An introductory look.
Genetic engineering has sparked more controversy than any scientific subject since the birth of the nuclear age in the 1940s. Scientists, congressmen, and citizens’ groups have hotly debated man’s newfound power to manipulate genetic material. These genes form something like a set of blueprints. It determines all of the hereditary characteristics of an organism.
Nothing is more fundamental to life than genes and heredity. We know that differences between various life forms, such as birds, insects, and plants are due to genetic differences. And we all know how many of our own characteristics are fixed by what we inherited from our parents. Thus, when scientists toy with genetic material, it’s the same as manipulating life itself. It’s perhaps the greatest act in the game of man attempting to “play God.” And the implications of genetic engineering for Christians and non-Christians alike are profound.
The cauldron began to boil in 1973. It became apparent then that spectacular genetic manipulations weren’t just the stuff of science fiction, but real possibilities. The key development was the discovery of methods to chop up genetic material and put it back together. In this way, material from different species can be “spliced” together, to give a new recombined (or recombinant) set of genes. The result is the creation of new genetic species with unique hereditary traits.
So far, most of the new genetic species that have been created are simple bacteria. These are far easier to manipulate than such higher life forms as fish or birds or insects. This is not to say that manipulations with higher life forms won’t be done at some future point. But apart from that, the implications of the bacteria work are in themselves ...1
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