Medical science is going to make humans superior, both physically and mentally, and it’s not very far off. They will do it mostly with gene editing, also called genetic engineering. The result is called “transhumanism” or “human enhancement.” From birth, people will be much less prone, or completely resistant, to certain diseases, and they will be smarter and better looking. Scientists, ethicists, and religious leaders are discussing it. A high majority of scientists favor it. But will gene editing for humans be morally acceptable to the public? It is to me, but not to most religious people.
The preeminent Pew Research Center published an article about this subject today entitled “U.S. Public Wary of Biomedical Technologies to ‘Enhance’ Human Abilities.” In extensive interviews, they learned that 50% of American adults said they would not want gene editing done to reduce their baby’s risk of serious diseases, but about the same percentage said they would. They also found 63% of white Evangelicals and Protestants in America oppose gene editing for humans in general, yet 31%, thus half of that, of nonreligious people and atheists are opposed to it.
Most religious people in America say gene editing in general is “against nature,” “messing with nature, or “interferes with God’s plan” for humanity. Thus, religious people are mostly negative about gene editing for humans whereas nonreligious people are mostly positive towards it.
It seems to me that this opposition to gene editing by religious people is short-sighted. Do any of these adults go to the doctor and take medicines to ward of diseases or other human maladies? Isn’t that enhancing the human condition and therefore resisting nature from taking its natural course? Do some of these adults have children who have their teeth straightened by an orthodontist? And what about wearing glasses or contact lenses? The list could go on and on. I think in time, religious people will become positive about most forms of gene editing that will enhance peoples’ lives. But it could be more available to rich people who can pay for it, thus further exasperating the widening difference in the U.S. between the rich and poor.
Furthermore, most Christians believe God raised Jesus from the dead, giving him an immortal body. Plus, Muslims, most Christians, and some religious Jews believe there will be a resurrection in the future when all genuine adherents to their faith tradition will be given a resurrection body. Surely that is about as far as you can go in going against nature.
Gene editing is becoming an important and growing medical practice in the laboratory. In the years ahead, there will be much discussion about its ethics, especially for human beings. National governments will surely impose regulations on this discipline. Yet it is going to happen. It will be interesting to see how much, if any, that religious people will change in their views toward gene editing.