Of Mice And Men, Women, And Children | Sojourners

Of Mice And Men, Women, And Children

It was front-page news recently: "Scientists Clone Three Mice." After years of authoritative pooh-poohing, science fiction had been made fact. Mammals for the first time had been produced by technicians in a laboratory assembly line; each cloned mouse was an exact copy of a regular mouse. That achievement represented a huge step toward cloning human beings, one that had stumped scientists for more than 25 years.

The news faded as suddenly as it appeared.

Ironically, last fall a more far-reaching genetic engineering development occurred that stirred even less interest. Yale scientists reported that they had inserted foreign genes into mice that were permanently accepted by the mice's original genetic framework. The new genes fundamentally changed the genes with which the mice had been conceived. This experiment proved that specific genes could be transferred into mammals, including humans, that would alter their characteristics.

For all the fear that the notion of cloning and genetic manipulation had raised in the 1970s, the reality of it in the 1980s has been relatively undramatic. Chicken Little's sky has not fallen; or at least the effects are not yet tangible. People shrug and jokingly remark that someone had better build a better mousetrap now that we have a better mouse.

For the ordinary Christian, genetic engineering is an issue so new and so complex that we tend to try to forget or ignore it. Yet genetic engineering is not just another wonderful invention of the modern age; it is not like electricity or computers. It alters the animate, living world, not the inanimate one, in the most fundamental of ways.

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