For example, in China it is reported that scientists are editing the genomes of human embryos. The research has been roundly criticized by Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society as well as George Daly, a researcher at Harvard who opines that “there needs to be careful consideration not only of the safety but also of the social and ethical implications of applying this technology to alter our germ lines.”
Note that the human “germ cells” of an organism (as distinct from its “somatic cells”) are the precursors of the more mature human sperm and “egg” cells used in sexual reproduction.
Tinkering with the germ line is akin to remaking a human being by literally editing his identity in a laboratory the way you would edit a text for a publication. If this sounds insane, it is; but to many scientists it is their “calling.” Perfecting the human race takes all sorts of shenanigans.
What is tragic is that the Chinese and others do not pay attention to the analyses of those like scientist/philosopher Dr. Dianne Irving. She wrote in 2001 of the dangerous ground being cultivated by those who manipulate the human germ line to serve purposes either dangerous, totally unnecessary, or aimed at “positive eugenics programs, whereby planned genetic modification of the germline could involve artificial selection for genes that are thought to confer advantageous traits.”
Not to be outdone in the ghoulish headline department, Princeton University’s professor Peter Singer, a “preference” bioethicist, advocates on the one hand for animal equality and on the other for direct killing of the human beings deemed unacceptable due to genetic problems of some sort or other. Singer “contended the health-care system under Obamacare should be more overt about rationing and that the country should acknowledge the necessity of ‘intentionally ending the lives of severely disabled infants.’” This is eugenics: If you are not born perfect, you are better off dead. It’s just that simple.
No matter whether the topic is germ line alteration or human experimentation and elimination, there is something dramatically wrong with mankind’s vision of the human person. “Making Babies without God” encompasses a whole lot more than one might think. As someone who fights this in the trenches, and not in the laboratory, I want to make sure that average folks can deal with this madness by first understanding it and then battling against it. To do this, everyone who is not in the laboratory needs a legitimate resource for understanding the difference between the macabre science of folks like Singer and the Chinese and the legitimate science of human embryology and its relationship with Church teaching.
For example, even though I quote from the sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document Donum Vitae on many occasions, the truth is that the 1987 document is not based on scientific data. For example, cloning—which is barely mentioned in the Church document—has been going on since 1894!
But in The New Catholic Encyclopedia (2nd ed., Supplement 2009) the entry entitled “Embryology, Human” mentioned the term cloning 86 times.
And that is my point. If we laypeople are going to effectively battle the culture of death, we need as much solid information as possible, and this one resource actually gives us more explanation and analysis than any Church document I have been able to find.
My sense is that the world is going to get nuttier before it gets back to the ethics needed to right the wrongs and save the humans who are daily at risk. So while we have the chance, we must learn from those who are steeped in truth, in the philosophy according to St. Thomas Aquinas, and in other worthy pursuits. Why not learn from the best?
Remember these words from Aquinas: “A small error in the beginning leads to a multitude of errors in the end.”
Examine The New Catholic Encyclopedia entry on human embryology and read the illustrations. You will find it to be a goldmine of information and the education each of us needs in this struggle. Then share it—and related articles—with those who want to end the scourge.
Let me know if you have questions and I will ask the experts.