Ena van Zyl Comments

Kenneth A. Feucht (kenf@kenf.seanet.com)
Sun, 23 Jun 1996 22:14:32 -0700

Ena van Zyl issued some interesting comments regarding the ethics of gene
research, but I'm not sure how they apply to the subject at hand, and
would like some clarification.

You start by saying, ...." Dr James Watson has a special interest in this
project and is of the opinion that people who are directly affected by a
genetical disorder should be involved in the decision making process." I'm
not sure how that makes an action more ethical? Please clarify this.

You comment that Dr. F. Anderson is using his research to glorify God. I
don't doubt that, but don't see how that sheds light on ethical
determinations. What exactly does Dr. F.A. do that glorifies God, and how
do you know that his gene research is indeed a glory to God?

You then state that genetical engineering and gene therapy may be used to
glorify God similar to that used in agriculture. The analogy has limits,
as my previous e-mail message discussed. Does altering the genes that give
my kids big noses glorify God?

Few people doubt that gene research has intrinsic moral value to it, but
it depends on what you plan on doing with it. James Watson's utopian dream
to solve human disease by unlocking the sequences of the human genome are
fanciful if not downright naive. Even worse, once the human genome is
sequenced, what are you going to do with it? Abort children with
amniocentesis proven defective genes? Create a super-race?

I predict that none of those will happen for a simple reason. The volume
of information from the human genome will be fundamentally
uninterpretable. It may provide clues for the composition of various gene
products, but will not tell us how the genome regulates itself, or how the
cellular environment regulates the genome. It will not tell us about the
dynamism of the human genome, but portrays the genome as a static entity.
Barbara McClintocks' work on transposons in (wheat ?) is probably only the
tip of the iceberg as to the flux that human genes regularly experience.

I share your enthusiasm for research that helps us to better understand
the wonders of cellular function. I also support the idea of the genome
project. Such gene research may lead to both great glory and great evil.
The object of ethical discussion in gene research (I feel) is to discover
the limits and motive behind the research.

Deus Vobiscum,
Kenneth A. Feucht, M.D., Ph.D., FACS

Kenneth A. Feucht
win 95 Beta-tester 176022