Men for centuries have claimed they would be able to either man a “superman” or themselves become superman. This was one of the themes explored in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, where Dr. Frankenstein creates a man out of old body parts and gives it life, only for his creation to be a monster and eventually comes to realize the horror of his own existence, consumed by a lack of meaning and a lack of purpose where he eventually sets off onto an ice raft to drift away into nothing. In the words of the monster, “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel”.
The post-original sin world and its consequences, in spite of the knowledge of where it will bring man, he still is driven to seek a false quest for divinity. Today it has been exemplified by the pursuit of genetic manipulation, which scientists have promised will change the world for the better. However, recent scientific discoveries have been more disturbing than helpful, as the attempts at “editing” have gone wrong, creating deformed or mutated monsters out of healthy animals and stirring genuine fears at what may lay ahead for humans:
The purported birth last month of the world’s first gene-edited human babies, claimed by a Chinese scientist, spurred a wave of global outrage. Scientists denounced the (as yet unconfirmed) experiment as irresponsible, and the development reinforced fears that the redesigning of DNA is moving ahead too fast and without necessary oversight.
The proliferation of similar experiments on farm animals in recent years supports those concerns. Though rapid strides have been made to map genomes—the full set of genes for humans, animals, insects and plants—scientists have only begun to understand what the tens of thousands of individual genes do. Moreover, they are far from unraveling how those genes interact with each other.
Scientists around the world are editing the genes of livestock to create meatier pigs, cashmere goats with longer hair and cold-weather cows that can thrive in the tropics. The goals are to improve agricultural productivity, produce hardier beasts and reduce practices that are costly or considered inhumane. But amid some successes, disturbing outcomes are surfacing.
When Chinese researchers deleted a gene that limits muscle growth in mammals so that rabbits would grow leaner, their creations exhibited an unusual characteristic: enlarged tongues. Similar experiments on Chinese pigs led some to develop an additional vertebrae. Gene-edited calves died prematurely in Brazil and New Zealand.
The stumbles show the risks of racing ahead with such experiments, even as many governments work to clear regulatory pathways to bring meat, eggs and dairy from gene-edited animals to store shelves. Bioethicists and many geneticists have raised doubts about applying the gene-editing technology to animals and especially humans, given the continued uncertainties in both the science and the lab and field results.
“Humans have a very long history of messing around in nature with all kinds of unintended consequences,” said Lisa Moses, an animal bioethicist at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics. “It’s really hubris of us to assume that we know what we’re doing and that we can predict what kinds of bad things can happen.”
The belief has spread that scientists know how gene editing works “all the time, under all conditions,” says Odd-Gunnar Wikmark, a researcher at the Norway-based foundation GenOk, which studies the consequences of genetic engineering. “We of course do not.”
Critics say that editing animal DNA could introduce unwanted mutations that pose a threat to human health when consumed, and they fear that mutated genes may spread unchecked as animals breed. Proponents say they are engineering mutations just as traditional crossbreeding does, only faster. Though no gene-edited animal products have reached markets yet, the potential benefits to farming have led many big agricultural nations to join the race.
Crispr-Cas9, the tool introduced in 2012 that was used to engineer the human babies, is cheaper than older techniques and enables scientists to add, delete and rearrange DNA with greater precision. But an article published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in July suggests that Crispr might cause greater damage than previously understood—including changes in genes other than those intended. When DNA is cut, “a lot of odd things can happen,” study leader Allan Bradleysaid in July.
Take the gene called MSTN. Since 2012, Kui Li, a scientist with the state-run Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, has reverse-engineered cells from adult Chinese pigs to their embryonic stage, which is a common process when cloning animals. Then, using an older editing tool, he deleted MSTN, which limits how large muscles grow in mammals, including in humans. The edited cells are infused into eggs, chemically fertilized in a lab and implanted into the womb of a surrogate. At a farm 70 miles southeast of Beijing, dozens of pigs rest in metallic cages and glass enclosures; their meat is up to 12% leaner if both copies of their MSTN gene are deleted.
But there was another effect on the pigs: One in five offspring who inherited the edited genes had an extra spinal bone known as thoracic vertebrae, Dr. Li found. He doesn’t know why, though he postulates that the MSTN gene somehow contributes to skeletal formation. Lab tests show that his pigs are safe to eat, said Dr. Li: Despite a slight fading in color after cooking, he recorded no nutritional differences. He’s begun using Crispr to make more commercial breeds like the U.K.’s Large White leaner or resistant to PRRS, a deadly viral infection.
When state-sponsored scientists at Nanjing Agricultural University used Crispr to edit MSTN out of rabbits to make them meatier, 14 of the 34 engineered offspring were inexplicably born with enlarged tongues, leading the scientists to warn of abnormalities from gene editing in a 2016 research paper on their project. “Safety issues need to be addressed in future studies before the technology can be utilized” in agriculture, the authors wrote.
“Even the genes that we think we know very well, there’s a lot to learn,” said Se-Jin Lee, one of the scientists who discovered MSTN at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1997.
Chinese scientists at a different research facility have had to use caesarean sections to birth lambs whose MSTN genes were deleted with Crispr, because some grew too large to be birthed naturally. They have had success modifying goats’ cashmere to grow about 20% longer by preventing the gene FGF5 from regulating the growth.
Generally, the larger the animals, the greater the complications. New Zealand’s AgResearch Ltd. applied Crispr on cattle to reduce their heat stress, deleting a single amino acid on a gene that contributes to coat color (including hair and skin color in humans), in an effort to lighten the cows’ black-and-white coats to better reflect sunlight. Both calves died (one was sick and was euthanized). In a separate experiment using an older tool to enable cold-weather Angus cattle to thrive in the Brazilian tropics, one of two calves died prematurely.
Scientists in both experiments blame cloning, which created the calves but still isn’t foolproof, they say, after two decades in use. Neither is their understanding of genes. “But if we don’t try, we will never learn,” said Goetz Laible, who led AgResearch’s experiment.
Globally, at least a dozen gene-edited livestock projects are aiming to reach consumer markets. Some may face less resistance from consumers and ethicists because they could eliminate reviled practices: Cattle could be engineered without horns, for instance, obviating the need to dehorn them.
Wool from a gene-edited animal might also be more readily accepted because it is only worn, not eaten. Researchers in China’s eastern Xinjiang region used Crispr to alter the ASIP gene, believed to influence coat color in Merino sheep, with the aim of creating new breeds with darker coats—all black, gray or brown—so that off-white wool wouldn’t need to be dyed.
The results confirmed previous research suggesting that genes involved in coat color also play a role in reproduction: Only a fourth as many ewes implanted with the disrupted genes carried to term, as compared to normal circumstances. Meanwhile, for the wool itself, the results were mixed: One sheep was white, two were mostly black, and the other three had spotted fleeces akin to a panda.
The outcome also underlined how far there is to go in understanding the forces at work among the genes of humans and animals. “I think it would be an understatement to say we should be more cautious,” said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and the founder of Utah-based Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy. “I think we’ve already gone over the line with animals, and now humans.” (source, source)
I’m going to date myself here BIG time, but I remember the early days of computer games as a kid and when the first “interactive” type games involving characters with storylines came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My parents had purchased was was a top-of-the-line computer at that time, and for Christmas I received the game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. I spent a long time playing the game and after a while finally beat it, but the premise of the game was, in typical Indiana Jones fashion, Dr. Jones was racing against the National Socialists this time to discover the secrets of Atlantis before the Reich does. As one advances through the game, which takes place in Egypt, Greece, and at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in the “lost city,” one sees more and more piles of strangely deformed bones, such as bones with horns.
Watch from 2:20:20 to 2:29:50 for the dialogue
By the time one reaches the center of the city, the National Socialists get there before your character does and the “secret” of Atlantis is revealed, which is that the “machine” at the center of the city was part of a giant occult project that would use technology to turn men into living gods. The two main Nazi figures, Klaus Kerner and Dr. Hans Übermann, then want to use the machine to rule the world and create the “master race” of divine beings, Indy replies about the “piles of deformed bones” one sees throughout the city, and the Nazis respond that they were “experiments” gone wrong, and “unworthy slaves sacrificed in the pursuit of knowledge.” The Nazis then force Indy into the machine, and the final challenge is to convince the Nazis not to experiment on your character and get them to experiment on themselves, at which point the machine explodes and Indy makes his theatrical brave escape moments before the entire city is destroyed.
While the game is outdated in every aspect of PC and gaming performance, the philosophy conveyed in it regarding not only the National Socialists, but the philosophy of Eden is highly relevant. The desire for man to seek to replicate the error of the Garden is a constant theme throughout human history, and it is why Christ became man, for the liberation from Original Sin is to be able to make the choice to no longer choose the end of Eden, but the road to Heaven. Likewise, the theme of seeking to use advanced technology in order to transform one’s humanity is also a theme relevant to the past and today, where major minds are saying that the human race is in the next phase of human evolution to become an “interplanetary species”.
The existence of odd deformities existing at such an early stage is a disturbing sign of the future. In the game, the lesson of the “God Machine” at the end is that the machine, while promising to make men into gods, transforms them into monsters that destroy themselves. In such a case, what can one expect from technologies such as CRISPR, or other kinds of “gene editing” other than the mutations not just noted above in the story, but in even worse forms?
The reality is that while man understands something about genetics, he actually knows very little and does not understand how component parts work together. This is true about many areas of science, even very simple ones, that are well-known and long used in many cultures.
For example, alcoholic fermentation- the process by which yeast consume sugar and excretes alcohol as waste -is not fully understood despite its prevalence in culture dating back to ancient times. It is the reason why breweries, wineries, and distilleries still exist- because man does not known how yeast, a tiny little fungus, makes alcohol. This does not even describe the production and relationship of side-products in fermentation which affect the flavor and differentiate between, using the example of vodka, Grey Goose, Tito’s, and Popov.
If “science” still cannot figure out how yeast makes alcohol and how to make alcohol without yeast, which is something that given how men have been obsessed with drinking since the dawn of time and much science has already been dedicated to, what is to say that man will have the knowledge to edit his own biological constitution, or that of an animal, and think he can somehow become a superman?
God is God and man is man, and God became man so that man might be able to partake of God’s divinity, yet never become divine. The secular pursuit of “godhood” is a perversion of Christ’s mission and a path that not only can man never attain, but if followed will end in hell, with him transformed, body and soul, into a mutated lump of the unrecognizable filth that he tainted himself due to the price of sin.
God knows all and He made the world for man to discover and come to know and love and serve Him, not to abuse to try and seek power in reflection of the rebellion against God for selfish power. Perhaps it would be better for man to have a drink and seek God with the same love that it says in the Song of Songs, where the woman says of her King:
Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine, better than the fragrance of your perfumes. Your name is a flowing perfume— therefore young women love you.
Draw me after you! Let us run! The king has brought me to his bed chambers. Let us exult and rejoice in you; let us celebrate your love: it is beyond wine! Rightly do they love you! (Song of Songs, 1:2-3)