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Improving our DNA

Though many religious ethicists agree that some forms of gene therapy (e.g. somatic therapy) could be beneficial, enhancement through germline engineering raises cautions about protecting human dignity.

The primary caution raised has to do with our lack of knowledge regarding the possible consequences of altering the human germline. The problem is that the present generation lacks sufficient information regarding the long-term consequences of a decision today that might turn out to be irreversible tomorrow.

Another reason for caution regarding germline enhancement, especially among Protestants, is the specter of eugenics. The word “eugenics” connotes the ghastly racial policies of Nazism, and this accounts for much of today’s mistrust of genetic science in Germany and elsewhere.Ronald Cole-Turner, The New Genesis: Theology and the Genetic Revolution (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993) 45. No one expects a resurrection of the Nazi nightmare; yet some critics fear a subtle form of eugenics slipping in the cultural "back door."Cole-Turner, The New Genesis, 45.The growing power to control the design of living tissue will foster the emergence of the image of the “perfect child,” and a new social value of perfection will begin to oppress all those who fall short. Although the perfect child syndrome is not yet widely discussed in the published literature, religious ethicists speaking in March, 1992, at the “Genetics, Religion and Ethics Conference,” held at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, saw the image of the “perfect child” to be a clear and present danger.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Ted Peters

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