Evangelical scholars can’t stand on the sidelines while public policy is being made.

While Christians have been struggling over how to address such public policy issues as abortion and rights of homosexuals, a new area of responsibility has suddenly been thrust upon them: what concept of life society should uphold and to what extent humans should manipulate life forms.

The specific issue of “genetic engineering” is not new, but society’s role in it was put on center stage by the Supreme Court. The court agreed that a scientist could patent an oil-eating bacterium, which, strictly speaking, was not the product of gene splicing. This “narrow” ruling (narrow in the sense that the Court did not rule one way or the other with regard to changing an organism’s genetic instructions) was nevertheless made with the explicit warning from the court that in the future society must decide what it wants to do about scientists’ creating of new forms of life.

How will “society” (that’s all of us, Christians and non-Christians together) decide? According to the way our country works, the people choose legislators who decide. Chief Justice Warren Burger said: “The choice we are urged to make is a matter of high policy for resolution within the legislative process after the kind of investigation, examination, and study that legislative bodies can provide and courts cannot.”

In effect, the Court judged itself incapable of deciding. Many scientists, ethicists, and philosophers had hoped the Court would pronounce on profound moral and social issues. The judges heard powerful arguments that genetic experiments pose a serious threat to humanity. They heard what Chief Justice Burger called “a gruesome parade of horribles,” which he admitted the judges ...

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