Ethically charged experiments this year brought into question what it means to be human and, for Christians, how our scientific advances should honor the fact that we are made in the image of God. Chinese scientists cloned two monkeys this year, representing the first cloning of nonhuman primates and causing many to fear human cloning lurks around the corner.
Japanese scientists turned human blood cells into eggs in a lab dish and hope to make sperm next. Other scientists created baby mice from same-sex parents. Christian ethicists warned these studies represent the first steps down a slippery slope toward designing our own version of humanity far from God’s original design.
Other studies this year showed that CRISPR, the popular gene editing tool, not only changes the genes scientists intentionally target but frequently damages other DNA in a wide and unpredictable variety of gene locations. The unintended gene edits could cause severe consequences, especially if they occur during early embryonic development, when changes could be inherited by all future generations. In the biggest ethics breach reported this year, one Chinese scientist said he had done just that, resulting in gene-edited twin girls. The experiment, announced in late November, abhorred both Christians and secular scientists, who fear the long-reaching implications if such experiments mushroom out of control.
With the growing popularity of artificial intelligence this year, one group of scientists warned that Korea’s leading arms company is developing weapons that could act independently of human control. Such technology could weaponize robots with superhuman strength and abilities, multiplying the potential horrors of war and terrorism.
But 2018 also held some good ethical news: One study found that research using embryonic stem cells, which kills human embryos, offers no advantage over using stem cells derived from adult cells. —J.B.