Human Embryo Gene Editing: We Need To Think This Through Carefully (An Interview with Francis Collins)


A few weeks ago, president Deb Haarsma and I had the opportunity to sit down with Francis in his home and record a conversation that ranged from his own scientific achievements, to his conversion to Christianity, to founding BioLogos, to the role of music in his life. In one segment we asked about human embryo gene editing. This was before the recent announcement that Chinese scientist He Jiankui genetically modified two human embryos and implanted them in a woman, resulting in the birth of twin girls. Collins remarks at one point that they believed this kind of work was going on in China and was deeply concerned about it. Here are a few sentences from the clip:

“We believers, who view human beings as being of a special nature because of our relationship with God, ought to think carefully about scenarios that some are willing to begin to discuss about reinventing ourselves. Because not only can you edit a bone marrow cell and cure sickle cell disease, you could edit an embryo and create a human being that has a DNA instruction book that’s never happened before. And you might do so for benevolent reasons, but pretty soon you might do so because you think, you know how to improve the next generation. Who gets to decide what’s an improvement, and are we really smart enough to know all the consequences of those kinds of changes. Even from a safety perspective, this doesn’t sound to most of us like a thing that we’d want to do. But from a theological perspective, if we are fearfully and wonderfully made, do we want to be fearfully and wonderfully remade in some other kind of image based on what we think we ought to become?

I am deeply concerned about that. I think most people, whether from a religious or a secular perspective are concerned about launching into that space, but maybe some of us more than others because it’s more than a question about social justice and safety. Those are both important issues. It’s also a question about who we are and who God is and what are the consequences of beginning to interfere with that relationship in fundamental ways that change the nature of our very essence.”

Listen to the whole audio clip (about 6 minutes long) at the link below.

Stay tuned for more teasers, and then the public launch of Language of God in March 2019.


Jim Stump
About the Author

Jim Stump

Jim Stump is Vice President at BioLogos. He oversees the editorial team, participates in strategic planning, and hosts the podcast, Language of God. Jim also writes and speaks on behalf of BioLogos. He has a PhD in philosophy and was formerly a professor and academic administrator. His books include, Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design; Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues; How I Changed My Mind about Evolution; and The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity. You can email Jim Stump at james.stump@biologos.org.