Science in Christian Perspective



Biological Control of Human Life
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford University
Standford, California 94305

From: JASA 34 (December 1982): 225-231.


In the last two installments we have faced the ethical dilemmas associated with human intervention in the development of fetal life through abortion, and in the ending of human life. There are, however, an equal number of ethical problems associated with variations in the beginning of human life and the biological control of human life in general, variations that have become possible for us because of advances in biological science.

All of these ethical problems are summarized in the same refrain: "Is it right for human beings to 'play God'?" The implication behind the question is that the natural order of creation gives to us the will of God for that creation1 and that when we interfere with, attempt to change, or propose to augment that creation, we are usurping the prerogative that belongs to God alone. The emphasis on the "natural" in Roman Catholic ethics attempts to codify this perspective. If changing the natural order is to "play God," however, we have no choice but to "play God" to some extent-and indeed is that not the implicit meaning of faithful stewardship: to "play God" on God's behalf in the world over which he has given man responsibility? This is by no means license to do whatever it is possible for us to do, but neither is it a reliable guide that separates the ethically im'proper from the ethically proper.

There are two reasons why we cannot place total faith in
the "natural" to guide us in our actions. The first is that today's "natural" represents nature as appropriate for sinful mankind, hence a nature riddled with disease, famine, war, suffering, and evils resulting from natural phenomena and human immorality. Even pristine nature, therefore, does not reveal to us infallibly the relationships of unfallen, sinless reality. We recognize this implicitly when we "play God" by developing medicine, researching new food crops, building dams to prevent flooding, working against injustice, and confronting all aspects of nature that bring harm to mankind with the same unyielding faith that God's ultimate will is otherwise. Although we are wise, therefore, to recognize that the "natural" does represent some part of the revelation of God for us and our lives, we are foolish if we regard the "natural" as the final guide for Christians charged with being the firstfruits of a creation to be redeemed.

The second reason why we cannot place total faith in the "natural" as a guide to our actions is that it is impossible for human life to exist and develop in the world without changing the "natural." It has sometimes been said facetiously that the human race should be considered as a disease of the natural world, much as fleas are a disease of animals. In a real sense it is not "natural" for nature to be treated the way that human beings must treat it if they are to be true to their created nature. Every facet of culture and s a variation on the natural world. For human beings to attempt to return to the "totally natural" today would yield such an outpouring of human suffering and grief as would make any natural or man-made catastrophe of the past pale in comparison.

Recognizing that we cannot thoughtlessly use the "natural" as our ethical guide does not, however, tell us what is to replace it. Here the Christian must reach for insight into the meaning and extent of his/her God-ordained stewardship of the world and its resources, combine this with appreciation for the compassion of Christian love and concern, and top it off with a strong dose of the reality of human shortcomings, ignorance and sinfulness.

Taking account of human mental and moral fallibility can certainly lead to a very conservative approach to new techniques by which biological controls of human life are possible. Such conservatism does not lack proponents. Leon R. Kass, for example, has written,

Let us simply look at what we have done in our conquest of nonhuman nature. We find there no grounds for optimism as we now consider offers to turn our technology loose on human nature. In absence of standards to guide and restrain the use of this awesome power, we can only dehumanize man as we have despoiled our planet. 2

Paul Ramsey is even more outspoken,

This area holds such dangers of untold human suffering, dehumanization, exploitation, radical alteration of the conditions of human existence, genetic SST's and Lake Eries, that we are obligated to search out ways by which regulatory policy can be devised.3

These and other similar words cannot be taken lightly. Nor can they, however, be taken as absolute in their restrictions on every case and every question. As usual we face the difficult case by case, and issue by issue, consideration of the outworkings of our scientific knowledge and our Christian commitment. If we are honest, we will confess that often we do not know where we are heading; under these conditions we will walk slowly.

In this installment we consider just three of the many possible topics that could be grouped under the heading of biological control of human life: techniques for new beginnings of life, cloning and genetic engineering. We will not deal at any length with the specific problems associated with recombinant DNA research, which have been described so extensively elsewhere.4-6 In fact, although we need an appreciation of the principal contributions of the scientific advances, we do not in most cases need to consider the details of scientific research and enginering practice in order to come to an understanding of the major areas of ethical conflict.

New Beginnings of Life

For most of mankind's history, the failure of natural insemination methods left a man and woman without recourse. Does the fact that so many Christian men and women of the past accepted childlessness as God's lot for them and moved out to share their love in a variety of other ways, mean that efforts to secure pregi anc~ should be abandoned even if new techniques to achieve it become possible? Or should new techniques be welcomed as blessings from God that make it possible for men and women to have their natural offspring? Surely at least part of the answer to these questions must arise from the nature of the techniques themselves and the way that the process impacts on the identity of parenthood and the family.

If changing the natural order is to play God., " we have no choice but to " lay God" to some extent. 

If one considers the various formal possibilities by which fertilization and implantation might, at least in principle with present knowledge, be achieved, one arrives at a tabulation like that shown in the Table. This Table was constructed simply by considering that an ovum may come from the woman herself or from a donor, that the sperm may come from the man himself or from a donor, that fertilization may occur either in vivo or in vitro, and that implantation may occur either in the woman's womb or in that of a donor. This set of possibilities leads to 16 formal combinations, which may be reduced at least to no more than the I I cases listed in the Table if obviously physically meaningless cases are deleted. Consideration of some of these cases reveals the types of problem to be confronted.7

The first case listed in the Table (WMVW) can describe either the case of normal insemination, or the case of artificial insemination in which the man's sperm is used (AIH for Artificial Insemination, Husband). The latter represents the first and the smallest departure from the I natural. " Objection can be raised only if it is believed that impregnation must result from a normal act of intercourse and in no other way. To endow the act with such a significance when all the other requirements for parental and familial love and concern are fulfilled seems inappropriate. The additional aid to achieve fertilization through AIH seems suitable only for thanksgiving and gratitude, not for criticism or condemnation.

The second case in the table (WMTW) corresponds to what has been improperly called "Test Tube Babies." Preovulatory oocytes are removed from the woman and are fertilized with prepared sperm from the man in the laboratory. About 12 hours after fertilization the embryo is transferred to a solution that supports embryo development, and is kept in a special atmosphere with low oxygen pressure and some carbon dioxide. After 2 days the fertilized egg has become an eight-celled embryo; after 4 days it is an approximately 100-celled blastocyst. Sometime between 2 and 4 days after fertilization, the embryo is inserted into the woman's uterus, which may have been prepared for implantation by hormonal treatment

Formal Possibilities of Fertilization and Implantation for a Particular Woman and Man
Label         Ovum         Sperm         Fertilization         Implantation

WMVW     Woman's     Man's             In vivo                 In Woman
WMTW     Woman's     Man's             In vitro                 In Woman
WMTD     Woman's      Man's             In vitro                 In Donor
WDVW     Woman's     Donor's          In vivo                  In Woman
WDTW     Woman's     Donor's           In vitro                 In Woman
WDTD      Woman's     Donor's           In vitro                 In Donor
DMVW     Donor's       Man's              In vivo                  In Woman
DMTW     Donor's        Man's             In vitro                 In Woman
DMTD      Donor's        Man's             In vitro                 In Donor
DDTW      Donor's        Donor's          In vitro                 In Woman
DDTD       Donor's        Donor's          In vitro                 In Donor

of the woman. If all goes well, the embryo implants and the normal course of fetal development begins. Several successful cases of such in vitro fertilization have now been followed through the birth of a healthy, normal child. Ethical questions have centered around possible damage resulting to the child because of the manipulation of the embryo in this procedure. Such  dangers need to be given serious consideration, and involve one in all the dilemmas of abortion8 if malfunctioning or malformation is discovered after implantation. Except for these dangers, the process itself, although hardly  "natural," seems to cause no unique ethical problems since it once again involves parental and familial love, and only the ova and sperm of mother and father. The fact that the
process has been labelled "Test Tube Babies" by the media indicates the misapprehension of the public when departures from normal reproductive schedules are followed: the term conjures up visions of babies being put together in test tubes, hardly a reliable image of the actual procedure.

Two other aspects of in vitro fertilization should be
considered. The first is the argument that removal of fertilization from the home to the medical laboratory is a sign of disintegration of the family and dehumanization of the reproduction process. Indeed Kass points out that man's view  of life and the world is reflected in the terms used to describe the generation of life: for the Hebrews, it is "Begetting" or "siring;" for the Greeks, it is "genesis;" for the pre-modern English-speaking Christian, it is "procreation;" for the modern entranced with mechanization, it is "reproduction;" in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World of  tomorrow (today?), it becomes "decantation."' Here one must distinguish between what need be, what could be, and  what probably might be. Certainly the use of in vitro fertilization need not be dehumanizing, although its widespread and indiscriminate use (especially with the donor's ova or sperm.) could be, and given our experience with human nature might be.

A second aspect of in vitro fertilization deals with the propriety of scientific research on human embryos obtained by in vitro fertilization of donor ova and sperm. We have seen above that in in vitro fertilization, the embryo has usually grown to about 100 cells before implantation; if the doctor slips and drops the embryo on the floor in the process, is he/she guilty of homicide? And what if the doctor fertilizes several ova in the effort to arrive at one suitable for implanting in this process, what does he/she do with the embryos not used? In research on mouse embryos, it has been possible to continue the development from the fertilized egg through almost one-half of the normal gestation period under wholly laboratory conditions. Mouse embryos have been frozen for periods up to one year with survival and normal development of 8001o of these frozen embryos. It is evident that such processes may be beneficially used in the field of animal husbandry, particularly in the breeding of a superior strain of cattle for beef, for example. But what of the situation when and if these methods are applied to human embryos for the sake of research on the early development of human life, perhaps with the motivation of

This continuing series of articles is based on courses given at Stanford University, Fuller Theological Serninary, Regent College, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Foothill Covenant Church and Los Altos Union Presbyterian Church. Previous articles were published as follows. 1. "Science Isn't Everything," March (1976), pp. 33-37. 2. "Science Isn't Nothing," June (1976), pp. 82-87. 3. "The Philosophy and Practice of Science, " September (1976), pp. 127-132. 4. "Pseudo-Science and PseudoTheology. (A) Cult and Occult," March (1977), pp. 22-28. 5. "PseudoScience and Pseudo-Theology. (B) Scientific Theology, " September (1977), pp. 124-129. 6. "Pseudo-Science and Pseudo- Theology. (C) Cosmic Consciousness, " December (1977), pp. 165-174, 7. "Man Come of Age?" June (1978), pp. 81-87. 8. "Ethical Guidelines, " September (1978), pp. 134-141. 9. "The Significance of Being Human, " March (1979), pp. 37-43. 10. "Human Sexuality. (A) Are Times A' Changing?" June (1979), pp. 106-112. 11. "Human Sexuality. (B) Love and Law," September (1979), pp. 153-157. 12. "Creation. (A) How Should Genesis Be Interpreted?" March (1980), pp. 34-39. 13. "Creation. (B) Understanding Creation and Evolution, " September (1980), pp. 174-178. 14. "Determinism and Free Will. (A) Scientific Description and Human Choice, " March (1981) pp. 42-45. 15. "Determinism and Free Will. (B) Crime Punishment and Responsibility, " June (1978), pp. 105-112. 16. "Abortion," September (1981), pp. 158-165. 17. "Euthanasia, " March (1982), pp. 29-33.

improving chances for survival or treatment of organic diseases?

At what stage of development does such a human embryo acquire the right to life and protection? Should such experiments be condemned completely because research on human life without the intention of bringing it to full expression is unethical? Suppose an experiment were ultimately successful and a viable baby was produced in the laboratory-who then would be responsible for this child brought into the world without either genuine father or mother? Only the most sensitive response to the value of human life is adequate for the task of sorting through the possibilities in these kinds of problems. Certainly it appears most desirable to restrict experiments to animal embryos until a great deal more is known about the result of such manipulations. Still our previous discussion' leaves open the possibility for responsible and responsive research on early human embryos in the effort to aid human beings in the future. It does not leave open, it seems to me, the possibility of raising a fetus totally in the laboratory, certainly not for experimental purposes.

As we proceed down the list of cases in the Table, it may seem that we are getting further and further from acceptable practice; and so we probably are, yet many such cases have already been considered. The third case (WMTD) applies to the situation where a woman is unable to carry her own child, but another woman offers to carry it for her; the fertilization is done with the man's sperm in vitro and then implantation is carried out in the donor's uterus. Supposing that this procedure can be done without damage to the child, is it ethically forbidden? Never mind the gross excesses that can be conceived of in this connection, of women earning a living by carrying babies of others unwilling to become pregnant, or "wombs for rent" and all the rest-but suppose the ideal case of a loving sister who is willing to give of herself so that her sister and husband may have the baby they so much want. In such a case could the action be one of self-giving love? Or is the injection of a third person, no matter how loving, into the family intimacy something that cannot be borne by human nature?

The fourth case (WDVW) is far more common than the third, and indeed is analogous to the first common case with the exception that a donor's sperm is substituted for the man's. There are more than 150,000 living Americans whose birth came about by means of AIH or this case, AID (Artificial Insemination, Donor). A host of objections have been levelled against AID: it constitutes a violation of the marriage unity, it involves not "natural" manipulation of sperm, it seeks to overcome God's ordination of infertility through the nonviability of the man's sperm, it is likely to have profound psychological trauma ultimately for both child and parents, and finally the charge that it constitutes adultery. It seems that we can dismiss fairly readily some of the more severe theological objections to AID, such as, for example, the claim that AID constitutes adultery (which mistakes the whole context of the sex act with the bare chemistry of the act), although we probably cannot dismiss the fundamental psychological injury to the family that is likely to crop up at any time (and may be the practical outworking of the theological objections). When AID is used to achieve the existence of "single parent families," we need to consider that phenomenon in its own dimensions and not simply as a case of AID. Overall the problems associated with AID, both theological and practical, appear to be an order of magnitude greater than those encountered in the first and second cases. In a day when overpopulation is a problem, and when uncared for children need all the care they can get, reaching out to AID seems excessive.

Taking account of human mental and moral fallibility can certainly lead to a very conservative approach to new techniques.

I leave to the reader to work out the implications and problems of the other cases enumerated in the Table, with just a few words of description. Case (WDTW) is analogous to the combination of "test tube" fertilization and AID, while case (WDTD) combines "test tube" fertilization, AID, and implantation in a donor's uterus. It quickly appears that such cases fall under their own weight of complexity and lack of correspondence with parental and familial concern. The last five cases in the Table are analogous to the corresponding cases above but with the substitution of a donor ovum for the woman's ovum, leading to artificial inovulation (DMVW and DMTW) with implantation in the woman and with implantation in a donor uterus (DMTD). The final two cases (DDTW and DDTD) can be regarded as unrealistic since they involve the fertilization of a donor ovum by donor sperm, with implantation in either the woman or in a donor uterus.

Some of the more unlikely entries in the Table may, however, be viewed with favor by those who see the possibility for eugenics in the control of ovum and sperm. We already know of the existence of a "Sperm Bank" in which leaders of high I.Q. and/or accomplishment are encouraged to make a deposit, with the belief that use of this sperm to fertilize "superior" ova will naturally result in improvement of the human race. Such dreams of a genetic utopia founder on several points in addition to the obvious one of mistaking genetic inheritance as all-important when compared to environmental effects of childhood, parents, family and home. Driven by the difficulty of equating desirable character traits in any simple manner with genetic material, proponents of such eugenic measures tend to identify intelligence as the ultimate, failing to recognize that intelligence may not adequately be tested by I.Q.10,11 and that a genius may be an evil genius as well as a good genius. The importance of family and community relationships in building desirable character needs to be emphasized. When the means to achieve genetic eugenics directly violate these relationships, the Christian has no choice but to reject them.

Cloning: Asexual Reproduction

A totally asexual means of reproduction is that known as cloning." To make a clone, a mature but unfertilized egg is treated to remove its nucleus, which is replaced by a nucleus obtained from a specialized somatic cell of an adult organism. Since the nucleus contains the entire genetic code of the Organism, the re-nucleated egg develops as if it had been fertilized, finally producing an organism that is genetically identical to the adult organism used for the new nucleus.

It is clear that in fields like animal husbandry cloning could make a major contribution. Although the procedure of cloning has not yet been successfully applied to a mammal, there appears to be no theoretical reason why it cannot be. The question of course arises as to why anyone would want to apply cloning to human beings even if it were possible.

A number of answers can be given to this question, at least some of them apparently in good faith. Cloning would allow for replication of individuals of great genius or great beauty; this answer implies at least partly that what the world needs is people of great genius, and that genius can be genetically specified. Cloning would allow the healthy to be reproduced, thus bypassing the risk of genetically related diseases; would make it possible to provide large numbers of genetically identical individuals for scientific research; would provide a child to an infertile couple; would make it possible to obtain a child with a genotype of one's own choosing; would permit the control of the sex of additional children; would permit the production of embryonic replicas of each person to be frozen as a source of organ transplants for their genetically identical twin; and finally we must not forget what is often the most powerful of reasons: to get the jump on the Russians and the Chinese!

I do not see how anyone, certainly not one seeking to work out Christian commitments, could advocate the attempt to develop human clones.

Sometimes the product of cloning is represented as some kind of freak in that he/she would be genetically identical with someone else. We should remember two things in this connection: (1) identical twins are genetically identical and usually manage to live independent lives, and (2) a person is not determined solely by his/her genetic makeup but also by the environmental experiences encountered; thus to have an identical genetic makeup is not to be an identical person.

Even granted this slight correction to common misunderstanding about clones, however, I do not see how anyone, certainly not one seeking to work out Christian commitments, could advocate the attempt to develop human clones. The reason is not that such a clone would be less than a whole independent person, but that the purpose and context of cloning do violence to the family and community structure which is essential for the full development of human capabilities and sensitivities. It is easy to believe that those who "produced" the clones would be likely to regard them as somewhat less human than themselves.

Genetic Engineering

A view of the biological development of living populations based on the theory of organic evolution regards strengthening of the gene pool as a natural consequence of the attempt to survive. Those creatures with defective genes resulting in an inability to survive have fewer offspring, and in the long run individuals with defective genes are minimized rather than augmented by largescale reproduction. Such a process may be considered to be in the best interests of the population as a whole, and of future individuals in particular.

When living creatures became human and recognized their high calling as unique creatures made in the image of God, the effects of organic evolution on the human population decreased, until the recent years when advances in medical understanding and capability have effectively eliminated them. This effect of medicine has, of course, been driven by the Judaeo-Christian understanding of the sanctity of all human life, not simply human life without genetic defects. This application of Christian concern leads directly to a dilemma of considerable magnitude. In the words of geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky,

If we enable the weak and the deformed to live and to propagate their kind, we face the prospect of a genetic twilight. But if we let them die or suffer when we can save or help them, we face the certainty of a moral twilight.12

Having eliminated the purely "natural" solution of the problem of genetic defects, i.e., leaving the individuals to fend for themselves so that the genetically handicapped do not survive to reproduce, the Christian is driven to provide some other kind of solution that will reflect the mission to reduce suffering in the genetic area.

A number of diseases are related to genetic defects; these include diabetes, phenylketomiria, sickle-cell anemia, emophilia, cystic fibrosis, measles, German measles, umps, chicken pox, smallpox, poliomyelitis, influenza, ononucleosis, and even the common cold, cancer and aging. The attempt to mitigate the effects of such genetic +sorders may be considered under two headings: analogous to the categories of passive and active euthanasia, are the categories of negative and positive eugenics,

Negative eugenics attempts to eliminate genetic defects that are already present in individuals, or to prevent individuals with genetic defects from passing them on to their children. Such efforts take the form of counseling of prospective parents with genetic defects, genetic screening programs to inform individuals of the status of their genetic makeup, and the use of amniocentesis to detect genetic disorders (about 70 such genetic disorders can be detected between the 13th and 18th weeks of pregnancy) with the option for the parents to seek an abortion if genetic abnormalities do exist. Although an appreciable effort can be directed through the use of such practices to decrease the number of infants born into the world with genetic defects, even the most zealous application would be unable to eliminate genetic defects, and some of the ethical issues raised may negate the successes.

In a previous installment8 we have considered the issues involved in the abortion of a fetus shown to have genetic abnormalities by amniocentesis. We have discussed the fundamental tensions that such a situation carries with it. We need to realize in the present context particularly the tension between the overall welfare of human society that is threatened by increasing genetic disorder and the specific desires and choices of parents concerning bringing a specific genetically handicapped child into the world. Underlying the whole issue, of course, is the Christian concern with the value of human life per se, regardless of genetic defects.

At the present time the state of our ignorance makes contemplation of genetic or fetal therapy to correct genetic factors leading to known genetic diseases a risky business. Human intervention into the "natural" world has not been without its notable failures. If genetic engineering should be allowed to produce in the human race the same kind of effects that we have produced in strip mining, water pollution, material waste, denuding of forest lands etc., we would finally face the ultimate pollution. But this must be interpreted as a call for caution, not as a call for lack of any research or action. Is there anyone who would not allow the "cure" of a genetic disorder if this "cure" could be done without destruction of other features or aspects intrinsic to the value of human life? If a fetus diagnosed by amniocentesis as having Down's, Syndrome could be from this malady by the genetic treatment of the fetus without other harm to fetus or mother, could there be any possible ethical objection? The word of caution is therefore appropriate be cause of the uncertainty of the path and its unanticipated consequences. But the attempt and the effort are surely worthy of our support.

The biological realm in which mankind exists has its own methods for positive eugenics, i.e., efforts to improve the race through control of reproduction: beauty may be only skin deep, but it's the main means available at the biological level to ensure that healthy individuals mate. With human recognition of the soulful and spiritual aspects of human beings, this "natural" method's effectiveness has also been decreased, but with an increase in the probability of individuals' mating with even more desirable human traits. If one were going to improve the race through controlling the genetic heritage of future individuals, just what genetic patterns would one seek? Are desirable character traits traceable to the genes and hence inheritable, or are they the consequence of particular experiential shaping of a genetic possibility? It is almost certain that we know far too little about the relationship between desirable human traits and their genetic basis, if any, to presume that we have the wisdom to determine what qualities are best for future generations and even less the ability to equate such qualities and genetic makeup. Any meddling that we are likely to do in the area of positive eugenics is so fraught with dangers to the human individual and to human freedom that we are well advised to stay clear of it.

Having eliminated the purely "natural"solution  the problem of genetic defects, the Christian is driven to provide some other kind of solution that will reflect the mission to reduce suffering.


Biological control of human life provides one more area in which Christians are driven to ask the question, "Should human beings play God?" The question is proper, but the implication that it is possible or desirable for Christians to forsake all activities that might be construed as "playing God" forgets the role assigned to us by our Creator to be His faithful stewards and to act on His behalf.

We cannot seek a simple guide to the ethically right in this area, as in any other, by invoking what is "natural" as the absolute standard. What is "natural" today is natural in a fallen world, and cannot be construed as having normative ethical authority. Likewise we cannot live in the world nor fulfill our obligations as God's stewards and maintain the strictly "natural"-for our presence and its activity necessarily changes the "natural." Our task is to be sensitive to the nature of that change and do everything within our powers to afford a not positive outcome for human beings before God.

A whole set of scenarios can be worked out involving new beginnings of life. Some of these present only minor ethical challenges (such as AIH and in vitro fertilization using wife's ovum, husband's sperm, and implantation in the wife), others are much more questionable (such as AID and the carrying of a child for one woman by another), while still others are without ethical support (experimentation on raising a fetus to childhood in-vitro or by implantation in an experimental subject's womb). The status of a fertilized human ovum in vitro must be established; surely this field must be treated with great care, although no intrinsic objection seems valid against all medical experimentation with human blastocysts. This is a case where the anticipated good must clearly be demonstrated to avoid irresponsible research. There seems to be no justifiable reason to attempt to apply cloning techniques to human beings, although, if successful, there is no reason to believe that anything but a fully authentic human being would be the result.

The challenges of genetic engineering reveal the ethical dilemma between rights of specific individuals and the overall good of human society. The driving motivation for cautious exploration is the realization that modern medicine inspired by Christian concerns has been so successful that the quality of the human gene pool is threatened with degradation; Christian concerns are rightly directed toward a response to this situation.

Underlying some of the misgivings about genetic engineering is the unstated assumption that human genetic material must be unique and somehow fundamentally different from other genetic material if it is to be truly human and the basis for defending the value of the human. A general fallacy is that if scientists show that the human genetic material is interchangeable with non-human genetic material, some serious damage will have been done to our appreciation for the unique value of human beings.13 This is a particular kind of reverse reductionism in which the essence of humanness is sought in the biological parts that make up the human being rather than in the whole living system composed of these parts in the properly patterned interaction to manifest human life.14 All human beings are indeed made up of the same kinds of atoms as other animals, sand, trees, rocks etc. It is not that such atoms or such molecules have latent in themselves the essence of humanness, but rather that humanness is an emergent property of the whole living system constructed in the appropriate way. Even if it is demonstrated that human genetic material is interchangeable with other genetic material, this would be no more destructive of a biblical view of the human being than the realization that carbon atoms found in trees are interchangeable with carbon atoms found in DNA. The fallacy described here arises when people forsake God as the basis for human uniqueness and value, and strive to find a basis in biology.


1R. H. Bube, "Science and the Whole Person. Part 8. Ethical Guidelines," Journal ASA 30, 134 (1978).
2L, R. Kass, "New Beginnings in Life," in The New Genetics and the Future of Man, M. Hamilton, ed., Eerdmans (1972), pp. 61.
3P. Ramsey, "Genetic Therapy" in The New Genetics and the Future of Man, M. Hamilton, ed., Eerdmans (1972), p. 166.
4J. D. Albert, ed., "The Recombinant DNA Controversy," Journal ASA 30, 73 (1978).

The challenges of genetic engineering reveal the ethical dilemma between rights of specific individuals and the overall good of human society.

5J. W. Haas, Jr., "Recombinant DNA: Round No. 2 - the Supreme Court Decision," Journal ASA 33, 173 (1981).
6H. Cook, "The Biology Business," Journal ASA 34, 129 (1982).
7An excellent overview to which I am indebted is given by J. B. Nelson in Human Medicine, Augsburg, Minneapolis (1973).
8R. H. Bube, "Science and the Whole Person. Part 16. Abortion," Journal ASA 33, 158 (1981).
9See Reference 2, pp. 21, 22.
10C. E. Stipe, "The Race and Intelligence Controversy," Journal ASA 26, 155 (1974).
11M. S. Van Leeuwen, "I.Q.ism and the Just Society," Journal ASA 34, 193 (1982).
12Quoted in Reference 7, p. 98.
13For "ample, a quote from French Anderson of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Science, August (1982), p. 517.
14R. H. Bube, "Science and the Whole Person. Part 9. The Significance of Being Human" Journal ASA 31, 37 (1979).


I . Is the beginning of human life something that should be "only in God's hands"?

2. Do men and women have an innate right to have childen regardless of the means? How about single parents?

3. Does artificial insemination differ in any substantial way from artificial inovulation? Does it matter critically whether a donor is used?

4. Does the development of "sperm banks" or "wombs for rent" pose severe ethical or moral implications?

5. To what extent is scientific research on fertilized human ova permissible in order to understand and guide disease control?

6. Is human procreation destroyed by laboratory fertilization procedures? What is the effect on marriage, the family, society, and the scientist?

7. Does the term "genetic engineering" disturb you? Why, or why not? Why do you think there is emotional public response to research like that on recombinant DNA?

8. When, in the course of development, does a living human acquire protectable humanity, i.e., as opposed to simply running it down the sink after experiments with fertilized human ova?

9. Can we ethically even get to know whether cloning human beings is possible?

10. Is individual dignity related to genetic uniqueness?