Thursday, June 14, 2012

The relentless pursuit of perfection*

*with apologies to the folks at Lexus.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a UK organization, has decided that three-parent in vitro fertilization is ethically OK. Simply put, it's a process to combine genes from two women with those from a man -- presumably, lest we get too ethically hung up, the husband of one of the women -- in order to eliminate faulty DNA that causes inherited incurable diseases.

There is vocal opposition from the Pro-Life movement in the UK, and rightly so; but here's my main objection: this un-natural selection is another misguided attempt by mankind to create a perfect world made up of perfect people.

Anybody for a re-read of Frankenstein?

We have become so afraid of pain and adversity that we will go to any lengths to avoid it and to deny that it's only through tribulation that we actually grow. We legislate against bullying, as if that will ever stop children from being mean to one another; instead, we should be teaching children to learn to forgive others and understand that they won't always have a teacher or a parent to run to.

We're so hung up on the fear of growing old and dying that we'll do everything possible to avoid looking at an old guy in the mirror (ahem) and some even determine they want to make the call as to when they die. By that, I don't mean people who commit suicide in a fit of depression; I mean things like my dad's living will, which included the sentence, "I do not fear death so much as I fear the indignity of pain and suffering ...." Who said pain was an indignity?

Now that I've mentioned depression and suicide, I wonder how many suicidal people do away with themselves simply because they don't want to let on to others that they're not OK? They don't want to be a burden on others, and yet how many of those left behind have stood at their graveside saying, "WHY WEREN'T YOU A BURDEN ON ME, DAMMIT?"

But I digress.

The idea of using genetic trickery to eliminate inherited diseases may seem laudable in creating someone who looks perfect, but I can't help thinking about the number of parents of children with disabilities who would take great offence at the idea their kids were not blessings and inspirations. Some friends of mine have a child with Down Syndrome: many might look at them and pity them for being burdened, but while the boy's mother does admit that it raising him can be tough at times, she also rhapsodizes at the progress he makes and the amazing abilities he shows. How many times have you heard parents talk about their children with heart defects or cancer or who have lost limbs in accidents with wonder at their courage, perseverance and indomitable spirit?

The fact is, we can only look perfect, anyway -- and that's always in the eye of the beholder, anyway. Need I remind you of the number of "perfect" babies who have grown up to be mass murderers, child molesters and white-collar criminals? We're fallen human beings: a guy could have the looks of Ryan Reynolds and the physique of Tim Horton, but if he has the mind of Idi Amin, so much for perfection.

But what does the Bible tell us about adversity? "We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4 NKJV) In other words, by trying to avoid the struggle, we're denying ourselves -- and others -- hope.

And to my mind, that's the biggest argument of all against it.

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