A small group of scientists scattered across the globe are predicting a breakthrough of monumental proportions in the next three to ten years. What is all the fuss about? Their claim is that artificial life is just around the corner. That’s right, human life created by the hands of scientists. ProtoLife reports the creation of artificial membranes for synthetic cells. Mark Bedau, chief operating officer for ProtoLife, says, “It’s going to be a big deal and everybody’s going to know about it. We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways — in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.” There is no doubt as to the major impact this “breakthrough” will have on our world. However, there seems to be a lack of concern for the consequences of creating artificial life. It certainly raises many moral questions as well. Is an artificial lifeform considered human? Does it receive all of the rights of humanity such as the right to life? Or can it be used as a lab rat or resource for harvesting body parts to heal the sick?
From a Christian worldview, the field of “wet artificial life” seems to be an attempt to not only play God but to replace Him as well. As Bedau says, “Creating protocells has the potential to shed new life on our place in the universe. This will remove one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role.” There are many men in the sciences, such as Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins, who would delight in any field that helped them eliminate the notion of God. If men can create human life from scratch, what need is there for a “celestial dictator?” As a Christian I am concerned by this endeavor not because it disproves God in any way but for the potential corruption of such technology and the unknown consequences it may yield. All man’s attempts at playing God and being God thus far have failed miserably. Why? To the core of our being we are flawed and sinful human beings. God is perfect and we are not. He is the Creator and we are the created. Though many scientists would debate this last point, I reference Alister McGrath in saying that Christianity makes the most sense of what I see in the world around me.
It is possible that we may see the lines of morality stretched by this endeavor under the guise of advancement, preservation, and human evolution. Who defines what is moral to an atheist or unbelieving scientist? If morality is determined by each individual based on his or her preference within a postmodern world, then what keeps scientists from trying to create a “perfect” or flawless line of human beings? And if such human beings can be conceived ideally, will that effect the value of “imperfect” human life? We are already seeing the effects of such lines of thought in assisted suicides and abortions based on predicted birth defects. Again, a major concern in this discussion is the fact that scientists cannot predict the effect that such a “creation” may have on our world. Many people also neglect the factor of man’s naturally wicked heart that yearns to twist even the best creations into deceitful or evil tools for obtaining fame, fortune, or power.
So, are you ready for artificial life? Be afraid, be very afraid.