July 23, 2014: Genetic Engineering and Why It Matters To Me

~by Susi Pittman

On Feburary 23rd an article appeared in The New York Times referencing a new advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration that will be meeting this week to consider radical biological procedures that, if successful, would produce genetically modified human beings. This is a dangerous step. These techniques would change every cell in the bodies of children born as a result of their use, and these alterations would be passed down to future generations. The F.D.A. calls them mitochondrial manipulation technologies. Find out more HERE!

Genetic engineering is the process of taking new genes that have never been incorporated into the genetic make-up of an animal, and attempting to incorporate it not only into one individual but also into multigenerational groups to pass on. Scientist purport that this allows for changing an animal much faster than through breeding and animal husbandry. This then makes an animal transgenic.

Does this sound a tad scary? Well it is. Welcome to the brave new world of corrupting creation.

Modern biology does not view creation and its creatures as “fixed.” The dominating philosophy is one of the constant evolution of species, producing new species and that includes human beings. But, why is it that we do not see new species evolving, but, only extinction of species over time? Even species that remain with us from early history like reptiles, sharks and the like?

What we as Christians understand through sacred scripture is that God created all creation out of nothingness as something wanted and loved by Him, with its purpose and dignity, perfectly set and coordinated to exist in the natural realm of this universe. Each and every creature, every flower and insect, unique and individually created; because the mind of God is infinite in its creative powers. He set mankind in an intentional act wholly human, not evolved, to be stewards of this planet.

The first genetic manipulation of an animal in the 1980’s was a gene for human growth hormone which was injected into a pig. There was a huge outcry against such manipulation, especially mixing human genes with swine.

At that time, the National Council of Churches declared that the genetic engineering of animals does not display proper respect for the gift of life.

The gift of life from God in all its forms and species, should not be regarded solely as if it were a chemical product subject to genetic alteration and patentable for economic benefit…the combining of human genetic traits with animals…raises unique moral, ethical, and theological questions, such as the sanctity of human worth.

The Judeo-Christian tradition has been steadfast in its belief that God created all that is each according to its own kinds with a clear implication that species are fixed and clearly separated from one another. Animals and plants have a genetic and genealogical history, adapting through history with or without success depending on interaction with man or with the environment of the time. Dogs always remain dogs. Sunflowers always remain sunflowers. There is always a constant that we can expect in all natural things. To move into the realm of blurring the lines between human and animal or plants is to erode what God indeed set as natural order, removing order and predictability for chaos and uncertainty. There is only one author of those last two words and it is not God.

Arguably, scientist will say that through genetic engineering we can insure the survival of species from extinction. That a “great” good can come from such work. Man certainly has not been the best steward. Species have become extinct under our watch because of us. They have also become extinct due to environmental circumstances.

But what we hold as self-evident is that our actions are important to God!

This is my greatest concern. The devaluing of that which was first loved and wanted by God. It is an unfortunate time in history that right now in laboratories around the world animals are being subject to the most heinous atrocities behind closed doors. It’s all about the end result, not about the process or the harm being done through the process.

Recently, at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Dr. Donald Ingber has reconstructed a human lung on a microchip. It absorbs oxygen and it also transmits that oxygen to blood cells flowing beneath. White blood cells flock to foreign bodies that try to infect its tissue, surrounding the invaders and stamping them out. In many ways, it’s indistinguishable from the lungs that rise and fall inside you and me. NO animal needed.

What I see as the biggest danger of genetic engineering is the wholesale changes that could be induced into a species…the loss of the constant. This would open up new potentials for disease and other problematic aspects such as a pandemic.

But TODAY, we are on the threshold of genetically engineered human beings! We are indeed entering the danger zone and co-participating with the prince of evil in desecrating and degrading the “good” that was intended at the sunrise of creation by a good and great Creator.

Genetic engineering of animals, plants or humans will rest in large part in the conscience and tools of our modern scientists. These tools can be used to exploit for profit or used responsibly with respect to help and heal.

Please keep this matter in prayer to the Creator.

Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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