Jurassic Modifications

The sixth installment of the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World: Dominion, shows an entirely new world to viewers in which dinosaurs roam free across the planet. The film follows characters Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) as they attempt to protect Maisie Lockwood (the biologically engineered girl introduced in the previous film) along with mistreated dinosaurs. When Maisie is kidnapped by the bioengineering organization, Biosyn, we discover that the company has biologically engineered a variety of locusts that feed only on crops not grown from Biosyn seeds, in an attempt to create a monopoly. The movie raises profound questions common to the Jurassic Park series. Perhaps most central is: when it comes to bioengineering, how far is too far?

The film takes the audience back to Jurassic Park’s roots. The trailer’s opening voiceover reminds audiences of what started it all: John Hammond, the fictional creator of Jurassic Park, wanted to give people “something that wasn’t an illusion. Something that was real. Something that they could see and touch.”

The idea of dinosaurs coming back to life is an exciting notion, but it is also one that most people see as the stuff of fiction. Jurassic World: Dominion may ask theoretically interesting questions about responsibility, ethics, and creating life, but at the end of the day, none of them seem to matter because it doesn’t apply to ‘real life.’

However, as new strides are being made in genetic studies, prospects like the ones shown in the Jurassic Park series are beginning to become reality. We may never see dinosaurs walking down the road, but genetic modification is already happening. Whenever science develops new ways to alter, end, or create life, they must be examined closely. We have to ask: even if we have the tools to alter genetics and biology, should we?

Saving Humanity from Imperfections
Perhaps you remember Dolly the sheep—the first successful living clone. When she was born in 1997, people were astonished that science could have successfully cloned a living creature. Since then, strides have continued to be made in genetic studies. The Human Genome project successfully mapped human DNA, giving scientists the ability to understand what parts of DNA cause various physical and functional aspects. Since then, the question has turned from “can DNA be edited?” to “how will DNA editing be regularly used in everyday life?”

Many genetic scientists talk about all the good that gene editing can do—for example, replacing the parts of DNA that make a person genetically predisposed to health conditions and diseases, as shown in Maisie’s story in Jurassic World: Dominion. Other uses include changing the physical traits of children before they are born so that a parent can control traits like eye color or sex, or even prevent disabilites like Down syndrome. There have even been discussions about editing genes to give people superhuman abilities in speed, strength, and intellect.

Renowned philosopher and creator of the Future of Humanity Institute, Nick Bostrom, puts it this way in his poetic essay, “Letter from Utopia” (2008): a transhuman life is a “higher life” and one of “surpassing bliss” that is “beyond human thought.” The point is to rid humanity of its imperfections. With these sorts of phrases, one might ask why anyone would question the kind of utopia that science could bring us.

When Everyone is Perfect
Aside from the lessons learned from Jurassic Park about experimental science—that creating or changing life doesn’t usually end the way you want it to—there are potentially severe consequences that follow these idyllic ideas. It is not enough to accept the reality that genetic editing can be done, we must also ask why we are doing it and to what end. Can lives be saved through genetic editing? It would seem so. But why do people want to change their unborn child’s physical features or gender? Or give them superhuman skills? Or prevent them from being born with Down syndrome or another genetic disorder that is non-life threatening? The reasoning or presuppositions behind genetic altering speaks volumes about how people view others without their version of idealized traits. It’s easy for the thought “I don’t want my child to have a disability” to turn into, “I want my child to be normal,” or even “I want my child to have an advantage.” In other words, one is a natural thought based in care, concern, and kindness, and the latter is a thought that places potentially harmful stereotypes and expectations on unborn children. “Normal” (or superhuman in the case of genetic altering) becomes more valuable than the alternative. Thus, a person who isn’t considered “normal” is less valuable than one who is.

In a big way, people’s opinions about topics like this come back to the human capability to love one another. We wonder if we can love someone who is different from the people we already know and love. We wonder if we are up to the task of being responsible for someone who is different. People’s reasons for wanting to better humanity often stem from their greatest insecurities, the ones that can’t be seen on the surface. Humanity is deeply flawed to a level that even genetic editing or engineering cannot fix, the roots go too deep. Getting rid of the branches we can see won’t kill the roots we can’t see. This is why the utopias written about in countless books nearly always turn out to be, disappointingly, dystopias: no matter how far we come in the realms of science and technology, we can never outrun the dark and wicked perversions of the human heart and soul.

Our Imperfections in God’s Eyes
God says that the human heart is “desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). That sickness is embedded in us too deep to heal ourselves. This is why humans can never achieve utopia or reach heaven in our own power. But God also tells us that his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). That is what the power of the cross does. When we let go of pride and stop trusting in idols like science or our own abilities and achievements, that is when true and meaningful progress is made.

John Hammond’s whole purpose behind Jurassic Park was to give people something real. But he didn’t need to reach across time and genetics to get there. Of course it would be cool to see a dinosaur, but there is already an amazing reality before us. It is filled with wonder and joy if we are willing to push through the difficulty that our flaws cause to see it. Only by letting Christ abolish our sin can we be made new: “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

By Rebecca Sachaj

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Rebecca Sachaj

Rebecca Sachaj is enthusiastic about helping fellow believers deepen their relationship with God. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, she pursued further study in Apologetics through The Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She plans to obtain her Masters in Apologetics, focusing on the connection between the Christian Imagination and Apologetics. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her two dogs, Strider and Samwise.