God, Bioethics, and the Synthetic Genome

The announcement of the creation of a living organism based on a synthetic genome has been provoking diverse reactions in the international community, alternating among euphoria, concern, caution, and perplexity. The feat is being considered one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time.

For scientists, their enthusiasm is justified. The prospect of creating programmed bacteria to resolve environmental and energy problems is real. Also in the area of benefits, the production of vaccines could be accelerated, among other ends. However, specialists in bioethics and religious leaders alert to the need for regulations and ethical responsibility when improving on the surprising experiment.

Electronic microscope image that shows a bacterium with a synthetic genome being replicated.

Due to its gravity, the discovery led the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to ask the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to analyze the consequences and implications of the artificial cell. In the document, he says: “In its study, the Commission should consider the potential medical, environmental, security, and other benefits of this field of research, as well as any potential health, security or other risks. Further, the Commission should develop recommendations about any actions the Federal government should take to ensure that America reaps the benefits of this developing field of science while identifying appropriate ethical boundaries and minimizing identified risks”.

LOVE, ETHICS, AND HOPE – FOUNDATIONS FOR A CIVILIZED LIFE

Writer Alcione Giacomitti and his wife, Marilda de Fátima Covalski, with their daughter, Nicole Covalski Giacomitti, holding the book Spiritual Guidelines of the Religion of God, by Paiva Netto.

This theme, which still deserves more study, leads me to recall an interview I granted at the beginning of the year 2000 to the writer and TV producer Alcione Giacomitti. He inserted it in his work Os Pilares da Sabedoria de um Novo Mundo [The Pillars of Wisdom of a New World], published by Elevação Publishing House. The great scientific discovery at that time was the complete mapping of the human genome. At a certain point in our dialogue, when asking me to what extent this modern technology had really benefited Humanity as a whole, I responded in this manner:

There has been an amazing material development since the First World War. However, the same has not been true for the sentimental and moral fields. As such, this imbalance has been strengthened. (...) Due to the insistence on achieving progress that despises Spirituality, which is the intimate relation of souls with their Supreme Creator (understood as Love), Human Beings condemn themselves to lasting inhumanity, forcing millions and millions of people to suffer in extreme poverty. (...) It is in this context, of spiritual progress and material expansion, that the key to technological growth with quality of life can be found. (…) There is always an exit, in a short, medium or long term. In one of my chronicles (for the old magazine Manchete, “Genome, Ethics, and Fraternity”) I affirmed: Never, as now, has it become so necessary to put into practice everything that is summarized in the expression of Fraternity. Technology overcomes barriers. (...) The mapping of the human genome, with its sequence discovered for the first time in History, opens up extraordinary horizons at the same time that it creates a series of ethical questions that need urgent solutions. (...)

Reproduction of Paiva Netto’s article published in the old magazine Manchete.

In order to apply it appropriately, it is indispensable for us to decipher the Genome of God, the reason of everything: Love, which sustains us, the reason why we still exist here... on Earth. Even at great difficulty, we have preferred to survive. It is necessary for there to be a balance between technological-material progress and ethical-spiritual progress. As long as this does not occur the danger remains, like the sword of Damocles over our heads, translated into this paradox: contemporary era and social return to the Middle Ages. Is there something missing in (globalizing) technology? Yes: enlightened hearts and minds (the globalization of Solidarity), so that the Internet, among other things, can be a powerful path for Peace, not the altered nervous system of the technological society.

It would be worthwhile reflecting on this.

PLEASANT NEWS

Isabel Paes, from the LGW’s Department of Fraternal Relations in São Paulo/SP (Brazil), recently brought me some pleasant news. She informed me that she received an email from two friends of the Legion of Good Will. “They read your articles published in Brazil and abroad. The renowned jurist Ives Gandra Martins thanks you for your article ‘Luminous and Liberating Presence’. Mrs. Ombretta Gori Sacco, widow of Mr. Teodoro Lausi Sacco, the late President of the Spiritualist Federation of the Brazilian State of São Paulo (FEESP), liked ‘Hypatia, the mother of philosophers’ very much”.

I am honored to learn about the appreciation of my illustrious friends. Thank you!

José de Paiva Netto is a writer, journalist, radio broadcaster, composer, and poet. He is the President of the Legion of Good Will (LGW), effective member of the Brazilian Press Association (ABI) and of the Brazilian International Press Association (ABI-Inter). Affiliated to the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Union of Professional Journalists of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the Union of Writers of Rio de Janeiro, the Union of Radio Broadcasters of Rio de Janeiro, and the Brazilian Union of Composers (UBC). He is also a member of the Academy of Letters of Central Brazil. He is an author of international reference in the concept and defense of the cause of Ecumenical Citizenship and Spirituality which, according to him, constitute “the cradle of the most generous values that are born of the Soul, the dwelling of the emotions and of the reasoning enlightened by intuition, the atmosphere that embraces everything that transcends the ordinary field of matter and comes from the elevated human sensitivity, such as Truth, Justice, Mercy, Ethics, Honesty, Generosity, and Fraternal Love.”