In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has given the “green light” to the creation of hybrid cow-human embryos–part animal, part human–for the sake of stem cell research. Almost sounds like a horrible joke, doesn’t it? (Unlike my title, which is a horrible joke.) But no joke: it’s a reality.
You can read the BBC article yourself, which discusses the decision: “‘Human-animal’ embryo green light” — actually, the article (as of my viewing this evening) contains a number of links to previous articles which can give the interested reader a view of the issue’s progression, including the shifting views of the British government. One can be sure that money has played its role, as well–similar to the cries of those who believe the U.S. must accept all forms of stem cell research or risk its standing as a leader in the biosciences and, of course, the economic standing that goes with it (a January 2007 Larry Summers FT article comes to mind on this; here’s the link, but the article requires subscription).
Some will take comfort in the fact these hybrid part cow/part human embryos are to be destroyed within 14 days of their creation. Some will take comfort in the fact that such research may, one day, lead to the cures of many diseases. Some may take comfort in the fact that strict protocols will be developed for these procedures. None of these considerations provides me any comfort, I must say.
On the other hand, some will be concerned with the ethical boundary that is being crossed here. Some will be concerned with the sorts of things the public seems increasingly willing to allow in the name of “cures” and will be concerned with the role of easily-manipulated public opinion in establishing ethical guidelines for the practice of medicine and science. Some will be concerned about what other morally and ethically challenged research will be OK’d in the future using the same reasoning. Count me in that group.
Humanity is something to be treasured as unique. Man and woman are the only beings on earth made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Even those atheists who disregard that truth and believe that no “God” ever said such a thing must admit that this principle of the unique status of man on the earth has been an important and vital concept woven into the fabric of our culture — playing a major role in the crafting of civilization, itself. Proverbs 22:28 warns both the religious and irreligious alike: “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” Has the removal of this landmark really been given proper consideration?
[An I-Can’t-Help-It Aside: There is a reason that we speak of treating animals “humanely.” If we treated animals like animals treat animals then we would routinely tear them to pieces for our own benefit, whatever the benefit, without mercy or compunction. It’s amazing how so many (though not necessarily all) who argue that we’re “just animals” tend to demand that we behave so differently from animals — that is: that we behave so humanely. On the differences between man and beast and how humans are obligated to treat animalkind, Mr. Crockett has an excellent commentary here.
OK, back on topic…]
In terms of prophecy, I do see in this a reflection of Matthew 24:12, but I see elements of 2 Timothy 3:1-4 in all of this, too. Arguable, to be sure, but that’s my take (“unholy” definitely seems to fit). Increasingly, God is not seen as having any role at all in determining the boundaries on what is acceptable scientific endeavor, and any shred of self-restraint in consideration of what used to be common sense notions is categorized more and more as “quaint but unhelpful.”
Once, long ago, when God saw that mankind was able to achieve anything it desired — without restraint — He saw that this was a bad thing and did something about it (Gen. 11:6-7). As we witness this new breed of “cowboy” making its appearance on the earth here in the 21st century, do any of you get a sense of what God might have been thinking? I do.
Thankfully, He will intervene this time, too (Matthew 24:22), but things will get awfully ugly before then.