A Chinese researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, claimed that he was able to produce the first gene edited babies, twin girls, with an advanced technique called CRISPR-cas9. This technique, if developed adequately, is capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. The purpose of this gene editing was not to prevent any disease, rather to bestow a rare trait with which the new borns will be able to resist any possible infection with the HIV Virus. This is said to have been achieved by disabling a gene called CCR5 that forms a protein doorway that lets the HIV virus into the cell. If the news about the claim is reliable, it means that it will be possible to safeguard the future generations from HIV virus to some extent.
Some scientists are really shocked by this report and condemned it as it involves serious ethical issues. Some others scientists have hailed this project to be justifiable and important as HIV is a serious problem.
On the religious side, certain theologians are inclined to condemn it as humans playing god. The Church is serious about any genetic research being guided by sound ethical principles. Although the Church does not endorse any experiments on the human embryo, Church does see in the researches in genetic technologies a very profound theological meaning. The pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world “Gaudium et Spes” highlights the moral norms regarding the human interventions: “Methodological research in all branches of knowledge provided it is carried on in a truly scientific manner and in accordance with moral norms, can never conflict with faith, because the things of the world and things of faith derive from the same God. It can be said, indeed, that one who humbly and perseveringly applies himself to investigating the secrets of nature is being led, even unknowingly, by the hand of God, who holding all things in existence causes them to be what they are.”
The creation of artificial life may be a real possibility in the future. Even that being the case, the role of God will not be undermined. For, God as the author of matter has bestowed such potentiality into matter. God’s role is still upheld as God is the primary creator. Scientists do not create life ‘out of nothing’; rather, they only transform or extrapolate the God given potentiality of the matter. It implies a positive vision of scientists not as competitors but co-creators or collaborators in the act of creation.
Augustine Pamplany CST