Doubts About the Program

Scientists keep futzing with the human genetic code. Embryonic stem cells, cloned sheep, lab-grown organs—that’s all yesterday’s news. Today’s medical monster-makers have cooked up an embryo that is half pig, half human.

Call it Frankenstein’s frankfurter.

But really—what are these white coats doing? Messing with the source code  is the height of hubris. These guys should read about Icarus. Flying too close to the sun on wings of wax doesn’t get you a nice tan. It makes a mess.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few things I would change about the old bag of bones. If scientists are absolutely committed to scrambling God’s handiwork, then here’s my wish list.

Number One: Humans should be born knowing how to blow their own noses. This would give parents of young children some restful nights during flu season. The genetic code, it seems to me, could be easily tweaked to effect this change.

Number Two: Couldn’t someone figure out a way to make our elbows bend backward? Evolution has let us down here. Backscratching is my main concern. Currently it takes two to tango. Someday, I hope, science will find a way to empower us to hit the spot solo.

(Elbows that bend backward might require biceps on both sides of the arms, which would change how we do everything from flexing in the mirror to dressing for success. Any loss of elegance, however, would be more than made up for by the increased utility. I promise.)

Number Three: All my life I’ve battled an insubordinate tuft of hair at the back of my head. If we isolate the gene that causes this, we can finally lick the cowlick! While we’re at it, let’s deprogram whatever causes crooked teeth and low humor.

Number Four: The beer belly must go. This should be pretty self-explanatory. Please make it happen during my lifetime. Maybe this should be Number One?

Number Five: Our knee caps should be on the outside, like horseshoes. Anyone over the age of 43 will appreciate the need for this, especially Catholics, especially during certain parts of the liturgy, and especially if you were ever a baseball catcher.

Innovation is a good thing. Fresh thinking is salutary. But there is—or ought to be—a limit to how far the lab jockeys go in rewriting the genetic code.

Creation is beautiful. We are a part of it, even when we don’t understand how it works. God’s plan is beautiful, even the parts we can’t see.

I often wonder why so many environmentalists seem so unconcerned by genetic meddling. Maybe they hold a corrupted view of creation. Man is not a part of the natural environment, according to this view, but a blight upon it.

A certain type gets more exercised by the idea of GMO crops than he does by tests designed to weed Down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities out of the population.

There’s a name for that, and it’s not nice.

I’m the type who views the human body—and human society—as part of the environment. My guiding principle is stewardship. We should not exploit our bodies any more than we should exploit the earth, the oceans, or the air we breathe.

“Exploit” is the key word. Everything hinges on what is meant by it. Exploitation is abuse. Abuse is the opposite of God’s desire. We should be good stewards of creation. We should keep the faith.

Just don’t forget to laugh once in a while at the absurdity of it all.

From the March 2017 issue of Fairfield County Catholic

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