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Friday, October 5, 2012

Just because you can...

...doesn't mean you should.

Will having babies be like shopping for cars or puppies?

Yesterday, I began hearing about how scientists in Japan have successfully created mice eggs from stem cells and healthy baby mice were born from these created eggs. NPR has run several reports on the story. Part of the report revealed that scientists had previously been successful in creating sperm from stem cells as well.

It's too early to go all Clone Wars on the scientific community but I really hope that folks spend the next ten to twenty years (or longer) thinking about the consequences of unleashing a technology like this on the free world. Edward de Bono, widely recognized as the father of modern lateral/creative thinking put great weight on something called CAF: Consider All Factors. Let's have a quick CAF exercise around the concept of being able to make unlimited, healthy babies.

  1. Parents who previously could not have babies now can have one (or more) that carry the parent's genetic footprint
  2. Same-gender couples can also have children that are genetically theirs
  3. With artificially created sperm and eggs available, virtually anyone could create a baby
  4. With advanced processes, babies created from lab-grown eggs and sperm could potentially be designed to be predisposed with any number of desirable traits i.e. blond hair, blue eyes, etc. or perhaps even higher math skills and the like
  5. The ability to create babies at will might exacerbate the world's food shortage
  6. Ethics could become more fluid and movements might spring up that would favor eradication of flawed, naturally conceived children
  7. It's conceivable that, much the same as with puppies and kittens, the world could see an explosion of unwanted babies - those that don't meet society's new standards
In the list above, I've ranged the factors from positive to potentially very negative. There are many, many other factors that need to be considered. What I did not put on the list is that by having the ability to create sperm and eggs, to - in effect - have the ability to design and create babies at will, humanity would take a giant leap into an area that has heretofore been the sole preserve of creation.
So God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27)

Naturally, a number of scientists would not even take this into consideration since they do not believe in creation at all. These scientists would, perhaps, view this technology as a natural evolution of modern biological science. That's not to say these scientists would act in non-ethical ways; it's just that as people who do not believe in God, they would discount the need to include God in the discussion.

I believe it is critically important to pause and think about all sides of this before releasing the power of human creation into the world. Disturbingly, I have already heard this discovery being likened to the discovery of fire and the wheel.

Fire and round, easily movable objects existed in the world prior to man harnessing their capabilities. This is the context in which this discovery is being grouped. I suppose in the sense that babies are derived from the interaction of a man and a woman and fire is derived from the interaction of fuel, oxygen and a catalyst (spark), it is possible to make that argument. There are a number of tremendously beneficial outcomes of using fire to improve society. As winter approaches, the availability of heat will allow many of us to survive without freezing to death. But there will also be instances where homes will burn to the ground - and people will die - because that same fire was not harnessed and used safely.

Wheels allow us to move heavy objects more easily, drive our cars to work and cut our grass without using a scythe. This coming holiday season many families will lose loved ones because of those who choose to operate wheeled machines under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs.

I'm not convinced that the creation of a new human life is in the same realm as choosing central heating over a wood-burning stove. Call me old fashioned but I believe there are some things that are just fine the way they are. Whether you believe children are a divine creation or simply another step in a long, evolutionary road, do we really want to open the lid of this particular Pandora's Box?

Just because we can do something, doesn't mean that we should.

What do you think?


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