Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. ~ Psalm 100:3
In June of this year, scientists in Israel reported a breakthrough in creating synthetic human embryos without the use of eggs or sperm. With the goal of creating cells that mimic embryonic cells for medical research without harming actual embryos, they have unwittingly created new ethical dilemmas.
Using stem cells initially derived from adult skin cells, their research involves a process to revert these stem cells to an earlier state – called the naïve state – in which they are capable of becoming anything. The cells are then separated into three groups: one group is ‘hard-coded’ to become placenta cells, another to create the extraembryonic mesoderm membrane that ultimately creates the chorionic sac (yolk sac), the third group is left alone with no programming.
When the three cell types are later combined under the right conditions, they are found to form clumps that organize themselves into complete embryo structures. When the scientists applied secretions from these cells to a commercial pregnancy test, it came out positive.
“Many failures of pregnancy occur in the first few weeks, often before the woman even knows she’s pregnant,” researcher Prof. Jacob Hanna says. “That’s also when many birth defects originate, even though they tend to be discovered much later. Our models can be used to reveal the biochemical and mechanical signals that ensure proper development at this early stage, and the ways in which that development can go wrong.”
New Ethical Dilemmas
Based on the accepted medical practice rules in most countries, scientists are legally able to do scientific research in the lab only until a human embryo is 14 days old. Furthermore, synthetic embryos are considered too risky to be implanted in the womb. Such tests in mice have not resulted in live animals.
Given the pace of scientific advances, the problems of survival might be overcome. This leaves the more difficult question of what to do about the potential for artificial human life.
Will designer babies be patented and owned or sold by corporations? It isn’t hard to imagine sci-fi scenarios of engineered soldiers, conscripted ‘mothers’, or industrial organ harvesting.
It obviously raises new questions about the sanctity of human life and when a human life begins.
Human Life is ultimately God’s Creation
Science may learn to mimic the process by which human beings develop, but it cannot form the raw materials needed to do it or duplicate God’s amazing design. Most importantly, science cannot create life itself.
It’s akin to creating music using existing notes and chords. Human songs may be a reflection of Heavenly music with many of the same attributes of resonance, vibration, and percussion, but they are only songs. Humans cannot create music itself; that was God's creation.
Human life belongs to God because it is God-breathed. "God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." ~ Genesis 2:7. It was not the forming of man that made him alive -- it was the breath of God. Human life, in all its forms, belongs to God.
The world is becoming more complex in ways that earlier generations barely dreamed of. It's more important than ever that we remain grounded in the Bible's truth.
In future debates, we must hold to the truth that all human life is, in fact, human and precious in God’s sight.