Here’s something I bet you haven’t worried about: “if new genes that wipe out malaria also make mosquitoes go extinct, what will bats eat?”
No hunger. No pollution. No disease. And the end of life as we know it. All brought to us by DNA editing, as easy as cut and paste. Evolution is about to get an upgrade. Call it the post-natural world. So read the teasers from the cover of the August issue of “Wired” magazine and the lead article, “The Genesis Engine.” All of this is made possible by a technique called Crispr-Cas9. The first term is an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” the second is the name of a protein that makes it work. Using the technique, agronomists have rendered wheat invulnerable to killer fungi. Hmmm. Such crops, adapted to a warming planet, might feed a population of 9 billion.
GMOs, anyone? Monsanto must be salivating.
Feeding a hungry planet is a good thing, and if the bats have to fend for themselves, well, we all have to sacrifice. Besides, reports that Chinese researchers have used Crispr to edit human embryos notwithstanding, engineered humans are a ways off—so what’s to worry?
Apparently, the scientists who understand and already do these things are worried plenty, for there is god-like power, not to mention more wealth than God, in these genetic manipulations, and, well, the power of god-like power + the power of more money than God fuels the inevitable stew of unintended consequences (powerful weapons these might become). Kittyhawk today—at the front tomorrow? Just saying.
All the more reason, as if we needed more such encouragement in the faith community, to talk about a moral consciousness and ethical commitment, for technology alone is not going to save us, not when it comes to the prospects of a “post-natural” world hanging in the balance and not when it comes to keeping the planet livable for humans and other creatures. (The challenge in climate change is not saving the planet, as if the planet needs us for its well-being, but honoring its delicate ecosystems that keep us going.)
Pope Francis will visit the United States next month, speaking to Congress on Sept 24. The following week, Oct 1, PFJ will offer responses from the faith community to his visit and his encyclical on the environment. Having begun with our lawmakers and the affluent West, we will continue the conversation locally on our moral responsibility to persons and bats alike, if not the whole of creation.
Dr. Richard R. Kurrasch
Following forty years of pastoral ministry, Rich and his wife, Ann Marie, retired to the Central Coast where in addition to the opportunities of the SLO life generally, he divides his time between PFJ, the Rotary Club of Five Cities Eco (one of three Eco/environmental Rotary clubs in the country), and writing a memoir.