Religion and Ethics Weekly: Genetic Enhancement

Posted by Kendall Harmon

LAWTON: Mitchell is genetically predisposed to be short. His mom, Lisa, is 5'3" and Doug, his dad, is 5'4". Their doctor projected that Mitchell may not get any taller than 5'1" and he suggested human growth hormone might help add two or three more inches to that. They decided to try it.

LISA GREENWOOD: For Mitch, there have already been things in his life that he's wanted to do that he's been unable to do because he's too small. I think that parents will always choose the things that will help their kids grow to be happier, more productive adults.

DOUG GREENWOOD: Some with reason and some without reason, you know. I think this has been a reasonable choice that we've made.

LAWTON: But as biotechnology advances, some ethicists are raising moral concerns about the extent to which parents may try to make even more radical alterations.

Harvard Professor Michael Sandel is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and author of the new book THE CARE AGAINST PERFECTION. He warns of a slippery slope in the drive toward enhancement.

Professor MICHAEL SANDEL (Department of Government, Harvard University): Aiming at giving our kids a competitive edge in a consumer society—that, in principle, is a goal that is limitless. It has—there is no end. In fact, one can imagine a kind of hormonal arms race, or genetic arms race, whether it's to do with height or IQ, conceivably, in the future.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

Posted August 18, 2007 at 3:51 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. dpeirce wrote:

Sure it’s going to happen. Science will provide the know-how and parents who can afford it will do the best they can to predispose their children genetically to be handsome strong geniuses. The question isn’t IF it happens; it’s WHEN it happens, how will Christians respond? And how will we handle the instances when the intended predisposition goes horribly wrong and we get a stupid homocidal monster instead of the planned blond-haired blue-eyed physicist?

In faith, Dave
Viva Texas

August 18, 9:16 pm | [comment link]
2. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

One can understand the temptation, but the case cited here involves such a ‘normal’ deficiency, that you have to wonder about the Greenwoods’ priorities. I know families in my parish community who have children with far more serious ‘deficiencies’ and I also know – on a personal level – the struggle that comes from being self-limited to natural (pro-life) methods of enhancing fertility. If only all our problems were on the level of those of the Greenwood family.

August 19, 9:52 am | [comment link]
3. Larry Morse wrote:

Finally, finally, we get to the matter that is - or should be - most important to Anglicans and all Christians, the ability of science and technology to engineer biological process. What is there in scripture that will help up determine what should and should not be done?

  Peirce is correct. Such engineering will be done because there are so many who believe in the value of perfectability in this life. The question then become what the government should do, on the one hand, and what religion should do on the other. The dangers here are enormous, and the issue of releasing teratagens is the least of them. You know that someone will succesfully clone a human being. Well, why not? But for a Christian, this poses terrible questions, since such a child is a duplicate. Does it have a soul? Is it even a human being, since there has been no egg/sperm union which is the uniform inception of all humanity? Has it inherited man’s sinful nature? And if the clone has been genetically enhanced - taller, blonder, stronger, brighter - who is his maker? To whom, spiritually, does he owe allegiance? Who are his parents? Can he even be baptised? The questions roil every water, spiritual and secular, and as far as I can see, our church has not even begun to face the inevitable. Why worship a God, when you can be like a god yourself?

  For a starter, see “Beyond Therapy,” Kass et al. A Report by the President’s Council on Bioethics. This is essential reading. Wht will it take for the Anglican communion to wake up to the freight train that is bearing down on it even as I write? Larry

August 19, 7:38 pm | [comment link]
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