Science without Limits

Recently, two University of Pennsylvania researchers announced findings that, in the words of the Washington Post, "could blur the biological line between fathers and mothers." Writing in the online journal Science, Hans Schoeler and Karin Huebner described how they turned ordinary mouse embryonic stem cells into eggs capable of being fertilized. What's more, the stem cells they used were from males. Thus, if the technique used by the two researchers is applicable to humans, it could be possible for a gay couple to have children "with one man contributing sperm and the other fresh eggs bearing his own genes." That raises a new question: Should the man who contributed the cells for the egg be recognized as the child's "mother"? If not, what is he? Scientists are abuzz. John Eppig, a mouse geneticist, told the Washington Post that "the mind boggles with potential wild applications of this stuff." Lee Silver, molecular biologist and bioethicist at Princeton, told the Post that the results "[break] down all the classic barriers in terms of sexual reproduction, with none of the problems of cloning." But others were less enthusiastic. Douglas Johnson of National Right to Life, for one, called the results a potential big step toward opening "human embryo farms." Johnson is right. But the even bigger threat comes from the hubris of researchers who feel free to "blur the biological lines between mothers and fathers." Even the risk of fundamentally changing what it means to be human doesn't seem to deter them. It should, for even dyed-in-the-wool Darwinists would agree that sexual reproduction involving fathers and mothers must serve some important purpose. They would recognize that the only animal species without distinct roles for the sexes in reproduction are lower species like amoebas and paramecium. Darwinists like Stephen Pinker of MIT would affirm that the differences between male and female go beyond their roles in reproduction. They are different in many ways -- physically, mentally, and emotionally. Christians, of course, affirm all of this and more. The respective roles and contributions of both sexes are what Genesis is referring to when it says "male and female He created them." The history and destiny of life is inextricably tied up in that phrase. It is sheer madness to tamper with the distinction. Christians shouldn't let anyone say that these concerns make us "Luddites" who fear technology. Bill McKibben, a science writer who no one would call a Luddite, shares the same concerns. In his book, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, he writes that the questions posed by biotechnology threaten to alter what it means to be human and are too important to be left to scientists. He asks, "Must we forever grow in reach and power . . . Or can we, should we, ever say, 'Enough'?" Exactly -- which is why BreakPoint keeps focusing on bioethics which raises the most profound moral questions. Christians ought to sound the alarm now, before science without limits blurs lines that were meant to be distinct and achieves what C. S. Lewis called the "abolition of man." For further reading and information: Rick Weiss, "In Laboratory, Ordinary Cells Are Turned into Eggs," Washington Post, 2 May 2003, A01. Mark Henderson, "New artificial egg technique eases fears on cloning," The Times (London), 2 May 2003. Jim Tonkowich, "," Weekly Standard, 5 May 2003. Bill McKibben, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, 2003). BreakPoint Commentary No. 030103, "Creating and Killing: Bioethics and the Future of Human Dignity." BreakPoint Commentary No. 021230, "So Close . . . So Far: The Blank Slate and Human Nature." For more information on biotechnology and bioethics, visit the Council for Biotechnology Policy. "A Call to Protect Human Dignity" -- At the Wilberforce Forum Dinner on February 6, 2003, Joni Eareckson Tada encouraged Christians to take a stand for the dignity and sanctity of all human life. She shared her personal testimony, her work with Joni and Friends, a ministry for the disabled, and her advocacy in Washington, D.C. Her remarks provide ample reason for Christians to speak up in the culture and public square.
  1. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man(1943).


Chuck Colson


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