Could a bomb be engineered to wipe out only members of a certain ethnic group?
A recent report published by the British Medical Association (BMA) stated that genetically targeted weapons capable of use as ethnic cleansing agents could become a reality within the next decade.
Because leading governments have not moved to halt the advance of biological and genetic weapons technology, the report said, life science technologies could be used to build a 'genetic bomb'.
Such a bomb could contain anthrax or the plague. It could be built to activate when it identifies in the infected individual certain groups of genes that characterize a particular ethnic group.
In that way it could literally wipe out people of a certain ethnic origin.
'If the life sciences are misused, there are major threat to human rights, human dignity and human safety,' said Malcolm Dando, the author of the report and the head of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford.
If biological advances continue unchecked, he added, terrorists could use the research to bring about destruction on a horrific scale.
This issue highlights again the fact that one of the great threats facing humankind today is the tyranny of our technology over our essential humanity.
There's a tug of war going on between what we know to be scientifically possible and what we feel in conscience to be right.
Jaques Ellul, philosopher at the University of Bordeaux, wrote a great deal on what he called the threat to human faith and freedom created by modern technology. Ellul stated that technology has taken over from Christian faith as the most sacred thing in Western society.
The Christian faith has ennobled the human race and given rise to the most prosperous, and civilized societies of all time. However, wrote Ellul, where once we couldn't live without God, today we can't live without gadgets.
We've invited technology first into our workplaces, then into our homes and now into our bodies.
Ellul clearly understood the challenge before us. Technology is turning from being the servant of humanity to becoming a master over its destiny. As human beings we are now having to adapt ourselves more and more to the technology we have created.
As the pace of technological advance increases, we spend vast amounts of time and energy simply regulating the advances we've made - and in many cases, failing even to keep up.
One of the most dangerous things about the technology race today is that we don't seem to have any clear vision driving us forward. Or, where there is some sort of vision, it is based more on expediency than altruism. We build faster and faster machines, wrote Ellul, to take us nowhere.
The Bible sums up our plight when it observes that without a redemptive revelation, 'the people run amok' (Proverbs 29:11).
Secular humanism is closely aligned to materialistic pragmatism. Without a spiritual revelation, a redemptive insight into what makes us tick and where we really belong, we will continue to be ruled by the shifting sands of utilitarianism.
What is needed in the current climate is not simply a strengthening of current international agreements relating to things like life.
What is required is a total reappraisal of the philosophical bases on which our drive for technological advancement is based.
We need a redemptive revelation of what we were, in hope, created to be and of the Creator to whom we will ultimately give account.
A return to a God-centric worldview does not mean a revisiting of medieval superstition, or an escape into a Luddite world without high-tech.
It means an abandonment of 'if-it-works-it-must-be-right' thinking. It means a return to the sense that whilst man is capable of great nobility, he is also a fallen being and in need of clear parameters for his behaviour.
It's only when we abandon secular humanism and its utilitarian ways that our technology can really serve an end greater than personal comfort or political expediency.
© Mal Fletcher 2004
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