Interview by Heather J. Smith with Christian bioethicist Ronald Cole-Turner on the ethics of designer babies. See: Science & Theology News : Customized kids may be the wave of the future.
(Smith)How might this impact human nature?
(Cole-Turner)Itâ€™s widely said that human germline modification would be a violation of human dignity. I challenge: If you can help define human dignity in a way that makes it obvious how germline modification would violate it, I would be glad to hear from you. But â€œhuman dignityâ€ is a term that is simply not defined adequately by people who go around protesting that technology is about to violate it. Almost nowhere does anybody set forth a clear definition of human dignity.
Itâ€™s hard to know how to have any sympathy for that argument, except as a way to call attention rhetorically to the seriousness of what weâ€™re doing. At that level, Iâ€™m sympathetic. Yes, this is very serious, sobering and we ought to give it really careful attention. I just donâ€™t know that there is a definition of human dignity that is convincing as to why we ought to prevent this and not other technologies.
Cole-Turner raises something I’ve come across time and time again in my reading. Lots of people talk about “human dignity” or people made “in God’s image” and things like “playing God” but very few people then unpack what they mean by that in their rhetoric. At that point the case is closed, and as Ted Peters comments, there’s a withdrawal into apparently safe, religious conservatism. â€œWe say, ‘No.’â€, followed by, â€œWe say no because God says no.â€