.

News that scientists had cloned an adult sheep from non-reproductive cells shook the scientific community, but prompted an earthquake of concern in the larger culture. The cloning of the sheep by Dr. Ian Wilmut’s team in Scotland raises a host of ethical, legal, and social issues which will take time to untangle. Yet, even as this reality began to sink into our cultural consciousness, further reports of the cloning of monkeys from embryo cells and attempts at human cloning raised the sense of ethical crisis.

The Cloning of Animals and the Ethics of Dominion

The simple fact that an adult sheep had been produced through cloning was a graphic indication of the remarkable advances made in the field of genetics in recent years. The achievement of a cloned mammal–genuinely cloned from a non-reproductive cell–was thought to be years away. Yet Wilmut and his colleagues apparently moved the schedule ahead and achieved a genuine scientific breakthrough.

The proposed use of the cloned sheep and the impetus behind the experiment is pharmaceutical research, but this limited purpose is but a hint of the countless purposes to which the technology can be directed. “Dolly,” as the sheep is known, is the face of the future as the technology of cloning is advanced and applied.

What are the ethical implications of cloning animals? At first glance, this question appears no more complicated than related questions concerning animal husbandry and breeding. After all, selective breeding designed to enhance the quality of stocks and herds predates the development of genetics as a science. Once the basic patterns of genetic inheritance were observed, techniques intended to enhance genetic quality quickly followed.

Over the past two decades, this has exploded into international agribusiness, and most modern animals produced for human consumption bear the marks of some genetic intervention. Genetic enhancements such as the practice of “twinning” cattle embryos are now practiced wholesale in developed nations. But the arrival of “Dolly” represents an entirely new development toward the artificiality of animal life at the hands of human engineers.

According to the Bible, human beings are granted and assigned a dual responsibility by the Creator–dominion and stewardship. Human beings, made in the image of God, are to exercise dominion and “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”(2) This extensive rule sets the human being apart from the rest of creation, and the other creatures.

This rulership is translated into the intentional use of animals to human ends and the elevation of human needs and purposes above all other creatures. But the dominion granted to human beings is not inherently ours, but is a delegated rulership. We rule over the animals by the authority of our Creator, and thus we will answer for our stewardship of our rulership.

What does this suggest about the issue of cloned animals? First, the acknowledgment of our delegated dominion should make clear that our rulership is limited. We are not to take the authority of the Creator as our own. Second, this principle of a delegated rulership should serve as a warning concerning the increasing artificiality of animal life at human hands. The increasing use of unnatural means of reproduction leads automatically to a sense of engineered life forms as human creations.

Put bluntly, we were not commanded or authorized to create new forms of life as extensions of our own designs and ego. Nightmarish scenarios of unforeseen consequences are easily imaginable. Further, the issue of cloned mammals also threatens the biodiversity God clearly intended as a mark of His creation. Cloned animals repeat the genetic code of the host animals, avoiding the necessary genetic mixing by natural reproduction. Performed on a wide scale, this could threaten to harm species, or even threaten their survival from disease.

The intricate questions of ethical means and ends revolve around every aspect of animal cloning. This is not a simple issue of a new genetic technology. The ethical issues of animal cloning are real and unavoidable. Without question, the development of cloning may provide advances in therapeutic technologies which will benefit human beings as well as animals. Nevertheless, the technology of cloning also raises the specter of transgenic animals–crossing species and creating customized new animal forms. Again, the Christian worldview warns us that our stewardship and dominion of other creatures is to be exercised within limits imposed by the Creator. Many arguments on behalf of human “co-creation” with God are not biblically sustainable, and indicate creaturely over-reaching and hubris. Human beings are assigned responsibility for the care, use, and enjoyment of animal creatures, but we are not granted license for their mechanistic manipulation, transgenic innovation, or ruthless violation.

One need not accept the ideology of the animal rights movement in order to question the moral character of these new technologies which threaten the integrity of animal life. At the same time, abstract claims of the integrity of animal life cannot be posed in terms of ultimacy. The distinction between human beings and the other living beings is central to the biblical text. Spiritual value is assigned to human life in a sense that is totally foreign and alien to animal life. Animal life is certainly not without value, as attested by the “goodness” of animal creation by the verdict of the Creator. But animal life cannot be assigned the highest value, for such would be an inversion of the biblical hierarchy of value and moral responsibility.

The Cloning of Humans and the Reproductive Revolution

Though the cloning of a sheep was the proof that cloning could be achieved, few thoughtful persons could keep their minds on the lamb. The cloning of human beings–long limited to the domain of science fiction–now appeared to be an impending reality. Ian Wilmut accepted the fact that cloning humans would be possible. “There is no reason in principle why you couldn’t do it,” he acknowledged. Yet he added, “All of us would find that offensive.”(3)

Though his first statement remains to be demonstrated, his second statement is blatantly false. It is simply not true that all of us would find the cloning of human beings to be offensive. Indeed, an editorial published in Nature advised that human cloning “is likely to be achievable any time from one to ten years from now. Ethical constraints aside, there are even some rare genetic and medical disorders for which it would be a desirable way for a couple to produce offspring.”(4) Bioethicist John Robertson agrees, adding that the cloning of a dying child or infertile adults might be morally justified.(5) Others, such as John Fletcher, a former ethicist for the National Institutes of Health, assert that the cloning of a baby designed to provide a tissue-matched organ or bone marrow could also be justified. “The reasons for opposing this are not easy to argue,” Fletcher commented.(6)

The claim
that the cloning of a human being could take place in the next few years came as a surprise to the general public. The idea of cloning a human being was quickly championed by some of the more eager proponents of genetic technologies. Others were more skeptical, doubting that the difficulty of cloning a human would be comparable to cloning a sheep. Nevertheless, the technology is basically the same, and the achievement of a cloned human being is not likely to be far in our future.

This is an issue of immediate, urgent, and universal importance. The cloning of a human being represents a radical break with the human past, and with the established patterns of human life. The very possibility of human cloning is repulsive to many persons. Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health, suggested that the notion of cloning a human being would be “repugnant to the American public.”(7) Harvard neurobiologist Lisa Geller, who admitted that she could make no ethical distinction between in vitro fertilization and cloning, nevertheless confessed: “I admit is makes my stomach feel nervous.”(8)

The cloning of a human brings to mind the sterile, dehumanizing images of Huxley’s Brave New World, with its fertilizing rooms, decanting chambers, and embryo stores representing the technological perfection of artificial human reproduction. The reproductive revolution has already thrown a host of difficult ethical issues on the national agenda, but the genetic revolution is perhaps the greatest ethical challenge of the new millennium.

That nervous stomach to which Geller admitted is about all the secular worldview can offer in response to this issue. Having denied the existence and authority of God the Creator, all that remains for modern secularists is the artificial morality of an ad hoc ethic. Any opposition to cloning–human or otherwise–is merely arbitrary. Business Week was positively ecstatic about the possibilities of cloning, and stated editorially: “The world should embrace the biological revolution, not cringe from it.”(9) Yet, incongruous though it may seem, the same editorial warned: “There is no question that the notion of individuals cloning themselves is not only repugnant but also raises important questions.” Clearly, Business Week‘s embrace of the biological revolution is not unconditional–at least not yet–but their editorial opposition to human cloning appears merely arbitrary and superficial.

The possible development of human cloning raises a host of ethical quandaries. Who would be the “parents” of a cloned child? In an age of patented forms of life, could a cloned being be “owned,” at least in genetic pattern? Will parents seek to clone children in order to provide tissues, organs, or bone marrow for transplant into another child? These are but a few of the many pressing questions which will demand address. The secular worldview provides only tentative and provisional answers.

Does the Christian worldview offer a more substantial basis for the ethical evaluation of human cloning? I will argue that the Christian worldview alone can provide us with an ethical context and authority adequate to this task

In the Image of God: Human Beings and the Purpose of God

The biblical creation account presents the creation of human beings as the pinnacle of God’s creative purpose. After creating the world and filling it with living creatures, God purposed to create human beings. The human creature–set apart from all other creatures–would bear the Imago Dei, the image of God. While the exact nature of the image of God in the human creature is not identified in detail, it clearly represents the spiritual character and capacity God established in us, and it sets the human creature apart from all other living beings.(10)

Though the image of God in human beings has been corrupted by sin, it has not been removed, and this image is an essential mark of true humanity. Each human being is a special creation of God, made in His own image. Human beings share certain common characteristics and features, as well as a common form with specializations, but each is unique by the design of the Creator. The status of human beings as created beings, each unique but all bearing the image of God, establishes a foundation for theological understanding.

The fact that the precise character of the image of God in humanity is unknown to us does not mean that we have no general knowledge of its meaning. The Reformed tradition has identified knowledge, righteousness, and holiness as a triad of qualities representing the image of God.(11) Each of these qualities establishes the human as qualitatively distinct from other creatures. Thomas Aquinas, the great synthesizer of the medieval tradition, defined the image of God as a function and capacity of human consciousness or intellect. This capacity exists in three stages, argued Thomas, rising from the potential knowledge of God, to the actual acknowledge of God, to the perfect knowledge of God. John Calvin tied the concept of the image of God to the human capacity to glorify God, but accepted that every part of the human being is marked in some sense by the image, even though it is corrupted by sin.

Herman Bavinck stated the issue clearly: “Man does not simply bear or have the image of God; he is the image of God.”(12) He continues:

From the doctrine that man has been created in the image of God flows the clear implication that that image extends to man in his entirety. Nothing in man is excluded from the image of God. All creatures reveal traces of God, but only man is the image of God. And he is that image totally, in soul and body, in all faculties and powers, in all conditions and relationships. Man is the image of God because and insofar as he is true man, and he is man, true and real man, because and insofar as he is the image of God.(13)Thus, the biblical view of human value is rooted in the revealed knowledge that we are made in God’s image, and thus are image-bearers by our very nature. Bavinck’s reminder that this is essential to true humanity is echoed by Anthony Hoekema’s insistence that the concept of the image of God is the “most distinctive feature of the biblical understanding of man.”(14) Without the knowledge of the divine image, man does not know himself for who he is.

This makes clear the decisive distinction between the biblical and secular conceptions of human nature and value. The naturalistic understanding of humanity central to modernity accepts no theistic referent of value. Human beings are cosmic accidents–the fortuitous by-products of blind evolutionary process. As James Watson reflected, he came early to accept Linus Pauling’s simple statement, “We came from chemistry.”(15) Any value thus ascribed to human life is arbitrary and tentative, and necessarily self-referential. This explains why contemporary secular debates concerning the value or sanctity of human life are so inherently confused. We will ascribe value to ourselves by an act of the will. But, as the murderous twentieth century has shown, those who ascribe value to human life by an act of the will can deny that same value by a similar act of the will.

According to the biblical revelation, human beings, like all of creation, were created in order to glorify God. But humans were created with a distinct and unique capacity to know, reverence, worship, and glorify the Creator. He made human beings, male and female, of his own good pleasure, in his own image, and to his own sovereign purpose. Thus, human beings are not mere biological artifacts, nor accidental forms of life. The special, purposeful, and direct creation of every human being in the image of
God is central to the Christian worldview. Modernity’s rejection and refutation of that revealed knowledge has set the stage for the rise of abortion, euthanasia, genetic manipulation, infanticide, and even genocide–all in the name of social responsibility and personal autonomy.

Genetic Manipulation and the Eugenic Temptation

Since the rise of genetic knowledge, the eugenic temptation has always been with us. As Daniel Kevles notes, the desire to breed better humans goes back as far as Plato, though Plato had no conception that genetic knowledge would one day put that goal within human reach.(16) Francis Galton’s term eugenics (literally, “good in birth”) is now a part of our cultural vocabulary, and the eugenic reality is on the front line of our cultural crisis.

The temptation to conceive human breeding in eugenic terms is powerful and, in one sense, virtually unavoidable. No thoughtful person would suggest or recommend casual disregard of genetic knowledge regarding, for example, inherited genetic disorders such as Tay-Sach’s disease. But the advent of genetic testing and the exploding knowledge of the human genotype present entirely new eugenic opportunities and ethical challenges.

The crusades of the early eugenicists were directed at limiting the reproduction of those persons or races considered “inferior” and the enhancement of the human species by the intentional breeding of those considered racially or individually “superior.” Eugenic experiments, movements, and theories were common in the early twentieth century in both Europe and the United States, and these often were presented as essentially hygienic and progressive in purpose.

Widespread knowledge of the eugenics-driven genocide of the Nazi regime pushed eugenics outside the pale of acceptable science and medicine in the western democracies–at least until the rise of the new genetic knowledge after 1953, and the identification by James Watson and Francis Crick of the molecular code of DNA. Now, the eugenic temptation is back, armed with knowledge and technologies unimagined by the Nazi doctors and their eugenic compatriots.

The Human Genome Project represents the Manhattan Project of human genetics, and will present humanity with the greatest ethical challenges of the coming century. Though this is seldom articulated or acknowledged in public, genetic testing currently available is used by some parents to decide if a developing fetus is worthy of life.

The ethical challenge of the genetic project is openly accepted by many scientists, including James Watson, who admitted that “the Nazis used leading members of the German human genetics and psychiatry communities to justify their genocide programs, first against the mentally ill and then the Jews and the Gypsies. We need no more vivid reminders that science in the wrong hands can do incalculable harm.”(17)

Of course, Watson is convinced that his hands are “right hands” and contemporary geneticists deny any goals of racial superiority. Nevertheless, the eugenic temptations of the present are every much as ominous as those of the past, and potentially far more threatening, for knowledge denied the Nazi scientists is quickly setting the medical agenda.

As Diane B. Paul suggests, “over every contemporary discussion of eugenics falls the shadow of the Third Reich.”(18) For this reason, some scientists argue that the contemporary issues of genetic knowledge and technique are not eugenic in character at all, for they are not linked–at least yet–to state coercion. This is a false distinction, for though the energy behind the new genetic technologies is not state coercion, it is just as focused on a hierarchical valuation of genetic quality.

The new eugenics is not driven by legal coercion, but by something more like consumer choice. Parents, putting themselves in a consumer posture, are demanding increased genetic knowledge in order to give birth to designer babies, complete with chosen eye color, gender, and anticipated dispositions toward athletics, intellectual pursuits, or other chosen qualities or attributes. Needless to say, these parents also demand that their fetus be free from identifiable genetic flaws or diseases. As John A. Robertson admits, the focus on “offspring quality” changes the very nature of human reproduction. Every pregnancy becomes “tentative” until genetic screens indicate that the fetus is acceptable. This scenario is not an anticipation of future possibilities in genetic medicine, but a realization of present realities. If the fetus is not judged to be of sufficient quality, it can be legally aborted at virtually any stage.

Robertson advocates this freedom under his proposed moral and legal principle of “procreative liberty.”(19) As he argues, this libertarian principle can be applied to any reproductive situation, and state interference is nonexistent. Under the banner of “procreative liberty” we are free to employ any technology available in order to determine the quality of offspring desired. Those fetuses considered unfit are merely aborted without moral consequence or consideration.

Similarly, Philip Kitcher argues that having “left the garden of genetic innocence, some form of eugenics is inescapable, and our first task must be to discover where among the available options we can find the safest home.”(20) Kitcher calls for the development of “utopian eugenics” based on the most sophisticated genetic testing, and argues for the genetic enhancement of the human species as a social responsibility.

The issue of human cloning raises the specter of eugenics to a new level. By the employment of recombinant DNA technologies, a chosen “super strain,” “super race,” or series of “superior individuals” could be designed as embryos and mass produced through asexual reproduction, thus avoiding any dilution of genetic purity by human parents. This is, in essence, the purpose for cloning the sheep. A superior line of genetically designed and enhanced species can be cloned and thus available in mass numbers of undefiled individuals.

The moral consequences are dramatic indeed. Cloning would make possible the eventual de-sexualization of the human race and would allow eugenicists to transcend the “breeding” issues of the early eugenic movements. The new eugenic vision could avoid sexual reproduction altogether and, employing much the same technologies as used to “create” transgenic animals, could modify the genetic structure of the embryo so as to customize and dictate virtually every genetic trait. Thus, the cloning of human beings would allow a dramatic and radical extension of the eugenic vision by allowing for the direct genetic customization of the embryo and the mass asexual production of identical embryos.

Such a vision brings to mind the busy hatcheries of Huxley’s Brave New World, and the antiseptic sterility of his nightmare of totalitarian control. Those who claim that the new eugenics will be free from all coercion are either hopelessly na├»ve or deliberately disingenuous. Anyone familiar with the economic dynamic behind so many supposed medical decisions will know that coercion is already a reality. Pressure is brought on many parents to abort a fetus likely to require expensive medical attention. This pressure is already a form of coercion, but is likely to be only a hint of what is to come. Social pressure–if not social policy–will reward those who allow or encourage eugenic decisions.

Even if mass coercion does not occur, we should consider whether the emergence of small-scale “consumer” eugenics presents a reduced moral challenge. The case made by those committed to &quot
;procreative liberty” and “utopian eugenics” is not convincing. In the first case, the ultimate value is not life as God’s good gift, but unfettered reproductive liberty as a designated “right.” This libertarian worldview posits the autonomous human being at the center of the moral universe, and denies any responsibility before God to accept all life as God’s good gift.

The utopian eugenicists also fail to make a convincing case. While “consumer” eugenics may be free from state coercion or open racial discrimination, it clearly aims for the birth of babies free from all unwanted or undesirable genetic traits and possessing those traits chosen as disirable. Philip Kitcher argues that as genetic counseling becomes generally available, a form of laissez-faire eugenics inevitably results. This laissez-faire eugenics is not, however, as free from discrimination and coercion as its proponents may claim.

Most fundamentally, the eugenicist vision represents the creature’s attempt to define himself and his destiny. By unlocking the genetic code, by laying naked the genome, we will become masters of our own destiny. As human beings, we will define ourselves, improve ourselves, customize ourselves, replicate ourselves, and, in the final act of hubris, redeem ourselves through our genetically enhanced and clonally produced progeny.

Artificial Reproduction and the Destruction of the Family

Sociobiologists explain the emergence and survival of the family in terms of evolutionary development and the need for a stable breeding unit. Given the present stage of human development, the family is passing as a necessity and contemporary persons are redefining relationships to serve other, more individualized needs.

Modernity, with its focus on autonomous individualism and liberation from traditional structures, represents a threatening environment for the family unit. The sexual revolution has severed the link between sexual fidelity and marital integrity. Modern contraceptives have allowed unlimited sex without procreative consequences, and the family has been dethroned from its exalted status and stripped of its functions.

Modern feminism has targeted the family as a domestic prison from which women should make a clean escape, and motherhood as a biological imposition. The homosexual movement has sought to redefine the family by demanding acceptance and recognition of same-sex partnerships, and both male and female same-sex couples claim the right to children, if not progeny.

Increasing numbers of unmarried women now become pregnant through donor insemination or other reproductive technologies, and lesbian groups have even established fertilization centers and support groups. Clearly, the traditional heterosexual nuclear family is no longer considered the only culturally-approved unit of human reproduction.

The possibility of human cloning allows for the final emancipation of human reproduction from the marital relationship. Indeed, cloning would allow for the emancipation of human reproduction from anyrelationship.

Though cloning removes the need for either sperm or egg, no “parent” is necessary. At this point, however, a womb is still necessary for implantation and gestation. Put bluntly, women would be needed as available wombs, if not as biological mothers. Cell biologist Ursula Goodenough of Washington University stated the obvious corollary; “there’d be no need for men.”(21)

Modernity’s assault on the family would thus be complete with the development of cloning. Already stripped of its social functions, the family would now be rendered biologically unnecessary, if not irrelevant. Final liberation from the family and the conjugal bond would be achieved.

Modern secularism may celebrate this emancipation as human progress as the species leaves the vestiges of the pre-modern era behind. But the Christian worldview is the refutation of the secular illusion. Based upon biblical revelation, the family is not an accidental by-product of social evolution nor merely the convenient boundary for socially sanctioned sexual relationships. According to Scripture, the family is God’s gracious gift for our protection, our sexual integrity, and our enjoyment.

The conjugal bond is not a biological trap from which we should seek escape. The marital relationship is the only divinely sanctioned locus of human sexuality, and the bearing of children. The blessing of children is the intended result of the marital bond and the conjugal act.

Surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization already separate fertility and child-bearing from the conjugal act, and, in many cases, from the marital relationship. This is a separation of great moral consequence. As Gilbert Meilaender has commented, “In our world there are countless ways to ‘have’ a child, but the fact that the end ‘product’ is the same does not mean that we have done the same thing.”(22)

Moral philosophers such as Leon Kass and Oliver O’Donovan have noted that our language betrays a shift in consciousness. O’Donovan, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford University, reminds us that the Nicene Creed affirms that Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father was, from eternity, “begotten not made.” We, as human beings, are not in a position to “make” other humans, but only to beget them by God’s intended design. As O’Donovan notes, “We have to consider the nature of this human ‘begetting’ in a culture which has been overwhelmed by ‘making’–that is to say, in a technological culture.”(23)

The shift from ‘begetting’ to ‘making’ noted by O’Donovan reflects the technological worldview of the age. A similar pattern is noted by Leon Kass of the University of Chicago, who traces the shift from procreation to reproduction. Procreation, asserts Kass, reflects the acknowledgment of a Creator and the generative act of creation. Reproduction, on the other hand is a “metaphor of the factory.”(24)

The factory is precisely the image Huxley presented as the reproductive future–and this factory (or laboratory) is the explicit rejection of the marital relationship, the integrity of the family, and our identity as the creature rather than the Creator.

Let us Make Ourselves in Our Own Image: The Creature as Creator

Human cloning, along with other genetic technologies, represents the over-reaching of the creature. No longer satisfied with our creaturely status, we will become our own creators–masters of our species and all others. As John Robertson admits, some now seek to take responsibility for a revolutionary transition in human nature in order to become “creators of ourselves.”(25)

As early as 1968, a report of the National Academy of Sciences declared that the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions would now be followed by the power of modern man to “guide his own evolution.”(26) Carl Sagan claimed that such a threshold had already been crossed and “We are the first species to have taken evolution into our own hands.”(27)

The worldview of secular naturalism leads inevitably to such a conclusion. Mainstream evolutionary scientists argue against any design in the universe and any special value to human beings, other than the evolutionary development of consciousness. Given such a worldview, which denies both Creator and creation, the aspiration to become masters of our own destiny is natural and rational. If we are not created in the image of God, then we will be our own gods. If there is no divine Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, then we will have to take creation into our own hands.

With moral foresight, the late Paul Ramsey saw the emergence of
“fabricated man” through genetic manipulation and control. Ramsey recognized the attractiveness of human fabrication to the secular mind. Given the inherent hubris of secular culture, the temptation is almost impossible to resist.(28)

The eugenic temptation is so powerful that only the Christian worldview can restrain it. Scripture alone reveals our creaturely identity, our sinfulness, and the limits of our authority and responsibility. We are not the Creator, and the responsibility to assume control of the universe is not ours. God the Creator rules over all and has revealed his intention for us in laws and commandments which demand our obedience, and limitations which demand our respect. We are not to play God. As Ramsey argues: “We ought rather to live with charity amid the limits of a biological and historical existence which God created for the good and simple reason that, for all its corruption, it is now–and for the temporal future will be–the good realm in which man and his welfare are to be found and served.”(29)

The very notion of moral limits is foreign to the secular mind. Increasingly, the worldviews of modern secularistic scientism and scriptural Christianity are understood to be incompatible and diametrically opposed. As a consequence, moral discourse on issues such as cloning is often grossly confused or totally absent.

Faced with the potential development of human cloning, the modern secular worldview develops a queasy stomach, but will never be able to establish a moral conviction. Its ad hoc morality and arbitrary judgments will never lead to a common understanding–much less to a defense of the sanctity of life.

Over twenty-five years ago, James Watson declared the likely advent of “clonal man.” Admitting that this development would be deeply upsetting to many persons, Watson raised the question, “Is this what we want?”(30) Watson, who was the first director of the Human Genome Project and has championed the rise of genetic knowledge and technologies, ended his essay by warning that “if we do not think about it now, the possibility of our having a free choice will one day suddenly be gone.”(31)

That day may now be very close at hand. Christians should engage this debate on biblical terms, and contend for the sanctity of all created life, as well as the distinction between the creature and the Creator. All technologies–including modern genetics–must be evaluated in terms of the biblical revelation and the totality of the Christian worldview.

The troubling tangle of ethical issues involved in genetic technologies represents an urgent challenge to the Christian Church as the people of the truth. The new technologies cannot be naively dismissed nor blissfully embraced. This generation of Christians must regain the disciplines of moral discernment and cultural engagement. The Brave New World is upon us.

Endnotes:

  1. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (New York: Harper and Row, 1958), p. 3.
  2. Genesis 1:28 [NASB]
  3. Gina Kolata, “With Cloning of a Sheep, the Ethical Ground Shifts,” The New York Times ( February 24, 1997).
  4. “Caught Napping By Clones: Pleas for Ethical Advice on Mammalian Cloning Reveal a Lack of Foresight,” Nature 385:6619 (February 27, 1997).
  5. Kolata, “Ethical Ground Shifts.”
  6. Jeffrey Kluger, “Who Will Follow the Sheep?,” TIME, (March 10, 1997), p. 70.
  7. Kluger, p. 70.
  8. Ibid.,
  9. “Don’t Be Afraid of Genetic Research,” Business Week (March 10, 1997), p. 126.
  10. Though historic Christian theology holds that the Imago Dei has been corrupted by sin, it has not been obliterated, and thus the distinction between humanity and the animals remains. As Martin Luther explained: “Thus even if this image has been almost completely lost, there is still a great difference between the human being and the rest of the animals.” Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1-5, “Luther’s Works,” vol. 1, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), p. 67.
  11. G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, “Studies in Dogmatics,” trans. Dirk W. Jellema (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), p. 88.
  12. Cited in Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God’s Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p. 65. The translation of Bavinck’s statements from his Dogmatiek are by Hoekema.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid., p. 11.
  15. James D. Watson, “A Personal View of the Project,” in The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project, ed. Daniel J. Kevles and Leroy Hood (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 164.
  16. Daniel Kevles, “Out of Eugenics,” in Kevles and Hood, p. 4.
  17. Evelyn Fox Keller, “Nature, Nurture, and the Human Genome Project,” in Kevles and Hood, p. 299.
  18. Diane B. Paul. Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present (Atlantic Highlands, NJ; Humanities Press, 1995), p. 134.
  19. See John A. Robertson, Children of Choice: Freedom and the New Reproductive Technologies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).
  20. Philip Kitcher, The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), p. 204.
  21. Kolata, p. A-1.
  22. Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 15.
  23. Oliver O’Donovan, Begotten or Made? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 2.
  24. Cited in Meilaender, p. 11. See Leon Kass, Toward a More Natural Science (New York: The Free Press, 1985), p. 48.
  25. Robertson, p. 274.
  26. See Keller, p. 288.
  27. Cited in Harold Varmus, “Genetics: The Ethical Problem with Knowledge,” Vital Speeches of the Day (March 15, 1996), p. 337.
  28. Paul Ramsey, Fabricated Man: The Ethics of Genetic Control (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970).
  29. Ibid., p. 149.
  30. James D. Watson, “Moving Toward the Clonal Man: Is This What We Want?,” The Atlantic 227 (May 1971), pp. 50-53.
  31. Ibid., p. 53.