READ MORE: Genetic engineering of embryos will cause an unprecedented loss of respect for human life, dignity, and rights.
Human Nature Carries a Special Dignity
Each of us believes in our heart that we are a unique, unrepeatable person who deserves respect from others, even if it’s only in our most basic rights.
To have personal dignity means that we have an important level of value by simply being who we are. It means that we have a uniquely core nature (essence) that is not entirely determined by instinct, outside influences, the physical structure and abilities of our body, or even our actions.
Because we know in ourselves what it means to be a dignified, individual person, and because we can observe and interact with other human beings, we learn that they also have unique, personal identities.
More than that, our own dignity actually requires that other human beings are also dignified. Our dignity demands respect for human rights and the experience of being lovable. These would not be possible unless other human beings also have a special value.
We may struggle with doubts about whether we can be loved by others, but even this pain reflects our despair when we feel unable to get others to recognize our essential dignity (this is always an emotionally driven distortion of the facts).
Christian Insights into Human Dignity Are Even More Profound
Our Christian faith demands unqualified respect for the God-given dignity of every human being.
We know that our world was created by God, He declared it “good”, and He created human beings in His image.
Each individual human being is a miracle. Science and reason can never explain how this could be. We are each conceived as a unified, complete organism with DNA that is 100% unique. No other individual in the world has the same DNA structure.
Every individual has a continuous, personal identity from their creation until death. As we go through life, we experience a path like no other person, one marked by blessings, afflictions and suffering, challenges, relationships, and growth.
Human beings also share treasured, spiritual gifts: an awareness of God (even when some persons deny it), pride in our special dignity among the world’s creatures, and an opportunity for eternal life in the presence of God that was made possible through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.
Genetic engineering of human embryos, however, expresses a fundamental rejection of these truths about human nature and dignity.
Genetic engineering research and therapies depend for their success on killing human beings as embryos. Unique, unrepeatable persons with a divinely bestowed destiny are routinely deleted from the world forever.
The publicly declared motivation for genetic engineering is nearly always a desire to spare the human being from an inherited affliction, abnormality, or disability that may cause suffering, challenges, or exposure to discrimination. Redesign of a human being, however, is not love.
Jesus commanded us to extend charity and compassion to our neighbors who are persons encountered as unique and dignified identities. Genetic engineering of an embryo is instead the selection of preferred characteristics of a future person.
There is no compassion or respect for the existing embryo. There is no relationship founded on love; there is not even a relationship at all between persons. There is only manufacture of an imagined future person.
Rejection of God’s Creation
Adults who genetically engineer a human embryo reject the mystery of God’s creation that has, since the Fall of the first human beings, endowed every single individual with a unique path of both suffering and grace. Mankind can supposedly do better.
Rejection of God’s Purpose
There is an assumption that the future person will be better off if they never experience inherited characteristics that may cause discomfort or suffering. Again, mankind supposedly knows the appropriate purpose of human life more than God.
Resentment toward Suffering
Our Christian faith celebrates rather than despises the path of suffering that deepens our relationship with God. The human destiny in suffering was dramatically confirmed in our redemption through Christ’s assumption of a human nature, suffering, sacrificial death, and resurrection.
Selfish Control of a Child
In our society, unborn children of God are commonly dispatched in the womb because their birth may hinder the worldly goals of their mothers or both parents.
Aside from routine lifestyle preferences, parents often act on poor information and discrimination against a child who is diagnosed in genetic or pre-natal testing as having an “abnormality” or some diminished capacity to thrive. Every year, thousands of parents discard their child because they imagine an unfulfilling and miserable life if they raise him or her.
In genetic engineering of embryos, discrimination against persons with supposedly abnormal challenges will increase as parents design their child to meet the parents’ selfish concerns.
Thinking of the welfare of the “future” person, parents will also succumb to the temptation to enhance an embryo’s productive and competitive abilities as well as cosmetic features and gender.
These goals of genetic engineering are based on instrumental reason – the strategic manipulation of things or persons as means to a selected goal – in the service of worldly concerns. The child becomes a product, not a uniquely God-given identity. Capability, accomplishment, competitiveness, and attractiveness are mankind’s purposes, not God’s.
In contrast to mankind’s faith in directing our own lives through instrumental reason – the sin of pride that led to the Fall – Jesus told us to put our complete faith in God when worrying about our life struggles. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
Granting priority to concerns over our welfare, and that of our children, blinds both parents and children to the requirement of living a purely moral life. Jesus warned us: “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
Focus on a moral life is not a request from God; it is a requirement. Mankind often tries to impose a flawed idea of compassion as if it determines God’s judgment. Yet Jesus was very clear that only the truly faithful, good persons will enjoy eternal life: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).
Designing a “future” child with priorities other than the child’s moral and spiritual destiny is a denial of God’s loving purpose. It is extremely damaging to the child’s experience of his or her true dignity.
Perfectionism in genetic engineering and human dignity
It is Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection that cleared the way for human beings to enjoy eternal life in the presence of the perfect Divine. We will not be redeemed through an arrogant and foolish pursuit of mankind’s own idea of perfection. This is the worship of false idols. It is a resentful war waged against God and His judgment in the Fall of mankind.
The only true perfection of human nature is eternal life in the presence of God. The only path to that perfection is through Christ.
The practice of genetic engineering and human dignity are at odds.