Pre-implantation genetic Screening and Selection (PIGSS) biotechnology and the Church in 2014

Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening and Selection, (PIGSS) is the screening and pre-selection of embryos before implantation in the uterus through in vitro fertilization technology, so that the optimal embryo might be selected or genetically enhanced. It is anticipated that it will be combined with eugenics, the alteration of genes to maximize or insert genetic traits, i.e. intelligence and physical traits.

The concern with the new biotechnologies is not if it will become a reality, but rather when and how. When will the proponents make it a major political issue? How will they attempt to convince the populous to accept it? Finally, what can we do now?

In my 25 years of experience these are my thoughts on how these technologies will be fostered and the problems that lie before us.

Different Groups

In most issues there are generally three clear camps. First, those who embrace the inherent value of life. Second, those who believe in the principle of the manifest destiny of man. The third group is the majority, the  undecided.

For the first group this human biotechnology is simply man playing God, the opposite position of most churches. For the second group the end justifies the means, why shouldn’t we optimize man’s potential if we have the science to do it.

In a democracy the side which prevails depends on how it is presented to the third undecided group who have not yet been prejudiced.

It is important for us to realize there is a fourth, very powerful group, those who stand to profit from this research. Their ideology is profit. In my experience as president of No on Proposition 71 in 2004, this fourth group is especially influential. It is able to finance and buy the media to drive their message. They are well organized, efficient, and have the knowhow to influence politicians.

Why is PIGSS a near and present danger?

Pre-Implantation Genetic Selection involves a present viable technology that will be extensively promoted and encouraged through popular emotional appeal, that is immensely economically profitable, and whose intellectual property is patentable in the USA. PIGSS is currently a viable biotechnology already in use since 1982. At first it was used to enable individuals with dominant genetic disorders, such as Huntington’s chorea, to have normal children of their own. However noble its original intent, presently it is most commonly used for determining the sex of an embryo and the selection of desirable children.

How will these issues be argued?

The means of argumentation to convince the undecided are four.

  1. Ethos. Ethics arising from common sense or natural law.
  2. Logos. Logic based on premise or statistics.
  3. Pathos. Emotional argument playing on feelings.
  4. Fabricos. False truths often fabricated to prove a point.

Pathos is clearly the most effective and if done with the truth the most convincing; if done with fabricos the most manipulative.

Our arguments are derived from ethos, the natural law that notes all men are equal no matter size, age, health, etc. There is a power greater than man, God. The pathos of those for the inherent value of life say all,  specially the voiceless helpless, need protection.

Therefore if one embryo is selected and nine others disposed of to research, we are killing nine humans. Our logic is therefore that this is inhumane and barbaric.

If we allow the use of human homo sapien embryos to be used for the benefit of the strong, those in control, we have turned back the clock from civilization to barbarism, from civilization where the strong protect the weak to barbarism where the strong prey on the weak.

The argument of those of the manifest destiny also use the fabricos and pathos arguments. Un obsurbo dato infiniti seguntur. They use the fabricos that embryos are not human yet. Their ethos is by use of the best interest of the child and dismissing that the embryos are humans. They use the argument of compassion. Why subject an offspring to diseases such as cancer that could be prevented by preimplantation genetics? Their conclusion is that those who do not use this technology are wrong and should be prosecuted.

This is where the fourth group, those who stand to profit, control the undecided. Well funded, they buy the media and the message. Our only hope is to enlighten the public first. We with the truth have an uphill battle. We
are branded as anti-science and forcing our religion on others to name a few.

If we do not heed past history, will we simply repeat it?

The proponents of Proposition 71 raised $38 million to only $750 thousand raised by those who opposed it, including the Catholic dioceses and institutions of California. The ability of the proponents to convey a science that was, in fact, dangerous and unproven, succeeded not by arguments, but through economic strength, control of the media, and emotional appeal. The proponents were prepared and we were not. I believe we stand a chance to counter PIGGS if we can educate our faithful. What could we (should we) be doing now?

Organization and Education

  • We should be educating ourselves as lay and religious leaders, knowing the issue, the science, and the terminology involved.
  • We should be teaching the faithful now, rather than later, so that they will clearly understand what is at stake when legislation is produced and legal initiatives proposed.
  • Initiate the debate in a variety of venues over PIGSS and eugenics, focusing attention on the issues of genetic selection and manipulation.
  • Organize an ethics“think tank”related to PIGSS and eugenics.
  • Organize and formulate a public relations bureau in order to begin a statewide campaign of educating the general voter population.
  • We could organize an ecumenical  medical conference inviting dialogue on this issue with leaders and members of all denominations and religions.
  • Seek legislation to prevent abuse of this technology and to guarantee legal conscientious objection and the protection of rights should PIGSS be passed into law.

The argument and strategies for PIGSS are clearly delineated in the article “Preimplantation Genetic Screening and Selection: An Ethical Analysis,”by Donrich W. Jordaan, Biotechnology Law Report, Volume 22, Number 6 (December 2003), 586-601. In his article Donrich Jordaan refers to the “best interest principle”. “What action is in the best interest of the child? Simply put, if we place so high a value on the health, education, nutrition of our children after birth, why should they be denied that same attention prior to birth while still in the embryonic stage. Why not minimize their dangers to breast cancer, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and others.” This argument appeals not only to the mind but to the emotions as well, and it must be seriously countered.

When asked by his son about genetic counselling, Dr. Vince answered, “Son, you’re asking me to choose between 10 grandchildren, selecting one and disposing of the other nine. I cannot do that. I don’t believe it’s right, do you?”

The Symposium on July 26, 2014 will attempt to help all understand the issues and develop an organized plan on how to address these new biologies that would change the human species created by God.