Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Is science trying to replace God?

Published: Tuesday, July 9 2013 5:20 p.m. MDT

Opening the latest episode of Science Channel’s “Through the Wormhole: Will Sex Become Extinct?” Morgan Freeman begins with a shocking statement.

“A brave new world of human reproduction is just around the corner. New technology and our evolving biology are about to rewrite the future of sex and change the age-old roles of men and women.”

What exactly does he mean, “change the age-old roles of men and women"?

Since the beginning of the human race, men and women have procreated. It is the only way to create a baby — involving one man with an X and Y chromosome and one woman with two X chromosomes.

But according to a featured geneticist on the program, the male species is “on the road to extinction.”

In extremely dumbed-down talk, the female X chromosome has the ability to repair and link itself to other X chromosomes. It is “taller” and “stronger” than the more “puny” Y chromosome of the male, which does not have the ability to repair or link itself. According to studies done on kangaroo males (which have genes surprisingly similar to ours), the Y chromosome is losing genes, getting smaller and smaller and, eventually, the geneticist predicts, will become extinct.

Now just a minute. Before you panic and freak out (like I did), know that, according to the program, what the geneticist is talking about is maybe a billion years down the road.

Scientists have also discovered that they can actually take skin cells and reassign them jobs so that instead of becoming skin cells, they can become lung, eye or even sperm cells.

But a woman would still be needed to grow a biological child, correct?

Not necessarily. A marine biologist was able to build a machine that grew shark embryos to full term — without the mother.

“We’ve done something that was rather strange, rather abnormal and challenging, too, to think about what are the implications in the future," he said.

Through monitoring the embryos and changing the pH of the water to mimic that found in the womb of the mother shark, the marine biologist was able to continue the growth of the embryos in an artificial environment into healthy, fully developed sharks.

What could this mean? That possibly human babies could be mechanically grown, as sharks?

“Even then I still think there’s ethical questions one has to ask about it,” he says.

So where does science stop and God come in? Should we be celebrating the new leaps and bounds of technology, or is there a limit to what power man should have over the creation of life?

I called a friend of mine who has been through a challenging couple of years. She was able to conceive her first son naturally, but then struggled to get pregnant. She and her husband eventually adopted a beautiful baby boy and have since tried in vitro fertilization with difficult results: she conceived but miscarried.

“I’ve tried everything,” she told me. “But there wasn’t a difference in how I felt about my biological son compared to my adopted son. I was able to be there with my adopted son when he was born, and it was the exact same feeling I had with my firstborn: seeing that familiar, unfamiliar person for the first time. I knew he was mine.”

Even with her frozen eggs waiting the “right time” to be implanted again, my friend says she has this strange connection with them.

“I have seven eggs that could potentially be my children, if it all works out,” she says. “But I probably won’t be able to have seven more children.”

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