Thursday, March 5, 2009

Made to Order Babies?

There's been a lot of press recently about a recent claim that a company can give you the baby of your dreams even down to the hair and eye color. They say this can be a reality in 6 months. The process, called PGD, has been used for some time to identify potential genetic disease in an embryo. But is this possible?

I'm not one to accept a blanket approval of science OR religion. By that, I mean that I believe each has strengths which can benefit the other. I don't mean to indicate one should dictate or rule the other. Instead, I recognize they deal with different issues, ask very different questions, yet are stronger if there is some relationship between the two. Otherwise, if we accept a total divorce, it seems to me we somehow try to create a world where we separate head and heart, or merely allow each business to run itself without the benefit of interaction.

But, back to my ability to pay someone to create a blue eyed, blonde haired baby for me. I've seen a number of experts express that this is NOT a current possibility, but a publicity stunt perhaps related to the press the OctoMom is receiving. See Can Babies Be Made to Order? to get into the interesting details.

My faith tradition believes "The responsibility of humankind to God's creation challenges us to deal carefully with the possibilities of genetic research and technology. We welcome the use of genetic technology for meeting fundamental human needs for health, a safe environment, and an adequate food supply." (The Book of Discipline of the united Methodist Church 2008, paragraph 162, O) Genetic Technology).

There are other elements of this thought in the paragraph, some of it more technical, but it's also worth noting:

"Because of the effects of genetic technologies on all life, we call for effective guidelines and public accountability to safeguard against any action that might lead to abuse of these technologies, including political or military ends. We recognize that cautious, well intended use of genetic technologies may sometimes lead to unanticipated harmful consequences" (emphasis mine on last sentence).

It's a discussion well worth having in the lab, in the faith community, and in the community at large. We do want a world that is healthy and sustainable. But we must beware creating a bigger mess than we've already created! Otherwise it may be like us unleashing kudzu with one well meaning intent, and in reality restructuring this world in a way we can't retreat from or undo.

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