Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


That ain't right

Before this post is over I will sound like an unenlightened romantic at best a luddite or heartless troglodite at worst. But this NPR news report got my attention Scientists Hope to Create Human-Animal Embryo and not in a positive way. The short version is that
Two teams of British scientists had applied to Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for permission to create what are known in Britain as cytoplastic hybrids, or cybrids, in order to overcome a shortage of donated human eggs.

The process involves injecting human DNA into an animal egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed.

Researchers hope to use the hybrid embryos, which must be destroyed after 14 days, which would create stem cells. The stem cells could be used to help find new medical treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's, and Parkinson's.
That's where I feel unenlightened. I certainly want relief for persons suffering from Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's and Parkinsons's. Who wouldn't? But I wonder about the cost of help and what the unintended consequences might be. The article goes on to say:
Scientists have said they understand that the idea of the process — which would create a hybrid embryo that is 99.9 percent human and 0.1 percent animal — might be shocking to some people. But Dr. Stephen Minger of Kings College London says the public should not be alarmed.

"What we do when we take an animal egg, is we remove the nucleus from the egg. We remove not only the genetic identity but we remove the species identity. What makes a cow egg a cow is its nuclear DNA. And we take that out — it's no longer a cow," Minger says.
Britain's Times online also features a Question and Answer on the issue.

Maybe I have watched I Robot one too many times (including last night), or took Jurassic Park or The Lost World too seriously, but I do wonder about the slippery slope and what it means to begin creating hybrid tissue for research purposes. My gut instinct is that we humans are not smart enough to pull this off without running into profound problems we can not yet forsee.

an urban legend playing on fears about this sort of reserach, click to find out moreI could and probably should throw in some biblical rationale for my opinion. Certainly the distinctions among species found in Genesis 1:4,6,7 with each animal reproducing after their kind shows a concern for keeping distinctions in a way that would see no problem with dog breeding and real cataclismic problems coming from recombining very different species. I'm not actually fearful of the urban legend pictured here coming true, but I do think it is dangerous precedent. Yes, I have read a few articles on this and understand that the intent is to remove almost all that is cow from the egg and make it human. But what is created will be a new sort of hybrid and we won't know the problems down the line until it is too late to reverse the course. I wish I didn't see it as market-driven research interested in boosting medical company profits as being the main factor in this continual push ahead trying to find ways to bend the ethics to make the new research acceptable to the broad public's sensibilities.

But I also need to admit that at this point, this is just a gut-level reaction on my part. I do think we should do all we ethically can to help prevent needless suffering from disease. I just think this solution crosses that line.

What do y'all think?

The Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 9/06/2007 7:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's too FREAKY!!!! There's got to be another way! Suffering from these diseases is horrible, but I don't think I could expose myself to such a cure.

  • At 9/06/2007 8:10 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    I totally agree. There are some awful things that can happen to people but sometimes the cost of the "cure" is way too high.

  • At 9/06/2007 10:43 AM, Anonymous denise said…

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the word "ethically". Doctors are supposed to do no harm. If you believe that life is created by God, then you know that only God can play God and this isn't a thing we have any place meddling in. Disease has a way of working it's way out. Maybe we should put our focus into making medicines and treatment affordable to all, or even budget for medicines like we do our cell phones. I can think of at least 5 people I know who complain about a $60 prescription, yet willingly hand over $100/month for their phone service. How come a church isn't supposed to turn a profit, but life sustaining care can? Is it capitilism or greed? So many questions only raise more questions!

  • At 9/06/2007 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mooooooooo...I mean...GROSS!!!!!!!


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