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Special Section - Human Destiny

Body and Sold

Special Projects Editor

During the last half of the 20th century, humans pursued the vastness of outer space, the cosmos whose limitless reaches filled us with a sense of mystery and awe.

As we approach the millennium, other exploratory ventures as close as our own bodies are just beginning to capture our imaginations: ventures related to human reproduction and the mapping of some 80,000 to 100,000 genes contained in each human cell.

In recent years, we have come face to face with the possibility of not only unraveling the mysteries of human life, but of actually creating it, and shaping it to our own imaginations and desires. We find ourselves on the brink of a business-driven world full of designer people where once we saw only the hand of a creating God.

What are we to think in the face of such possibilities? What are we to believe?

In the middle of the last century, with the development of nuclear weapons, humans took on the power to destroy, to annihilate life as we know it, which in any other age would have been reserved to God alone. Is it ultimate arrogance, or simply an acknowledgment of our God-given role in the universe, that we now take on creative functions previously reserved to the Creator?

The following are the first two of four articles by Special Projects Editor Pamela Schaeffer, an extensive report that outlines the advances in biotechnology and the profound theological and social issues they are raising: some of the most serious moral, ethical and legal questions humans have ever faced.This week's package includes an in-depth look at in vitro fertilization, a controversial technology that serves as a foundation for even more complex and problematic procedures, many still in experimental stages. Next week's will explore genetic engineering, stem-cell research and human cloning.

We hope this report will give NCR readers a better understanding of these issues and prepare them to engage in the critical public debates ahead.

National Catholic Reporter, October 15, 1999