Some time ago I heard Ken Myers interview Dr. Nigel Cameron in the area of bioethics (you can find the audio HERE – just scroll down and find Cameron’s two interviews on the list). The specific topic was beginning of life bioethics, including issues like cloning, stem-cell research, in vitro fertilization, human embryo harvesting, and so forth. The lecture was so stimulating and helpful I immediately purchased a book he co-wrote with Joni E. Tada. The book is called How to be A Christian in A Brave New World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006). I wasn’t at all disappointed by it; this is a good book.
The authors wrestle with three major challenges of bioethics which have to do with the taking of life (abortion and euthanasia), the making of life (cloning and genetics), and the faking of life (cybernetic organisms and robotics). Both Cameron and Tada know these issues well, since they have been interacting with scientists and biotechnology for many years. The book is both informative and easy to read. I loved how the authors show a deep concern for God-given life; their love for neighbor certainly comes through in this book. I was also impressed by way they encouraged readers to think about these issues from a biblical, Christian perspective.
I agree with Cameron and Tada on many levels, but there are two things that stuck out for me. First, they said Christians by in large know so little about biotechnology that we use it without thinking it through. I agree. For example, how should we view IVF and the unused human embryos? Is freezing embryos OK? Second, Cameron and Tada say that human life in the United States is being turned into a commodity. From genetic screening to cloning to egg harvesting and sperm donations, people view tiny children as “things” we can use. Don’t like the embryo’s genetic makeup? Toss it out. Want a boy with blue eyes and blond hair? We can do that too. The authors helpfully pointed out this American commodification of life.
This book is eye-opening. I know that horrible things are being done in the biotechnology industry, but I didn’t know the details. This book gives the details. It was painful to learn the terrible views many Americans and American scientists have when it comes to biotechnology. Here are a few that left a mark on me.
Some scientists call embryos and very young infants “pre-persons” (which means a person can do what he/she wants with them; see p. 81). Every day, two-thirds of the nations 365 IVF clinics throw away hundreds of human embryos (p. 88). Some single Christian women have had children using IVF (p. 131). An American bioethics professor is actually on the record saying that parents should have the right to take the life of an infant born handicapped (p. 154). The list goes on.
This is one book I urge all Christians to read – especially if you’re not familiar with biotechnology and bioethics. I’m convinced I need to study more in this area since I’m not up to speed on many areas of biotechnology. In fact, I’ll have to read parts of this one again: How to be A Christian in A Brave New World. We need books like this because the area of bioethics is only going to get more complicated as technology advances. This book, and others like it, are great tools to keep our moral compass in line with Scripture.