Momentous advancement in the past century and a half in molecular biology of the gene has spurred a scientific and medical revolution, accompanied at once with undreamt of possibilities as well as considerable moral and ethical implications. Such developments include: breakthrough in the structure of the DNA molecule, the carrier of the genetic information in all living things; the mapping and decoding of the entire human genome; and the technology for editing and modifying the gene. The rapidly advancing technology of gene editing, bearing the acronym CRISPER, is acquiring increasing refinements, enhanced possibilities and wider applications.
Other biotechnologies, such as recombinant DNA, gene cloning, and stem cell research, are among numerous other advances which hold prospects for the welfare of humankind, but can also portend harmful outcomes. Among the significant benefits are: identification of the genetic base of disease, eradication of deadly diseases, development of drugs and therapies, prolongation of human life and much more. Among the adverse implications are: eugenics, human cloning, generation of biohazards and their release into the environment.
Such technological advances bring to the forefront the benefits but also the perils of biotechnology, recalling the dystopian predictions in the “Brave New World” of Aldous Huxley.
Followers of traditional religions may adopt a stance against such technologies, which they believe tamper with the gene and trespass into the realm of God’s creation. The sacred writings of the Bahá’í Faith, however, inculcate the importance of scientific investigation and knowledge. Hence Bahá’í scientists will likely choose to promote progress in scientific learning toward “the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, … to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 204) while at the same time remaining vigilant of their harmful implications.