On the dawn of a new era in genetic technology, most people are anticipating the potential benefits of drugs tailor-made for individuals, gene therapy, cures for terminal diseases, and predictive testing. Yet there are some who fear the possible abuses of science and technology, even the creation of a "brave new world." So, as scientists, politicians, and ethicists argue about the technology, where should Christians direct their focus?
First, Christians should take the lead on the social and legal policies required to keep pace with breaking technology. Getting involved on the ground floor can be key to future decisions affecting our world. Second, Christians should understand and use new technology, wherever possible, to undo existing policies not in agreement with biblical principles.
Currently, an opportunity exists for Christians to apply this focus to cloning technology. Specifically, most doctors and lawmakers recognize cloning as a technological breakthrough that adds a new dimension to reproductive technology. But very few realize the impact cloning technology could have on existing laws. Implementing this impact begins with understanding the technology. Fortunately, cloning technology is not difficult to understand.
All cells containing DNA have forty-six chromosomes except the sperm and egg, which have only twenty-three chromosomes each. In natural conception, twenty-three chromosomes of the sperm and twenty-three chromosomes of the egg unite to create a single cell embryo containing forty-six chromosomes. The genetic makeup of every living human being is determined when the sperm and egg unite. This is commonly known as the point of conception.
Conversely, in cloning, one adult cell containing forty-six chromosomes is isolated from a donor. The DNA or genetic material comprising forty-six chromosomes is removed from the donor cell. Then, a recipient egg is selected, isolated and the twenty-three chromosomes of a recipient egg are removed and discarded. The forty-six chromosomes of the donor cell are introduced into the now empty (enucleated) egg. This is the point of conception! Therefore, the moment the forty-six chromosomes of the donor cell are introduced into the enucleated egg, a single cell embryological twin of the donor has been created.
This twin cannot become anything but a genetic duplicate of the donor. It is set on a predetermined pathway of life. It cannot have different eye color. It cannot have different hair color. It is a carbon copy in every physiological respect.
Remember Dolly? The moment that a complete set of chromosomes was introduced into an enucleated egg to create Dolly, the Dolly embryo developed in a manner identical to the donor years earlier. The DNA determined that Dolly would be a sheep physically identical to the donor. In other words, as the cells multiplied and divided, even from a single cell, the embryo followed the exact same path of development the donor followed when the donor was an embryo years earlier. It is clear, then, that the development of Dolly and all individual life is encoded in the genetic material itself and that life is sparked or ignited the moment an egg contains a complete set of chromosomes.
In view of this analysis, there is only one conclusion. Cloning proves life begins at conception! This is a position that Christians can now assert with scientific conviction. Therefore, the scientific breakthrough of cloning technology requires a new and fresh look at laws concerning the unborn, specifically laws regarding abortion and stem cell research.
First, applying this new insight to current abortion policy, Christians could overturn Roe v. Wade. In 1973, Justice Harry Blackmun is quoted from Roe v. Wade as saying, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate."1
Clearly, today, that is no longer the case. We can now say with scientific certainty when life begins. Even portions of the secular community agree: The first page of the New York Times article about the new "gene map" is quoted as saying that, "the human genome is a pearl, a model of high performance and reliability. Millions of times a year, egg genome meets sperm genome and the result is a human baby, its parts all in place, its brains a universe of love and meaning."2
In the light of this growing awareness, it is essential for this information to get into the hands of committed Christians who can no longer tolerate abortion. Proponents of abortion must be made to listen to the scientific evidence, if not themselves, and acknowledge that current policies on abortion are synonymous with murder.
Proponents of abortion can no longer hide behind the veil of ignorance and technical terminology. No more sugarcoated terms like "viability" and "preembryo" (a term designated to embryos fourteen days and younger) should be permitted. The laws must be changed or the proponents of abortion should have the intellectual integrity to stand behind their "choice" to kill what is unmistakably a unique and distinct human life inside the womb.
Second, consider how cloning technology applies to current trends in embryonic research. This addresses stem cell research as well as many forms of artificial insemination such as in vitro fertilization procedures.
Specifically, in September 1999, the United States Department of Health and Human Services ruled that a congressional ban on human embryo research does not apply to stem cells. That means embryonic stem cells are "free game" for experimentation. What most of the public doesn't know is that embryonic stem cell research is synonymous with the destruction of preembryos.
The two principal sources of embryonic stem cells are aborted fetuses and unused embryos from fertility clinics. Unused embryos are derived through a process known as in vitro fertilization. During in vitro fertilization, eggs taken from the mother are fertilized with the sperm of the father outside of the womb. These embryos are then implanted into the mother's womb and, if all goes well, they are born approximately nine months later.
Millions of couples have each spent thousands of dollars attempting to conceive a child using this procedure. And many couples have cryogenically preserved (i.e., frozen) some of the embryos for implantation in the future. The concern, of course, is for the untold thousands of embryos that are never given the chance at life through implantation. It is these embryos that are the target for stem cell research and experimentation.
Today, proponents of stem cell research actually want national legislation passed to secure the right to experiment on these unborn children. They believe national legislation will allow for publicly funded research having a wide range of applications in the medical and related fields.
The premise is that the cells that constitute an early embryo grow and divide very fast (by design and necessity) in a very specific pathway of development. Taken off their natural course of development, an early embryo can be forced to specialize into any single and specific tissue type that the scientist wants (theoretically). That is why injecting stem cells into diseased or dying tissue gives new life to the diseased or dying tissue.
Unfortunately, proponents of this research are hiding behind the noble curtain of healing our parents from Parkinson's disease and our children from leukemia. But make no mistake - they are killing our babies to do it.
The evidence is clear. Long before embryos are developed in time to look like the blood, bones, and skin we recognize as a human baby, they are still human babies. It happens that at this early stage of their lives an early embryo's body holds a seemingly limitless potential to develop into every body part we recognize in a fully-grown baby. This makes sense, as left on its natural course the baby will develop into a fully recognizable human child. Quite simply, proponents of this research believe that the potential benefits of this research far outweigh the value of the individual life sacrificed for experimental use.
In conclusion, scientific studies have shown that a cloned life cannot become anything but a genetic duplicate of the original. It is a carbon copy of the donor even at its earliest stages. It is also set on a predetermined pathway of life from the moment of conception. The development of all individual life is controlled by the information encoded in the DNA. Therefore, we have only to read between the genetic lines to understand that this means life begins at conception.
Christians should now apply this understanding to legislation to force a change regarding current abortion laws and to put a stop to stem cell research both publicly and privately funded. Christians should also take the lead on the social and legal policies that keep pace with other breaking technology. As history can attest, getting involved on the ground floor can be key to future decisions affecting our world.
Finally, it is no small irony that, on the dawn of this new technological era, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of partial birth abortion. Our work is cut out for us, but God and science are on our side. Let's embrace this cutting edge technology and use it to our advantage, rather than remaining silent and allowing our opponents to use it to theirs.
1 Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. (1973) 113, 160.
2 Natalie Angier, "A Pearl and a Hodgepodge: Human DNA," New York Times (June 27, 2000)
Proof v. Evidence
by Kelly Hollowell
What determines "proof" as opposed to "evidence" regarding the subject of life, cloning, and the scientific realm?
The answer is complicated because there has been a mixing of legal and scientific terms and principles that has determined the current law governing the unborn.
In law, "evidence" (smoking gun, DNA, eye witness testimony, etc.) is offered to establish "proof" of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (criminal) or proof of negligence/recklessness (civil) by a preponderance of the evidence. And the presumption is always in favor of the accused or one being judged.
Science, on the other hand, is generally built upon a premise that nothing can be "proved" only disproved. And so similar to law, all things are taken on their face as true, or the presumption is given in favor of the obvious, until a scientific corollary disproves the presumption.
This is what makes the taking of life through abortion so sinister "under the law." Both the scientific and legal presumptions were reversed in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. The burden was actually put upon the ones judged, to prove themselves alive/innocent. The presumption of life was denied, a priori, both scientifically and legally.
The Supreme Court then asked those in the medical and scientific communities to "prove" when life begins (clearly a reversal of the basic scientific premise) in order to secure the rights of the unborn which were already inherent under the law (see the Constitution 14th Amendment — "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness").
It is also worth noting that the Court often asks the very doctors who line their pockets with the profits from abortion, IVF, and stem cell research to tell the Court when life begins in these life-determining cases. The fox is guarding the chicken house.
In fact, after listening to the testimony of the doctors and scientists in Roe, the Court said that, "it was not possible based on the current understanding of science and medicine to determine or provide 'proof' of when life begins."
Upon this "failure" to "prove" when life begins, the court reversed the law that inherently protects the unborn and found the law that deprives the unborn of all rights and representation, handing them instead, a death sentence.
In conclusion, scientists should never be asked to "prove," only "disprove" the inherent presumption. When it comes to life issues, the inherent presumption should be that life begins at conception. Any other starting point or presumption is arbitrary. The presumption that life begins at conception is valid and proper from both a legal and scientific perspective and should stand unless "disproved." Unfortunately, the outcome of Roe v. Wade was a very backward and sinister application of both legal and scientific theories that, nonetheless, secured the current law regarding the unborn.
The information in the corresponding article is based on cloning technology (science itself) and actually "disproves" the assumption made in law (Roe) that life does not begin at conception.
Kelly Hollowell holds a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology (DNA Technology and Analysis) from the University of Miami School of Medicine and a law degree from the Regent University School of Law. She is the founder and director of Science Ministries (www.scienceministries.org)