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Genetic Engineering of Our Species?

“And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness” — Genesis

Are we evolved spiritually enough to resume the role of co-creators of our human species using genetic engineering? This is the question I was left asking as I finished reading Dan Brown’s INFERNO a few days ago. (If you’re planning to read the book, then don’t read here any further as I don’t wish to give away the ending for you. Come back to it after reading the book.)

The last chapters of Dan’s book present a solution to overpopulation that may well be worth considering (if it is at all achievable): genetic sterilization of one-third of the human population — the same percentage of the population of Europe that was wiped out in three years by the Bubonic (Black) Plague in the mid fourteenth century (1347-50), nature’s way of purging the cancerous growth of the human population. With genetic engineering, however, there would be no plague, no bodies in the streets and no hospitals overflowing with the sick and dying.

The “villain” in the novel, genetic engineer and “Transhumanist” Bertrand Zobrist, “who believed we are living on the threshold of a glittering ‘posthuman’ age…of true transformation,” developed a highly contagious airborne DNA-altering virus vector and released it into the water and air in Instanbul, Turkey. In a matter of a few weeks, “Inferno,” the name he gave his creation, had gone viral and had, as planned, infected one-third of the world’s human population. There were no symptoms, no side-effects, and no one knew they were infected and, therefore, sterile.

This does sound like some “Orwellian dystopia of the future,” as professor Robert Langdon thought to himself  upon hearing what Zobrist had done. Moments later he found himself arguing in favor of such a radical but promising breakthrough in genetic engineering. “Bertrand Zobrist has redesigned our species . . . in an attempt to save us . . . transforming us into a less fruitful population.”  Sienna Brooks, Zobrist’s long-time lover, protege, and now conflicted defender who set out to destroy the virus vector before it could be released, confesses her fear:

The most frightening thing of all is not that Inferno causes sterility, but rather that it has the ability to do so. An airborne viral vector is a quantum leap — years ahead of its time. Bertrand has suddenly lifted us out of the dark ages of genetic engineering and launched us headlong into the future. He has unlocked the evolutionary process and given humankind the ability to define our species in broad, sweeping strokes. Pandora has opened her box, and there’s no closing it now. Bertrand has created the key to modify the human race . . . and if those keys fall into the wrong hands, then God help us. This technology should never have been created. . . .

Professor Langdon was confused about her conflicted state of mind. If she wanted to destroy the virus, he argued, why did she not cooperate with Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey and the World Health Organization, which she headed up, or report it to the Center for Disease Control or some other government agency? Sienna replied and Robert responds:

“You can’t be serious! Government agencies are the last entities on earth that should have access to this technology! Think about it, Robert. Throughout all of human history, every groundbreaking technology ever discovered by science has been weaponized — from simple fire to nuclear power — and almost always at the hands of powerful governments. Where do you think our biological weapons come from? They originate from research done in places like WHO and CDC. Bertrand’s technology — a pandemic virus used as a genetic vector — is the most powerful weapon ever created. It paves the way for horrors we can’t yet even imagine, including targeted biological weapons. Imagine a pathogen that attacks only those people whose genetic code contains certain ethnic markers. It would enable widespread ethnic cleansing on the genetic level.”

“I see your concerns, Sienna, I do, but this technology could also be used for good, couldn’t it? Isn’t this discovery a godsend for genetic medicine? A new way to deliver global inoculations for example?”

“Perhaps, but unfortunately, I’ve learned to expect the worst from people who hold power.”

I couldn’t argue with her on that point. There’s simply too much hunger for power-and-control in the world, especially in the governing sector. We have to grow up — mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually.

How would it work?

Well, let’s look at the math to see how this technology might work. There are approximately 7-billion people on Earth at this time. We are adding about 100-million people each year to the population (250,000 each day, rain or shine). The graph is an exponential curve. By the middle of the current twenty-first century, there will be approximately 9-billion people competing for food and shelter on earth. Now, one-third of the current 7-billion population would be about 2.3-billion. With 2.3-billion people made sterile and, therefore, not having babies, that would reduce the number of new people added to the population each year.

Now, it is estimated that 7-billion people will add 2-billion to the population by the year 2050 for a total of 9-billion. Two-thirds of 7-billion, or 4.7-billion fertile humans, would add roughly only 1.2-billion babies to the population by the middle of this century, for a total of 8.2-billion as opposed to 9-billion. Now, only two-thirds of that 1.2-billion humans would be fertile, thus a winnowing of the human population at a manageable rate would take place over time, reducing the birth-rate until the population curve actually inverts and our total numbers begin to decrease.

A moral question

Repeating the question I posed at the top of this post: Are we evolved spiritually enough to resume the role of co-creators of our human species using genetic engineering? After all, we are gods incarnate. Collectively, we are the Creators of our species, according to the plural subject in Genesis: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Who are “us” that created man in “our” image and likeness in the Beginning?  Are we not the Creators of our very own species?

My personal opinion?

I think genetic engineering to turn the exponential curve of population growth around is a great idea whose time has not yet come. We have a long ways to go before we can be trusted with such technology. The mentally oriented human ego is yet too self-centered and self-serving to be trusted with the awesome responsibility of engineering the genetic material of the human body. We are still blind to the consequences of our own actions. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should.  A case in point: science and medicine are working at helping people live longer, healthier lives while utterly ignoring the current crisis of overpopulation — a topic I will explore further in my next post. It’s what Bertrand Zobrist was working on before he woke up to the stark realization of where extending longevity would inevitably take the human species. What do you think? Share your thoughts, if you like. I would love to hear them. Until my next post, then,

Be love. Be loved.


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