Of Mice and Men

And the Abolition of Both

A new medical discovery might pose ethical challenges we’ve never faced before. I’ll explain, next on BreakPoint.

Listen Now | Download

Eric Metaxas

Almost one year ago, molecular biologist Katsuhiko Hayashi at Kyoto University did something that may forever change the way we think about human life. But at the time, he had little idea just how significant his discovery was.

Publishing his results in the academic journal, “Science,” Hayashi says he assumed they would be of interest mainly to his fellow biologists. So imagine his surprise when he began receiving emails from infertile women, all very interested in his work. One woman in England offered to fly to his laboratory in Japan, hoping he could help her conceive a child. “That is my only wish,” she pleaded. Hayashi was also contacted by the editor of a gay and lesbian magazine looking for details.

So what did he discover, exactly? The journal “Nature,” picking up the story this summer, reports Daily_Commentary_10_7_13that Hayashi used the skin cells of a mouse to create “primordial germ cells,” or “PGCs.” For those of us non-biologists, that may not mean much—until we read that he went on to mature these cells into eggs, fertilize them and implant them into a female mouse, which then gave birth to live young. Let me run that by you again: this researcher made a mouse a mommy—using nothing but its skin.

Hayashi then went on to create sperm in the same way, and successfully birthed more mouse pups, these being the descendants of their father’s skin.

According to “Nature,” if these processes could be replicated in humans, infertile individuals could become parents. But, wait, there’s more! This technology would allow anyone to produce either male or female sex cells, meaning (theoretically) that women could become biological fathers, and men biological mothers. Thus the interest in the LGBT community.

“What’s the big deal?” somebody might say. "If people—especially infertile couples—want kids, what’s wrong with Hayashi’s research making it possible for them?”

Well, we might reply that it’s not natural to manufacture a child from skin. But then again, neither is installing metal joints or doing a blood transfusion—but we do these things routinely. Isn’t medical science all about cheating nature’s grim prognoses and making the impossible possible? Why should this be forbidden?

Well, I think C. S. Lewis would have responded with another question: “Is there anything that should be forbidden?” That’s precisely the challenge he issued in his famous essay, “The Abolition of Man,” and to which academics of his day had no answer.

As part of mankind’s conquest of nature, Lewis argued, we've conquered our own belief in moral absolutes. After all, the materialist would say, such beliefs are also part of nature. They’ve evolved to help us survive. But now that they’ve outlived their usefulness, we’re free to rise above them. The problem, as Lewis pointed out, is that we have no higher level to which we can rise. When we give up saying, “I ought,” the only thing we can still say is, “I want.”

“Man’s conquest of Nature,” Lewis writes, “turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man.”

What uNewsletter_Gen_180x180_Bltimately sets us apart from the rodents in Hayashi’s laboratory is not our technology or power to cheat nature. It’s our ability to say “no” to things we want to do, but maybe shouldn’t do. It’s the intuition that the way our parents brought us into this world is good. It’s the love that values children for their own sake and not because they fulfill our dreams and wishes.

Which is why, in our rush to bypass making babies the truly human way, we’ll likely miss how much we’ve begun to look like the laboratory animals.

Further Reading and Information

BP-Takeaction_100713Of Mice and Men: And the Abolition of Both - Next Steps

Think. Consider. Examine. Are there limits to what we should do? Does it matter? Why would we object to this particular biotechnological process? Let us know your thoughts on this topic by commenting below.






Stem cells: Egg engineers
David Cyranoski | Nature | August 21, 2013

Scary Brave New World: Here Come Woman Fathers and Male Mothers
Wesley J. Smith | LifeNews.com | August 23, 2013


The Abolition of Man
C. S. Lewis | HarperOne | April 2001

Other Resources:

Modern Science's Babel
John Stonestreet | The Point | September 11, 2013


Mice and Men
This discovery proves that science and technology is constantly evolving. We are constantly discovering close to seven thousand years what God created in six days. It fascinates us to discover that we can take our own skin to heal parts of our own body, and that we can take the organ of another person to extend our life. The one thing this article is not proclaiming is that the biologist Katsuhiko Hayashi has scooped up the dust of the ground and formed a person; He did not create a man. Personally, I am not alarmed at his discovery. Gen 11: 6” And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.”
It is not impossible to take something from that which has already been created to make it again. God made Adam again out of Adam (Gen 5:2). He took the rib that was already there and he made a fe-male. Our bodies have within them the genes and other aspects to make us again.
God brought the female to the male and they procreated from the reproductive system that God created within. Everything within us is made to make us again and also to fix us, where possible. The male and female polarity is the marriage that God only approves of. If the science helps a husband and a wife to conceive a child, it is a godly thing. If we embark upon procreating outside of God’s polarity system, God will get his revenge.
Tami, having children out of wedlock is not exactly a new innovation brought on by this breakthrough, and it's mere speculation that it would lead to a big new wave of it.

As for our discussion about Eric's precise objections, my point is that you and I shouldn't have to engage in interpretation. He really ought to have laid it out rather than using a general argument that we should not necessarily pursue all innovations. I certainly agree that not every advance is for the best. For example, every time someone comes up with a new test for a fetal defect or propensity to have a health issue, I am concerned that the only "benefit," at least in the near term, is that it's one more thing to lead women to kill their babies.

Now, if this new method would be just another way of creating a bunch of embryos, most of whom will be killed, I'll join you and Eric in opposing it.
I read no assumption on the part of Eric's statement regarding “love that values children” that seeks to state in any way "that parents having children in this new way wouldn't love those kids for the right reasons." Rather I see Eric’s argument as being: Is it the right thing to do? As Eric points out, “It’s our ability to say “no” to things we want to do, but maybe shouldn’t do.”

For example, it is my dream and wish right now to have a child and watch that child grow and prosper into the uniquely crafted individual God has made him to be; however, thus far God has not provided me with a husband and it would be largely selfish of me to fulfill my dream and wish for a child by means of this “new way” without that child having the opportunity to have a daddy (and this is precisely what this new technology would possibly afford individuals the opportunity to do). Sure I would still love this child “for the right reasons,” but statistics show us and I believe a child needs both a mommy and daddy to thrive and be all that he can be in this world.
Eric, your argument against this is simply the broad principle that we shouldn't automatically do things just because we can? We could say that about a lot of things and stand frozen in paralyzing fear. Shouldn't you have to explicitly explain how that principle applies to this technology?

"It’s the love that values children for their own sake and not because they fulfill our dreams and wishes." Why would you make the assumption that parents having children in this new way wouldn't love those kids for the right reasons? Furthermore, if you really believe that marriage is for producing children, and that God wants us to be fruitful and multiply, should we automatically dismiss something that might make that possible for more couples?
Wow - this is a frightening proposition indeed. What can man not do? My thinking is that if moral absolutes evolved then they were never "absolutes" to begin with. Man is so quick to ignore the moral absolute giver - God himself. A challenge scripture reference which I believe applies in this circumstance is 1 Corinthians 10:23 which reads: "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify."