Life has limits. Our bodies are subject to breakdown from disease and age. Our food sources are vulnerable to attack from pests. We can’t bear children past a certain age. Even a person in the peak of health cannot realistically expect to live past 90 or 100. These are realities.
Or are they?
Science seems poised to challenge many of these basic assumptions. We live in an amazing time, a time when cloning, genetically modified foods and other astounding breakthroughs are regularly in the news. Things once considered science fiction are becoming reality. Genetic enhancement of food, scientists claim, will enable man to repair problems in the food supply. Cloning and genetic modification promise to put man’s destiny in his own hands.
But are these promises real? Can modern science really give us the freedom to break the rules that have always bound mankind?
Let’s consider a few specific areas of scientific research that show whether these advancements truly provide the solutions they purport to.
Genetically Modified Foods
If you are a North American reader, you are probably already eating genetically modified food. In the United States, there is no law requiring that gm food be labeled as such.
Why did we ever start genetically tampering with our food? One primary reason was to create foods that are resistant to pests. The first wave of genetically modified (gm) food was aimed at pest and weed management. Last year’s “top developments in food biotechnology, according to the Roper survey, included a sweet potato that is resistant to a particularly destructive plant virus, bananas and potatoes that contain a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease, a gene that keeps produce fresher longer, and developments that allow for plants to grow in extreme climates” (Reuters, Nov. 11, 2002).
But are there any negative side effects? Many scientists are concerned that testing on these foods has been insufficient. In Europe, gm foods are simply not allowed. Because many gm foods have antibiotic-resistant genes in them, there is widespread concern that this could hamper the ability of humans to fight infection, possibly even creating a strain of untreatable diseases.
Scientists are well aware that a mistake in genetic modification could have catastrophic results. For example, toxic potatoes were once developed through hybridization.
An additional complication is the risk of contamination. Last November, the U.S. government ordered 500,000 bushels of soybeans destroyed because they were contaminated with gm corn once grown in the same field. Two years ago, there was a massive recall when gm corn intended solely for animal feed was found in taco shells. Both of these incidents cost millions of dollars—aside from the risk to the health of American citizens.
There is also widespread concern that weeds will become much harder to kill as they crossbreed with gm foods. This would lead to a heavier use of herbicides to combat the increased resistance of the hybrid weeds. In fact, in Britain, the “limits on pesticide residues allowed in soya have been increased 200-fold to help the gm industry, according to one of the country’s leading food safety experts” (Daily Mail, London, Sept. 21, 1999).
By using gm strains, farmers are told they might be able to produce a larger crop, with increased sales, albeit with questionable health benefit. Farmers, under the pressures of growing populations, weather problems, pestilences and economic depression, are willing to try any solution that may be foisted upon them by companies with profits in mind. Biotechnology is aimed, for the most part, not at feeding the world’s hungry, as is claimed, but maximizing profit for the seed producers!
Evidence of the harm of gm food is largely being ignored by those who stand to gain financially. The Africa News recently reported, “Following a lawsuit in the U.S. by farmers and gm critics against Monsanto and other biotech companies, documents have emerged which prove that claims from the [Food and Drug Administration] that all gm foods had been well tested and all safety issues had been resolved were ‘unequivocally false.’ For example, the fda had approved gm tomatoes later sold as paste in the UK despite tests showing that rats fed on them had developed ‘erosion’ in their intestines” (Nov. 7, 2002).
Genetically modifying foods includes no vision of the consequences of interfering with natural laws. “The keyword is profits …. Monsanto, a major agricultural biotechnology corporation, employs about 30,000 people …. It is not surprising that Monsanto predicts a future for farming that will be more efficient, reliable, environmentally friendly and, of course, profitable” (ibid.).
Clearly, the motivation for genetically tampering with the food supply is not in the interest of the consumers of that food! Can we truly call this biotech experimentation “progress”?
The Gift of Life
It is easy to see that mankind isn’t happy with the natural reproductive system, as we are constantly trying to devise a better way to control it.
Consider, in vitro fertilization is now regularly being performed on women in their 50s—women unable to have a child by natural means. This procedure was performed almost 35,000 times in Britain last year. An estimated 1 million babies have been born via this method since the first “test tube” baby in 1978. (Last year, a 56-year-old woman gave birth to twins.) Yet two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that such babies are more likely to be underweight and have a major birth defect.
Now, the debate has begun as to whether couples might be allowed to decide the gender of their babies. But why stop with gender? Through the possibilities of cloning, science can go much further than that.
The February 19, 2000, issue of Time magazine contained the following statement (emphasis mine), “Researchers … hope that one day, the ability to clone adult human cells will make it possible to ‘grow’ new hearts and livers and nerve cells. … As for infertile couples, ‘we are interested in giving people the gift of life’ ….”
That sounds attractive, but right now, the main “gift” of cloning is death and suffering. Scientists continue their attempts to “create” life from human embryos under the shield of scientific discovery, deeming a 95 percent failure rate acceptable enough for them to continue (see p. 25). And it isn’t really a “failure rate” at all—it’s a death rate.
Several months ago, Scientific American offered a free book called If Humans Were Built to Last with every new subscription to that magazine. Leading research scientists kindly developed a new model of the human body and showed how improvements could be made that would greatly improve its functioning—removing the perceived “flaws” that the living God designed into your body.
How arrogant! Instead of living the way of life outlined in the Bible and taking care of the human body in accordance with God’s health laws, mankind desires to get around that natural law by redesigning God’s creation! (Gen. 1:27). Man sees a human body prone to sickness and disease, yet cannot bring himself to seek the real answer to the question, What is its cause? (Deut. 28:58-61).
Man does not have the power to create anything without the raw materials that God has already created (Gen. 1:1). If this team of scientists, along with every other scientist on Earth, were brought together and commissioned to create anything from scratch—a single blade of grass, a rock, anything—they simply could not do it. Even if they were provided with all the raw materials they desired, certainly no amount of effort would allow them to produce even a better mosquito, much less a living, breathing human being. These men, with their finite, limited intellects, truly believe that they are more capable of designing the human body than God Almighty, the supreme intelligence which created them! It is simply a living, natural law that nothing which is created has an inherent potential to become greater than that which created it!
On top of this is the fact that God doesn’t create anything in vain. He designed humans to be subject to death for a reason (Heb. 9:27)—which becomes apparent with a rudimentary understanding of God’s plan and purpose as revealed in Scripture. Science’s effort to “improve” upon God’s design only reveals its fundamental ignorance.
What motivates science to undertake such projects?
It all goes back to the two trees of Genesis 2 and the forbidden fruit. Scientists are continually making hypotheses, guessing at what may happen. God speaks with authority and clarity from the very first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” He didn’t attempt to create or hypothesize what would form. Creation proceeded through deliberate planning and no guesswork. In six days, God created exactly what He desired, getting exactly the result He wanted—every time! (Gen. 1:31).
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). He told humans what would happen in this particular instance—there was no need to guess what the result would be. Nevertheless, Eve, after being deceived by Satan the devil, proceeded with the first scientific experiment, rejecting the revelation God had given. She wanted the power to decide for herself. The human race has followed Eve’s example of experimentation ever since. As a result, we have discovered a multitude of knowledge, but the use of the that knowledge has not solved our most basic problems, and has caused several new problems! We have not improved at all on what our Maker created!
Men built the tower of Babel so that, if God decided to flood the Earth again, they would be protected from His wrath. Notice that they didn’t decide to stop sinning so God wouldn’t flood the Earth (which is why He did it in the first place—Gen. 6:5-8, 17). Man didn’t decide to find “grace in the eyes of the Lord” as Noah had. (And consider further: God had already promised never to destroy the Earth with a flood again!—Gen. 9:11). Man simply rejected God’s revelation and started building a tower, hoping to avert the penalty for sin, rather than stopping the sin and the resulting curses at the source. Human beings simply have an ingrained habit of treating the effect of a problem rather than seeking out and dealing with its cause!
People believe they can grow crops better than God designed, birth better babies, and heal diseases that have been brought on by their sins against their own bodies. They even believe they could create a better human—if they had the slightest idea of how to begin! What nonsense. Our capabilities pale in comparison to the wonder we see around us. We have already been given the gift of life by Almighty God. If we were to follow His instruction, to live our lives the way He instructs, all of the problems we see extant on the Earth today simply would not exist! All those problems are simply the result of breaking laws which He intended that we obey! (i John 3:4).
Many of the things we do to better our lives are an attempt to avoid the penalty of our abuse of God’s creation. Yet in doing so, we only break more laws, which incurs more penalties.
Why would we need to make crops resistant to pests and disease if right farming methods were used? (A society based on mass production has resulted in farming practices, such as monoculture, that have taken away plants’ natural resistance to pests, while at the same time increasing the population of those pests.)
If our food still contained the nutrition it once had, were the soil not so depleted by our disregard for God’s commands regarding agriculture, why would we need to or even want to attempt to put nutrition back in our food through genetic manipulation?
How quickly would the aids epidemic wither away if everyone abstained from sex outside of marriage and from perverted practices? Would anyone even consider making a banana with a vaccine for sexually transmittable diseases then?
Rather than seeking the answers to mankind’s problems in God’s instruction book, His Holy Bible, people insist on going their own way, experimenting outside of God’s law, and reaping curses. Then they seek to avert those curses using science. The result is a never-ending cycle of broken natural law and suffering brought on by the resultant curses. The answers to all of mankind’s woes are found in God’s manual for mankind, the Bible. The next time a scientist wants to give a gift of life, he would be wise to give this book!