Healing through science not playing God

Jim Lee: Local Columnist

I’ve been hearing a lot about the science-versus-playing-God controversy lately. I don’t exactly understand why it has to be a controversy. Maybe I’m dumber than a lobotomized rock, but I always thought God wanted us to make life better. Don’t we have a duty to work toward ending suffering?

When I’m just lookin’ around, I see things that could be improved if somebody could figure out a way to do it, and I just assume God gave us big brains so we could. Is this cosmic ignorance? Does it make me a bad person? I don’t understand.

I don’t like the idea of cloning, even though I don’t have the right to force others to agree with my point of view. I doubt if anybody wants to make carbon copies of people just for the fun of it, anyway. Why would a scientist want to duplicate a person when the world is already overpopulated? Better to have birth control than human clones. That cloned sheep was a research step, not the ultimate goal.

I think the goal is to eventually eliminate genetic defects and the suffering they cause and to save lives by eliminating rejection of transplanted organs. Is that “playing God” or doing God’s will by helping fellow human beings by battling human suffering?

According to the Bible, Jesus cured a leper and a blind person, even brought Lazarus back from death. Whether or not one is Christian, Jesus can be a great role model. So I have no objection to scientists healing lepers and the blind, or ending the scourge of Down Syndrome and HIV. Nor would I mind being able to provide my own heart transplant. There is a big difference between playing God and serving one’s fellow human beings. Love thy neighbor, right?

What is all this stuff people are arguing about anyway? How many people actually understand what it is that they feel so strongly about? I realize when it comes to knowing about genome this or stem cell that, I’m more out of my element than a tree frog in Death Valley. I don’t understand the science, but I do understand what it can do. It can save lives, end some genetic diseases, and facilitate organ transplants. I’m in favor of relieving human suffering — and I don’t mean to stomp on anyone’s religious beliefs and principles.

Beliefs and principles are not the exclusive property of church members, though. I certainly do not object to anyone’s attending church. (I have been known to show up in a church myself.) My point is that people who choose not to attend church may also have beliefs and principles.

These people also have the right to a point of view. Also, church and non-church people can agree that scientific progress is not necessarily playing God, but may indeed be doing God’s will or simply doing the right thing.

Is curing disease through correction or replacement of damaging chromosomes or genes an evil act? Scientists are already saying that the end of Down Syndrome is within sight. I had an aunt with Down Syndrome. I wish these discoveries had been made in time to save her from that life of profound disability. Correcting that tiny chromosome problem could have made a normal life possible. Why take issue with a cure? This is not interfering with nature (or God) any more than an appendectomy or installing false teeth.

Remember, the name we invoke to curse the progress may be the entity that made it possible.