Hereditary Caste

June 8, 2000

A Princeton physicist recently warned that a genetic "caste" system could arise in the future unless government leaders and scientists provide moral and legal guidelines. The occasion of the speech was the awarding of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion to Freeman Dyson of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study.

Dyson is concerned that a free market in the trafficking in human genes could lead to the development of a genetic caste system. He said, "Wealthy parents will be able to buy what they consider superior genes for their babies." This he believes could "cause a splitting of humanity into hereditary castes."

Such fears are not new. Huxley raised just such a concern decades ago in his book Brave New World. What makes this fear more real is the near completion of the Human Genome Project.

The federally funded project to map the 3 billion chemical codes that make up tens of thousands of genes on the 46 human chromosomes is about finished. A major concern is who will control the information and how they use it. Future developments in technology will allow scientists to radically alter the human genetic structure.

Dyson said, "The ultimate danger of green technology comes from its power to change the nature of human being by the application of genetic engineering to human embryos." All would acknowledge that genetic engineering has provided many beneficial products as well as basic research tools. But Dyson is rightly concerned with how this technology will be used in the future. He is concerned that wealthy individuals will be able to "enhance" their children's looks, intelligence, or strength by genetic manipulation. These are the concerns of the brave new world of genetic engineering.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.