This week the MIT Technology Review reported that scientists in Oregon have become the first in the U.S. to edit the DNA of human embryos.
The MIT Technology Review writes,
The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, according to people familiar with the scientific results.
Until now, American scientists have watched with a combination of awe, envy, and some alarm as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China.
To call this research “controversial” is an understatement. It is unconscionable for two reasons.
First, in order to carry out their research, scientists created human embryos. These human embryos were living human beings–albeit very small, helpless human beings. Researchers in Oregon created these human beings; experimented on them; and then apparently killed them.
Ethically speaking, this is no different from embryonic stem cell research in which human embryos are created and then killed in order to harvest their stem cells for scientific use.
The second reason this research is unconscionable is that it could pave the way for “designer babies” in which embryos are edited to produce certain characteristics. Scientists who support this research say it could one day allow doctors to correct genetic abnormalities in unborn children, but it could also allow parents and doctors to engineer children with certain traits or enhancements.
It’s worth noting this is not the first time these researchers in Oregon have engaged in this type of activity. In 2013 they published research claiming to have cloned and killed human embryos in order to obtain their stem cells.
As we have said many times, human beings are not research material. All scientific research must respect the sanctity of human life. And we should not do anything that might encourage or allow doctors to produce customized “designer children.”
“[V]ice does not lose its nature, though it becomes ever so fashionable.”
The poll showed a record-high in “moral acceptability” on issues like premarital sex, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia.
Of course, this poll should raise a number of questions. Is something right or wrong just because a large percentage of the population says so? No. Once upon a time we would have called the findings of this poll evidence of “moral decay” in America. Today we just say that Americans’ morals are shifting.
So what happens when a society decides to change morality? What happens when people increasingly call evil “good”? Well, let’s look at a few examples.
Last week, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview devoted one of its daily “Breakpoint Commentary” pieces to a recent situation at an Illinois high school.
Ninth and tenth-graders at St. Joseph-Ogden High School were given an assignment, which John Stonestreet describes as follows:
“The lesson began by telling students that ten people shared a serious problem: Without access to a dialysis machine, they would all die.
“Unfortunately, they were told, the local hospital only has enough machines for six of them. The assignment was to decide who got the treatment and who didn’t. The students were asked to rank the potential recipients from one, the person they most wanted to receive treatment, to ten, the person they least wanted.
“All they knew about the people was age, race, and occupation or lack thereof: a housewife, doctor, lawyer, disabled person, cop, teacher, minister, college student, ex-convict, and prostitute.”
The school has defended the exercise, saying the lesson was about “bias.” If that’s the case, why ask students to make theoretical life-and-death decisions about total strangers using little more than racial, occupational, and medical information? Why not at least give them additional info and ask students to weigh whether a person’s value is tied to more than what they contribute to society through their job?
The assignment is very similar to another popular lesson that has popped up now and again in public schools across America the past few decades: The “lifeboat exercise.”