The Imago Dei and CRISPR cas9: A Christian Case for Genetic Alteration

Faculty Sponsor

David Western


Christ College


Christ College

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-3-2019


In 2013, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley revolutionized biology and medicine forever when they utilized an enzyme, CRISPR cas9, to elegantly remove and replace sections of genetic code in animal cells. Though it originated in bacteria, it was clear to researchers that CRISPR cas9 could someday be used to alter the genetics of other life forms, even human beings, which is exactly what happened in 2017, when the Oregon Health and Sciences University carried out several successful tests on nonviable human embryos. At that moment, it was clear to even the most skeptical in the scientific community that human genetic engineering was on its way, and likely sooner than previously believed. In the wake of this discovery, an increasingly polarized chasm has grown between conservative theologians and the burgeoning transhumanist movement. But what if there didn’t need to be a divide in the first place? Close analysis of both scripture and contemporary theology indicate that a strong case can be made for the ethical application of CRISPR cas9. This paper seeks to use contemporary theological principles to address several concerns regarding the potential misuse of genetic modification to diminish, or even remove the image of God from humanity. I will contend that, used properly, CRISPR represents a powerful tool to not only preserve but strengthen the Imago Dei in humankind.

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