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Genetic engineering

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DNA bands separated by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and made visible by staining with Ethidium Bromide.

Genetic engineering is the deliberate alteration of an organism's genetic constitution by adding or deleting information. This may be done to add genes not possessed by the organism or repair those that have received deleterious mutations. The successful insertion of new genes into an organism is known as a genetic transformation.

Transformations are often done by way of a vector (genetic shuttle), such as a plasmid or virus, which contain the desired genetic information. Prior to the genetic transfection of an organism, the molecular biologist will create a construct that contains the desire genes and necessary regulatory sequences that will enable its expression. This construct is then spliced into a vector that is then used to transfect the recipient organism.

Many times the transgenic DNA is from a different species, and in many cases it comes from an entirely different kind of organism. The genes that are chosen for genetic engineering are specifically chosen to give the organism a new trait or ability.

John Sanford notes in Genetic Entropy that as a secular scientist he and many others attempted to make plants better by using truncation selection, that is, deliberately choosing the best of a population and then forming new generations based on it. They found that the plants do not naturally "get better" with the generations. The only way to make the plant better is to deliberately engineer its genetic code. This observation not only speaks volumes to the stability of DNA but to its consistency of structure, behavior and thus programmability. These would not be possible nor even conceivable if the DNA were a product of chance.

Hyper-Adaptive Capabilities

As the creator of all life, God genetically engineered all living things from the beginning. The genomes of all living creatures were originally created with hyper-adaptive capabilities, such as self Genetic engineering. These capabilities far exceed any form of adaptive system that mankind has constructed or even conceived, including purely software-based algorithms. In fact, the primary effect we see in living systems is not speciation but specialization. The progeny of a population will naturally align to their habitat and specialize into it. When this happens, genetic material is actually lost. This is a side-effect of adaptive systems, that each time they are required to adapt, some adaptability is lost. This ultimately leads to specialization-within-habitat. If the population (or organism) is removed from the habitat, it very likely will not survive in a new one because its adaptability less capable. Richard Lenski's[1] evolution experiment observations beautifully demonstrate specialization, in that his E.coli populations are specializing and are not as adaptive as their ancestors. They are losing functionality with each generation. At some point Lenski attempted to declare victory with their development of non-toxic citrate absorption, but even this proved to be the side effect of lost functionality.

For example, when Darwin reviewed the varieties of finches at the Galapagos islands, he asserted that their variations in beaks were due to the formulation of new functionality, or in more modern terms, new genetic material. However, God provided the finch with the capacity to form various beaks as adaptive responses to the environment. There is no new genetic material. How do we know this? Even today when the climate changes, all of the finch populations on the Galapagos respond with smaller or larger beaks in their populations. The hyper-adaptability is still alive and well, and keeping their populations healthy.

When scientists speak of systems "winding down" such as physical or chemical processes, they exempt biology from being subject to the effect "because evolution is true". However, as Genetic Entropy has proven, biological systems are not getting better with each new population. They are accumulating mutations and devolving toward extinction. The human genome is also devolving toward extinction. The Christian believer is assured that the Lord will return while the earth is heavily populated, so there is not enough time for humanity to reach extinction.

However, extinction-without-replacement rules the living systems without exception. There are no cases, even theoretical, of a population being able to replace itself with a higher functioning form prior to going extinct. The genomes of the world only exhibit loss-of-function over generations.

Moral Implications

In The Language of God[2], Francis Collins notes that if we were to take gametes from humans and cause them to conceive in a test tube, we are using God's design and intent for the gametes and are morally obligated to see them through as human life. However, he asserts, if we were to take elements of the human body that God did not intend for use in procreation, and instead engineer these things toward our own ends, we are not in danger of snuffing out human life. Case in point, the process of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, such as that used to clone Dolly the sheep, as a means to manufacture embryonic stem cells, and then destroy the embryo. Collins makes the case that it is the geneticist's intent that drives the ethical question. An objection to this is that it was God's original intent for DNA (in whatever form) to support procreation and reproduction. If we go to God's intent, we find that there is no wiggle-room to play with genetic assets and be absolved of the ethical dilemma. Performing an "end run" around God's intent is disingenuous, but indicative of Collins' liberal ethical mindset as a self-proclaimed "theistic evolutionist".

Related References

  1. http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/
  2. The Language Of God, Free Press, Simon & Schuster, Copyright F.S. Collins, 2006, ISBN-13 978-0-7432-8639-8, pp. 249-257