The research almost seems like something ripped off the Sci-Fi channel. This week, Pew Research released a study highlighting American’s responses to cutting-edge biomedical technology, which is, in short, unenthusiastic.
The science referenced in the study points to major leaps in advancing the quality of human life in three major areas: synthetic blood, brain chips and implants, and gene editing. Pew Research interviewed many individuals, including those with closely held religious beliefs, about their thoughts on the advanced research. Here is what they found.
The intent with synthetic blood is to significantly raise the oxygen levels in humans. It’s also being developed to help stem shortages when blood donations are desperately needed, as in natural disasters or, as we saw in Orlando and 9/11, after a massive attack of some kind. But the research doesn’t stop there. Scientists are looking at creating synthetic blood to enhance normal human behavior and enhance stamina, speed and strength.
When asked about the advancement of synthetic blood, 63 percent of respondents were very or somewhat worried about the advancement. Sixty-three percent also said that they wouldn’t want enhancements to their blood. Of those who were in the religious: highly committed category, 60 percent said that synthetic blood was messing with nature and something that should be avoided.
Brain chips and implants
Currently, there is technology available that helps people with specific illnesses or disabilities get implants in their brains to improve their conditions. Cochlear implants have been around for decades, helping people who are deaf or hard of hearing gain back some of their hearing faculties. However, scientific researchers are looking at the possibility of using brain implants and chips to improve the quality of life for healthy individuals to improve things like the ability to process information and improve concentration.
Related to the topic of brain chips and implants, 69 percent of those surveyed said they were very or somewhat worried about this kind of technology. Sixty-five percent of individuals who held to a high religious commitment said they opposed the technology.
There has been a recent breakthrough when it comes to gene editing technology and helping people fight common, yet infectious diseases. In the Pew Study, the questions about gene editing focused specifically around how gene editing could possibly help newborns or even babies in utero by altering their DNA to prevent or lower the risk of serious diseases. Not only would this impact the baby, but if they were to have children of their own, this genetic modification would be passed down generations, “potentially changing the genetic makeup of the population.”
When asked about how they felt about gene enhancement and gene editing, 68 percent responded that they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about what this type of science would do. Many, however, did respond that they would consider this type of treatment for their own children, even as they were apprehensive about what it would do in the culture. Religious respondents were still hesitant about the technology, with 64 percent stating that this kind of technology messes with what God intended.
Other data of note from the survey:
*73 percent of those surveyed feared brain chip technologies would only widen the divide between the “haves” and “have-nots.”
*The general public was divided almost down the middle when it came to their opinion about whether or not these enhancements are meddling with nature.
*Seven in 10 adults believe that these technologies will be released to the public without being fully understood or vetted for use.
Technologies continue to advance rapidly and more anecdotal stories emerge from the advancements. This week, it was announced that Dolly the Sheep, who was born in a test tube and died six years after her creation, has four clones still living. Daisy, Diana, Debbie and Denise were all cloned from a strand of Dolly’s DNA (say that six times fast) and it appears that the fact that they are cloned has not accelerated their aging process. They are as young as seven and as old as nine (which is 60 in human years).
As Christians with a pro-life view from conception to natural death, it’s necessary for us to keep an eye on these scientific advances and to seek to understand their impact on humans who are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.