Horrifying advances in genetic engineering

April 09, 2012
Source: District of the USA

A short update on some "advances" made in genetic engineering which defy the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Peter Scott

On her very interesting website Mary Meets Dolly, a Catholic molecular biologist by the name of Mrs. Rebecca Taylor summarizes some of the most horrifying “advances” in the domain of genetic engineering. To be informed is to understand how gross is the perversion of modern man’s viciously proud yearning to escape from the natural law, especially in that which concerns matrimony.

One such instance is what she calls the “three parent embryo”. Researchers in the United Kingdom have been working on human genetic disorders in which the defective DNA is not in the nucleus of the cell, but in the mitochondria, which are located in the cytoplasm, that is outside the nucleus. Normally in in-vitro fertilization, the scientist artificially creates the embryo by inserting the nuclear material of the sperm into that of the egg. However, in this case two embryos are created with IVF, one from the parents, in which the mother passes on the defective mitochondria, and another from another woman altogether. The nucleus is then removed from the first embryo and inserted into the second embryo, after its own nucleus has been removed. Of course, the first embryo is killed in the process, and the second embryo, which has the nuclear material of the parents, has the cytoplasm and mitochondrial DNA of the second “mother”. Thus is created by genetic engineering a hybrid embryo with DNA from two women and one man. It is true that the quantity of DNA in the mitochondria is much less than that in the nucleus of the cell, but the fact remains that the marital relationship, instituted by God for reproduction, is violated even more than by regular IVF, and that embryos are deliberately killed in the process. Regardless of the therapeutic advantages, that children not inherit a disorder of the mitochondrial DNA, such a process is manifestly immoral. Although it is not presently permissible in the UK to implant such a genetically-engineered human embryo into a mother, one man, the Health Secretary, has the authority to rescind this rule, and thus genetic engineering of humans would start in earnest.

Another frightening advance in genetic engineering in 2011 was the creation of glow-in-the-dark kittens that pass on their genetic modification from generation to generation. In the past they have been created by cloning, so that they could not pass on the modification. Now, however, they have been able to make the genetic modification in the unfertilized ovum, and to fertilize it by IVF with regular sperm, so that the genetic change is incorporated into the make-up of a fertile animal, and is then passed on to all its descendants. If it is not immoral to experiment with animals in this way, it is dangerous, especially given the opening up of possibilities of performing the same kind of procedures with humans. It could easily happen in this way that children could be created with a genetic modification that they would necessarily and unavoidably pass on to all their own descendants. What a nightmare, especially since such techniques could be used to enhance human nature, which is no longer considered to be good enough, for example in the creation of a race of individuals who are incredibly strong, or unusually intelligent.  Transhumanism, the effort to create a man better than human, is the logical conclusion of such genetic engineering of embryos.

Mrs. Taylor also points out that the ongoing growth in the use of IVF has resulted in large numbers of deliberate abortions. With the use of IVF several fertilized eggs are implanted to increase the chance of one surviving. Frequently it happens as a consequence that several such fertilized eggs, which are considered extra embryos, are eliminated deliberately, so that only one, or the most two, survives. This process is called selective reduction. The immorality of such abortions escapes nobody who cares about life and its Author. She furthermore points out that the efforts to bring about human cloning have not stopped, but are being continued in South Korea.

For how long will God allow such perversions of the natural law to continue? It must be noted that these questions are not amongst those that can be debated by Catholics, firstly because they violate the marriage relationship, instituted by God as the only moral means for procreation, and secondly because all such genetic manipulations require that deliberate abortions be performed, namely the destruction of the zygote, the fertilized egg. In its Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation, dated February 22, 1987, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith defended the inviolability of the zygote and condemned IVF.