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Books: And now, pre-embryos

Books | "Reprogenetics" may be next horror in Roe vs. Wade era

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade 25," Jan. 17, 1998

What do the next 25 years after Roe vs. Wade hold? According to Princeton biologist Lee Silver, the conquest of the DNA strand is shaping up to be a more explosive development than the splitting of the atom or the invention of the microchip. In Remaking Eden, Mr. Silver says that parents in the 21st century will be able to select their kids' genetic codes. They'll even be able to carbon-copy themselves. These turbo-charged children will evolve over the next millennium to become a new race that won't even be able to reproduce with regular humanoids made the old-fashioned way. This brave new world, in Mr. Silver's opinion, won't be the statist dream of a government eugenics board. There won't be any bureaucrats deciding who can swim in the national gene pool. Instead, reprogenetics centers will pop up like Wal-Marts across suburbia where affluent families can cough up about $30,000 to cook up a kid. Through sexless reproduction, homosexuals will be able to make babies who share the genes of Mommy and Mommy or Daddy and Daddy. (Heather will have two mommies after all.) This still sounds like science fiction. It isn't. This technology is coming, for better for worse-and we'd better prepare for worse. Unless Christ returns first or God otherwise intervenes, millions of lives may be conceived in a lab, then destroyed to pave the way for the fraction hand-picked to come to term. There's even a new term for these teeny-weeny people: "pre-embryos." Mr. Silver even admits that the word was cooked up by in vitro fertilization practitioners to con parents into thinking that those little cells aren't really human. Mr. Silver's easy-going, breezy, Discovery Channel writing style makes his book even more disturbing. He even throws Bible verses around in chapter headers and bounces his thoughts off Vatican pronouncements on bioethics. Carl Saganic riffs aside, we can't ignore his summary of the latest developments in his field. Mr. Silver says that up to 19 percent of married couples are infertile, which guarantees a ready market for reprogenetics. "Reproductive rights" may have a whole new meaning. For example, Mr. Silver asks what would happen if somebody stole some cells from Michael Jordan to build her own baby basketball star. Could Mr. Jordan sue? The professor writes in the calm, reasoned manner of one who knows his subject and maps out numerous social fault lines. "When one woman gives birth to a child that is raised by another," he asks, "who is the 'real mom'?" He covers numerous controversial combinations of genes, sperm, egg, and womb that may soon become horror stories of bioethics. Once people start decanting boutique babies, how shall we then live? When human beings try to become their own creators, the result will definitely not be Eden. The church must prepare to deal with the issue before the world drowns in a reprogenetic flood.

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