Dr. Richard Land

‘Playing God’ With Gene-Editing Technology

June 15, 2015

Southern Evangelical Seminary Focuses on Relationship Between Ethics and Technology with New Initiative

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—A new technology has the power to allow scientists to edit virtually any gene, much like a word-processing program that searches a document and finds and fixes errors, or in this case, genetic defects.

But a leading U.S. scientific organization says this type of technology is creating ethical concerns and is calling for guidelines about how to use technology that has the potential to create "designer babies," according to a Reuters/Yahoo news report.

Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu), a leader in apologetics education, delves into some of these same important ethical questions, as students have the opportunity to study issues of ethics and technology through the seminary's new “Ethics of Emerging Technology” program. The program helps those interested to apply classical wisdom to future questions and encourages people to think critically about issues such as bionics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, post-humanism and more.

"Technology is wonderful when used correctly," said SES President Dr. Richard Land. "Yes, God gave all of us technology and enabled advanced minds to further it. But we must be careful, as technological initiatives, which may alter the human gene pool, create a situation that can't be erased. When technology advances at light speed without ethical constraint, problems will undoubtedly arise."

This technology, CRISPR-Cas9, has taken biology by storm, with companies and universities battling over patents, Reuters reported. The furor over the new technology has spurred the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and its Institute of Medicine to plan an international summit this fall where researchers and other experts will "explore the scientific, ethical and policy issues associated with human gene-editing research," the academies said in a statement.

"Our genetic code makes up the basic building blocks of life," Land continued, "and when we alter that code, we're playing God. What are the ethical boundaries, repercussions, side effects and trade-offs of engaging with this kind of emerging technology in the name of progress? In short, we are ethically unprepared and cannot risk outcomes that could literally alter future generations with no chance to repair potential damage."

Chinese scientists created a stir last month by conducting the first experiment using CRISPR gene editing to alter the DNA of human embryos. "Although the embryos were not viable and could not have developed into babies," Reuters reported, "the announcement ignited an outcry from scientists warning that such a step, which could alter human genomes for generations, was just a matter of time."

This isn't the first time the NAS has called for exploration into ethics and technology. In 1975, it convened the Asilomar Conference, which led to guidelines and federal regulations of recombinant DNA, the gene-splicing technology that revolutionized the production of many pharmaceuticals.

SES is a leader in apologetics education—teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. Many courses focus on societal issues from a Christian worldview, delve into scientific apologetics or contemplate creation research.

SES's 22nd annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics will be hosted by Calvary Church in Charlotte on Oct. 16-17, 2015, with the theme, “Ideas Have Consequences: The Bigger the Idea, the Bigger the Consequence.” In addition to Dr. Land, confirmed speakers include Josh McDowell, Dr. Jay Richards, Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Paige Patterson.

Land is featured in his nationally syndicated daily radio commentary, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on 200 stations on the American Family Radio Network and 100 stations on the Bott Radio Network. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” is also podcast daily on the free SES mobile app and airs locally in the Charlotte, N.C., area every weekday. The “Bringing Every Thought Captive” television program, hosted by Land, debuted in January on the NRB Network, and airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and midnight EST. This spring, it began airing on the Total Living Network, reaching nearly 2 million households in the Chicago area. For more information about stations, times, downloads and more, visit www.ses.edu/about-us/bringing-every-thought-captive.

Land has taught as a visiting or adjunct professor for several seminaries and has authored or edited more than 15 books. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University in England and his bachelor's degree (magna cum laude) from Princeton University. Land also earned a Master of Theology (Honors Program) degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received the Broadman Seminarian Award as the Outstanding Graduating Student. Dr. Land was the 2013 Watchman Award recipient from the Family Research Council for his leadership on moral and cultural issues. He also received the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth from Biola University in 2010. Land served previously (1988-2013) as president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families. In 2014, he was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow of the ERLC's Research Institute, and in 2015, he was named in the top 15 of Newsmax's “Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.”

Southern Evangelical Seminary invites visitors to its web site to join the more than 20,000 people who have already downloaded the SES Apologetics App for Windows mobile devices and Android and Apple phones and tablets. Those with the app can get the very best news and information in Christian apologetics, including articles, audio, video, blogs and more from today's most able defenders of the Christian faith—William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, William Dembski, Frank Turek, Hugh Ross, Gary Habermas and other well-known speakers, authors and teachers.

Southern Evangelical Seminary has been ranked as the top graduate program for General Christian Apologetics by TheBestSchools.org's “Top 10 Graduate Programs in Christian Apologetics.”

For more information on SES, visit its web site at www.ses.edu or its Facebook page, follow the SES Twitter feed, @sesapologetics, or call (800) 77-TRUTH. For more information about "Ethics in Emerging Technology," visit www.ethics.ses.edu.

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For information on SES or to set up an interview, contact Deborah Hamilton at 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096, ext. 102, or Beth Harrison, 610-584-1096Media@HamiltonStrategies.com.

Southern Evangelical Seminary is a leader in apologetics education—teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. The accredited Christian college and seminary offers a wide variety of bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. Programs can be completed through residence in the Charlotte area or online. The award-winning education at SES is distinctively Christian and focused on evangelism and world-engaging defense of the Christian faith—Christian Apologetics.