Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Limits to Biotechnology

Christopher Toombs

Graduate Student in Physiology Bowman Gray School of Medicine
Wake Forest University
300 South Hawthorne Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27103

From: PSCF 41 (March 1989): 63-64.

Randall Prather's article on "Reproductive Biotechnology" (Perspectives, Sept. 1988) overextends the Genesis cultural mandate by making a case for human application of such technology, and as a justification uses scripture which is somewhat misapplied. Christians are called to be the proper stewards of God's creation, and while he has given man dominion over it, we are to use discretion in our management and use of the created world.

Reproductive biotechnology, as I see it, can only be usM in the context of animal management and agriculture. Along those lines, I even consider myself to be in support of the use of recombinant DNA technology for bacterially mediated drug synthesis. The departure of Prather's logic and mine occurs in that he supports the view that reproductive biotechnology, on the genetic level, can have use in the human being.

Prather feels that this is a direction that we should move in and as a scriptural basis, misuses the Genesis 11:6 verse. He quotes: "for nothing will be withheld from them [man] which they have imagined to do." What Prather conveniently forgets to point out is that this is actually a reference to the construction of the tower of Babel, a point in Old Testament history where God judges mankind severely for our arrogant aspirations.

Christians, practicing good science, cannot be lending a hand to the development of technology that will inevitably be used to mold humanity in a way that flies in the face of God's natural design. While Christian researchers may have the intelligence to develop new technologies, unfortunately we do not corner the market on their use. Even though the NIH may be funding that area, we do not necessarily have to follow, taking for ourselves a lesson from the horse who is led to water.

Many technologies have been developed at points where society as a whole has not been able to accept them. Prather makes mention of smallpox vaccine, but there is a world of difference between vaccines and reconfiguring human genetics. Unfortunately a seeming "pay later" attitude exists in the research community, and it has led to technology which outpaces social, philosophical, and moral considerations. Surrogate motherhood, selective abortions, and fetal tissue transplanting are just some of the technological advances that have compromised our morals. I submit that human reproductive biotechnology is yet another one of these.

Finally Prather's use of Romans 8:28 as a catch-all justification for ill conceived research ignores what God has placed us here to do. Many times I have thought of the possible benefits of reproductive  biotechnology, but here it is clear that the ends would not justify the means. If God were to allow us to toy with his creation in this way, He would most certainly the owe the builders of Babel an apology.