For millions of Americans, religious beliefs shape moral choices about reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) such as: prenatal testing, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, human engineering, and reproductive cloning. Many religious conservatives oppose all of these practices. But there also is a lot of wiggle room among people of faith. It’s possible we may see a civil conversation about the appropriate use of RGTS, rather than another culture war.
How could that happen? Heart-felt concerns about the health and wellbeing of our children could sway many.
Religions & Moral Lines May Not Be as Strict as They Seem
Generally speaking, fundamentalists, evangelicals and traditional Catholics are the most opposed to the use of RGTs, as noted yesterday. But sociologist John Evans also found areas of agreement when it comes to certain procedures for certain conditions. (Follow links in the right margin to earlier posts this week and more information about Evans important new book.)
This may seem surprising, but Evans reports that a majority of conservative Christians are not opposed to abortion—if prenatal testing indicates a fatal childhood disease. Almost half are not opposed to preimplantation genetic diagnosis for the same purpose.
The use of human genetic engineering for cystic fibrosis is another application that many conservative Christians approve. Cystic fibrosis is a condition in which mucus clogs the lungs and can lead to dangerous infections. This condition is inherited but human genetic engineering could eliminate it from the family tree. This approach would remove the problematic gene and replace it with one that functions properly. For many conservative Christians, this is acceptable because it doesn’t involve harm or destroy embryos. Moreover, it restores normal human functioning rather than enhance human abilities.
It’s possible that similar moral arguments will be made for other conditions, such as susceptibility to cancer or other life-threatening ailments. So, yes, there are enough areas in this brave new world for constructive and civil conversation.
What will happen? What’s the way forward?
While religious and moral lines may seem quite strict in the U.S., many places in the world are not constrained when it comes to the use of RGTs. I predict that we will see considerable use—outside the U.S.—of the entire range of reproductive genetic technologies, including human cloning and attempts to create a superior human being.