The Worldview of Jurassic Park – A Biblical Christian Assessment

Dr. Bohlin examines the message of Jurassic Park, bringing out some of the underlying messages on science, evolution, new age thinking, and cloning.  The movie may be entertaining, but a Christian scientist points out some of the misconceptions people are taking away from the movie. Remember, this is just a piece of fiction—not a scientific treatise.

The Intent Behind Jurassic Park

Driving home after seeing the movie Jurassic Park in the first week of its release, I kept seeing tyrannosaurs and velociraptors coming out from behind buildings, through intersections, and down the street, headed straight at me. I would imagine: What would I do? Where would I turn? I certainly wouldn’t shine any lights out of my car or scream. Dead give-aways to a hungry, angry dinosaur. Then I would force myself to realize that it was just a movie. It was not reality. My relief would take hold only briefly until the next intersection or big building.

In case you can’t tell, I scare easily at movies. Jurassic Park terrified me. It all looked so real. Steven Spielberg turned out the biggest money-making film in history. Much of the reason for that was the realistic portrayal of the dinosaurs. But there was more to Jurassic Park than great special effects. It was based on the riveting novel by Michael Crichton and while many left the movie dazzled by the dinosaurs, others were leaving with questions and new views of science and nature.

The movie Jurassic Park was terrific entertainment, but it was entertainment with a purpose. The purpose was many-fold and the message was interspersed throughout the movie, and more so throughout the book. My purpose in this essay is to give you some insight into the battle that was waged for your mind throughout the course of this movie.

Jurassic Park was intended to warn the general public concerning the inherent dangers of biotechnology first of all, but also science in general. Consider this comment from the author Michael Crichton:

Biotechnology and genetic engineering are very powerful. The film suggests that [science’s] control of nature is elusive. And just as war is too important to leave to the generals, science is too important to leave to scientists. Everyone needs to be attentive.{1}

Overall, I would agree with Crichton. All too often, scientists purposefully refrain from asking ethical questions concerning their work in the interest of the pursuit of science.

But now consider director Steven Spielberg, quoted in the pages of the Wall Street Journal: “There’s a big moral question in this story. DNA cloning may be viable, but is it acceptable?”{2} And again in the New York Times, Spielberg said, “Science is intrusive. I wouldn’t ban molecular biology altogether, because it’s useful in finding cures for AIDS, cancer and other diseases. But it’s also dangerous and that’s the theme of Jurassic Park.”{3} So Spielberg openly states that the real theme of Jurassic Park is that science is intrusive.

In case you are skeptical of a movie’s ability to communicate this message to young people today, listen to this comment from an eleven-year-old after seeing the movie. She said, “Jurassic Park’s message is important! We shouldn’t fool around with nature.”{4} The media, movies and music in particular, are powerful voices to our young people today. We cannot underestimate the power of the media, especially in the form of a blockbuster like Jurassic Park, to change the way we perceive the world around us.

Many issues of today were addressed in the movie. Biotechnology, science, evolution, feminism, and new age philosophy all found a spokesman in Jurassic Park.

The Dangers of Science, Biotechnology, and Computers

The movie Jurassic Park directly attacked the scientific establishment. Throughout the movie, Ian Malcolm voiced the concerns about the direction and nature of science. You may remember the scene around the lunch table just after the group has watched the three velociraptors devour an entire cow in only a few minutes. Ian Malcolm brashly takes center stage with comments like this: “The scientific power….didn’t require any discipline to attain it….So you don’t take any responsibility for it.”{5} The key word here is responsibility. Malcolm intimates that Jurassic Park scientists have behaved irrationally and irresponsibly.

Later in the same scene, Malcolm adds, “Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but, you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.” Genetic engineering rises above nuclear and chemical or computer technology because of its ability to restructure the very molecular heart of living creatures. Even to create new organisms. Use of such power requires wisdom and patience. Malcolm punctuates his criticism in the same scene when he says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Malcolm’s criticisms should hit a raw nerve in the scientific community. As Christians we ask similar questions and raise similar concerns when scientists want to harvest fetal tissue for research purposes or experiment with human embryos. If Malcolm had limited his remarks to Jurassic Park only, I would have no complaint. But Malcolm extends the problem to science as a whole when he comments that scientific discovery is the rape of the natural world. Many youngsters will form the opinion that all scientists are to be distrusted. A meaningful point has been lost because it was wielded with the surgical precision of a baseball bat.

Surprisingly, computers take a more subtle slap in the face– surprising because computers were essential in creating many of the dinosaur action scenes that simply could not be done with robotic models. You may remember early in the movie, the paleontological camp of Drs. Grant and Satler where Grant openly shows his distrust of computers. The scene appears a little comical as the field- tested veteran expresses his hate for computers and senses that computers will take the fun out of his quaint profession.

Not so comical is the portrayal of Dennis Nedry, the computer genius behind Jurassic Park. You get left with the impression that computers are not for normal people and the only ones who profit by them or understand them are people who are not to be trusted. Nedry was clearly presented as a dangerous person because of his combination of computer wizardry and his resentment of those who don’t understand him or computers. Yet at the end of the movie, a young girl’s computer hacking ability saves the day by bringing the system back on line.

The point to be made is that technology is not the villain. Fire is used for both good and evil purposes, but no one is calling for fire to be banned. It is the worldview of the culture that determines how computers, biotechnology, or any other technology is to be used. The problem with Jurassic Park was the arrogance of human will and lack of humility before God, not technology.

The Avalanche of Evolutionary Assumptions

There were many obvious naturalistic or evolutionary assumptions built into the story which, while not totally unexpected, were too frequently exaggerated and overplayed.

For instance, by the end of the book and the film you felt bludgeoned by the connection between birds and dinosaurs. Some of these connections made some sense. An example would be the similarities between the eating behavior of birds of prey and the tyrannosaur. It is likely that both held their prey down with their claws or talons and tore pieces of flesh off with their jaws or beaks. A non-evolutionary interpretation is simply that similarity in structure indicates a similarity in function. An ancestral relationship is not necessary.

But many of the links had no basis in reality and were badly reasoned speculations. The owl-like hoots of the poison-spitting dilophosaur jumped out as an example of pure fantasy. There is no way to guess or estimate the vocalization behavior from a fossilized skeleton.

Another example came in the scene when Dr. Alan Grant and the two kids, Tim and Lex, meet a herd of gallimimus, a dinosaur similar in appearance to an oversized ostrich. Grant remarks that the herd turns in unison like a flock of birds avoiding a predator. Well, sure, flocks of birds do behave this way, but so do herds of grazing mammals and schools of fish. So observing this behavior in dinosaurs no more links them to birds than the webbed feet and flattened bill of the Australian platypus links it to ducks! Even in an evolutionary scheme, most of the behaviors unique to birds would have evolved after the time of the dinosaurs.

A contradiction to the hypothesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs is the portrayal of the velociraptors hunting in packs. Mammals behave this way, as do some fishes such as the sharks, but I am not aware of any birds or reptiles that do. The concealment of this contradiction exposes the sensational intent of the story. It is used primarily to enhance the story, but many will assume that it is a realistic evolutionary connection.

Finally, a complex and fascinating piece of dialogue in the movie mixed together an attack on creationism, an exaltation of humanism and atheism, and a touch of feminist male bashing. I suspect that it was included in order to add a little humor and to keep aspects of political correctness in our collective consciousness. Shortly after the tour of the park begins and before they have seen any dinosaurs, Ian Malcolm reflects on the irony of what Jurassic Park has accomplished. He muses, “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” To which Ellie Satler replies, “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth!” Malcolm clearly mocks God by indicating that not only does man declare God irrelevant, but also proceeds to duplicate God’s creative capability by creating dinosaurs all over again. We are as smart and as powerful as we once thought God to be. God is no longer needed.

While the movie was not openly hostile to religious views, Crichton clearly intended to marginalize theistic views of origins with humor, sarcasm, and an overload of evolutionary interpretations.

Jurassic Park and the New Age

Ian Malcolm, in the scene in the biology lab as the group inspects a newly hatching velociraptor, pontificates that “evolution” has taught us that life will not be limited or extinguished. “If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands to new territories, it crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh, well, there it is!….I’m simply saying that, uh, life finds a way.”

Evolution is given an intelligence all its own! Life finds a way. There is an almost personal quality given to living things, particularly to the process of evolution. Most evolutionary scientists would not put it this way. To them evolution proceeds blindly, without purpose, without direction. This intelligence or purposefulness in nature actually reflects a pantheistic or new age perspective on the biological world.

The pantheist believes that all is one and therefore all is god. God is impersonal rather than personal and god’s intelligence permeates all of nature. Therefore the universe is intelligent and purposeful. Consequently a reverence for nature develops instead of reverence for God. In the lunch room scene Malcolm says, “The lack of humility before nature being displayed here, staggers me.” Malcolm speaks of Nature with a capital “N.” While we should respect and cherish all of nature as being God’s creation, humility seems inappropriate. Later in the same scene, Malcom again ascribes a personal quality to nature when he says, “What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.” Apparently, any scientific discovery intrudes upon the private domain of nature. Not only is this new age in its tone, but it also criticizes Western culture’s attempts to understand the natural world through science.

There were other unusual new age perspectives displayed by other characters. Paleobotanist Ellie Satler displayed an uncharacteristically unscientific and feminine, or was it New Age, perspective when she chastened John Hammond for thinking that there was a rational solution to the breakdowns in the park. You may remember the scene in the dining hall, where philanthropist John Hammond and Dr. Satler are eating ice cream while tyrannosaurs and velociraptors are loose in the park with Dr. Grant, Ian Malcolm, and Hammond’s grandchildren. At one point, Satler says, “You can’t think your way out of this one, John. You have to feel it.” Somehow, the solution to the problem is to be found in gaining perspective through your emotions, perhaps getting in touch with the “force” that permeates everything around us as in Star Wars.

Finally, in this same scene, John Hammond, provides a rather humanistic perspective on scientific discovery. He is responding to Ellie Satler’s criticisms that a purely safe and enjoyable Jurassic Park, is not possible. Believing that man can accomplish anything he sets his mind to, Hammond blurts out, “Creation is a sheer act of will!” If men and women were gods in the pantheistic sense, perhaps this would be true of humans. But if you think about it, this statement is truer than first appears, for the true Creator of the universe simply spoke and it came into being. The beginning of each day’s activity in Genesis 1 begins with the phrase, “And God said.”

Creation is an act of will, but it is the Divine Will of the Supreme Sovereign of the universe. And we know this because the Bible tells us so!

They Clone Dinosaurs Don’t They?

The movie Jurassic Park raised the possibility of cloning dinosaurs. Prior to the release of the movie, magazines and newspapers were filled with speculations concerning the real possibility of cloning dinosaurs. The specter of cloning dinosaurs was left too much in the realm of the eminently possible. Much of this confidence stemmed from statements from Michael Crichton, the author of the book, and producer Steven Spielberg.

Scientists are very reluctant to use the word “never.” But this issue is as safe as they come. Dinosaurs will never be cloned. The positive votes come mainly from Crichton, Spielberg, and the public. Reflecting back on his early research for the book, Michael Crichton said, “I began to think it really could happen.”{6} The official Jurassic Park Souvenir magazine fueled the speculation when it said, “The story of Jurassic Park is not far-fetched. It is based on actual, ongoing genetic and paleontologic research. In the words of Steven Spielberg: This is not science fiction; it’s science eventuality.”{7} No doubt spurred on by such grandiose statements, 58% of 1000 people polled for USA Today said they believe that scientists will be able to recreate animals through genetic engineering.{8}

Now contrast this optimism with the more sobering statements from scientists. The Dallas Morning News said, “You’re not likely to see Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Dallas Zoo anytime soon. Scientists say that reconstituting any creature from its DNA simply won’t work.”{9} And Newsweek summarized the huge obstacles when it said, “Researchers have not found an amber-trapped insect containing dinosaur blood. They have no guarantee that the cells in the blood, and the DNA in the cells, will be preserved intact. They don’t know how to splice the DNA into a meaningful blueprint, or fill the gaps with DNA from living creatures. And they don’t have an embryo cell to use as a vehicle for cloning.”{10} These are major obstacles. Let’s look at them one at a time.

First, insects in amber. DNA has been extracted from insects encased in amber from deposits as old as 120 million years.{11} Amber does preserve biological tissues very well. But only very small fragments of a few individual genes were obtained. The cloning of gene fragments is a far cry from cloning an entire genome. Without the entire intact genome, organized into the proper sequence and divided into chromosomes, it is virtually impossible to reconstruct an organism from gene fragments.

Second, filling in the gaps. The genetic engineers of Jurassic Park used frog DNA to shore up the missing stretches of the cloned dinosaur DNA. But this is primarily a plot device to allow for the possibility of amphibian environmentally- induced sex change. An evolutionary scientist would have used reptilian or bird DNA which would be expected to have a higher degree of compatibility. It is also very far-fetched that an integrated set of genes to perform gender switching which does occur in some amphibians, could actually be inserted accidentally and be functional.

Third, a viable dinosaur egg. The idea of placing the dinosaur genetic material into crocodile or ostrich eggs is preposterous. You would need a real dinosaur egg of the same species as the DNA. Unfortunately, there are no such eggs left. And we can’t recreate one without a model to copy. So don’t get your hopes up. There will never be a real Jurassic Park!

Notes

1. Sharon Begley, “Here come the DNAsaurs,” Newsweek, 14 June 1993, 61.

2. Patrick Cox, “Jurassic Park, A Luddite Monster,” The Wall Street Journal, 9 July 1993.

3. Steven Spielberg, quoted by Patrick Cox, WSJ, 9 July 1993.

4. Cox, WSJ, 9 July 1993.

5. From this point on all dialogue is from the movie Jurassic Park, Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen, Producers, copyright 1993, Universal City Studios, Inc., and Amblin Entertainment.

6. Michael Crichton, quoted in “Crichton’s Creation,” The Jurassic Park Official Souvenir Magazine, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Topps Company, Inc., 1993), 4.

7. “Welcome to Jurassic Park,” The Jurassic Park Official Souvenir Magazine, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Topps Company, Inc., 1993), 2.

8. American Opinion Research poll of 1,000 adults from May 7-24, 1993 cited in USA Today, Friday, June 11, 1993, 2A.

9. Graphic inset, “How Real is Jurassic Park?,” The Dallas Morning News, Monday, 14 June 1993, 10D.

10. Begley, “Here Come the DNAsaurs,” 60-61.

11. Raul J. Cano, Hendrik N. Poinar, Norman J. Pieniazek, Aftim Acra, and George O. Poinar, Jr. “Amplification and sequencing of DNA from a 120 135-million-year-old weevil,” Nature 363 (10 June 1993): 536-38.

©1995 Probe Ministries.




Human Cloning

Note: Please read The Little Lamb That Made a Monkey of Us All for the author’s comments on the news of a successful lamb cloning (March 7, 1997). Also, please read the author’s subsequent article Can Humans Be Cloned like Sheep? for an updated, expanded discussion.

Human cloning: Is Brave New World just around the corner? Well, no, not even close. Reports of human cloning in early October 1993, by researchers Robert Stillman and Jerry Hall from George Washington University sparked a firestorm of controversy. While a real-life version of Aldous Huxley’s science-fiction prediction is nowhere near being fulfilled, there are serious questions about the ethical legitimacy and potential abuses that could result from the recently announced research.

In one respect, I sympathize with the scientists involved who naively felt their work was nothing unusual and who suddenly found themselves the subjects of New York Times and Time magazine cover stories as well as the special guests on “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” and “Larry King Live.” The spotlight did not suit them very well. Some aspects of the media hoopla were drastically overplayed, but other concerns are very real. What did the research actually accomplish?

Stillman and Hall, rather than cloning humans, actually just performed the first artificial twinning using human embryos. A similar procedure has been performed in mice successfully for twenty years and in cattle for ten years. Identical twins are produced when a fertilized egg divides for the first time and instead of remaining as one organism, actually splits into two independent cells. Stillman and Hall were able to achieve this same effect by removing the protective layer around the developing embryo (zona pellucida), splitting the cells apart, and replacing the outer coating with an artificial shell.

Essentially, this raises the possibility of creating as many as eight identical embryos where there was once only a single embryo consisting of eight cells. The procedure was pursued in order to assist couples seeking in vitro fertilization. Many women are unable to produce multiple eggs. Once fertilized, the resulting embryos only implant 10-20% of the time. Therefore, if you have 2 to 8 identical embryos, all formed from one original embryo, you can implant one and freeze the rest. If the first implant is unsuccessful, you can thaw one of the frozen twins and try again.

To call this cloning, as the media have done, is a bit misleading. The more usual meaning of cloning an individual would be to take a cell from an adult individual, remove the nucleus, implant it in a fertilized egg that has had its nucleus removed. Strictly speaking, this is not possible today. The feat was accomplished in frogs back in 1952 by taking the nuclei of cells from the intestinal lining of tadpoles and implanting them into fertilized eggs that had the nuclei destroyed by irradiation. However, only about one in a thousand implants are successful. Many of the frogs die early but others grow into rather grotesque monsters. No, true cloning is a long way away indeed.

So if true cloning has not actually been achieved, then is there any real cause for concern? Indeed, there is!

The Ethical Dilemmas of Artificial Twinning

The initial outcry concerning the work of researchers Stillman and Hall at George Washington University has come from the public and the media. But many of their own colleagues are upset.

Many within the field have recognized for quite some time that artificial twinning would be possible with human embryos. But they knew that such experiments would raise a host of ethical concerns that they were unwilling to deal with. It is unfortunate that Stillman and Hall were so unprepared for the controversy because it just reinforces the idea many of us have that all scientists are blind to the ethical ramifications of their work. It is clear from interviews that Stillman and Hall care deeply, but just didn’t think ahead.

Jerry Hall was asked in the Time magazine article (8 November 1993, p. 67) if he feared that his work would create a public backlash towards this kind of research. He said: “I respect people’s concerns and feelings. But we have not created human life or destroyed human life in this experiment.” What this statement implies is that Hall and Stillman do not consider the embryos they were working with as human life. The embryos used in this research project were doomed from the start because they were fertilized with more than one sperm. The extra genetic material precludes the possibility of normal embryonic development. But does this mean that these embryos are not human?

Many individuals carry a death sentence because of congenital conditions or genetic disease, but they are certainly human. We will all die eventually. The timetable is not important. I believe that these embryos were human beings and further experimentation was performed on them which added an additional risk to their already imperiled condition. If I had been a member of the ethical review board of George Washington University, I would have denied permission to pursue these experiments. Human experimentation was performed without informed consent.

Hall and Stillman have defended their work by saying they consider it only a logical extension of in vitro fertilization. These efforts are driven by a desire to relieve human suffering–in this case the suffering of infertile couples. I know of many couples who have battled infertility, and I know that their pain is real and deeply rooted. But I also believe that this is a case where our desire to live in a painless world is clouding our ability to make moral decisions. One woman who had undergone eight unsuccessful in vitro attempts was asked if she would be willing to try artificial twinning. She said: “It’s pretty scary, but I would probably consider it as a desperate last attempt.” She is clearly frightened by the moral and ethical implications, yet if nothing else worked, she’d do it! Our decisions are based more on the tug of our hearts and pocketbooks than with our minds. We are losing our moral will! The whole subject is rife with potential abuses by people on all sides of the issue.

What Are the Potential Abuses of Artificial Twinning?

While artificial twinning itself raises some serious ethical questions, other possible scenarios that this research can lead to are just as troubling.

The two researchers involved have remarked that they felt their research was just the next logical step after in vitro fertilization. One of the warnings of Kerby Anderson, a familiar voice on the Probe radio program, in his book Genetic Engineering over ten years ago, was the argument of the slippery slope. Once a new technology is perfected, it opens up other technologies which are more troublesome than the original. Once started down the slope, it is hard to reverse directions. Hall and Stillman, by their own admission, have taken the next step down the slippery slope after in vitro fertilization. It is now important to assess the next step.

There are several scenarios which have received attention. One concerns couples who are known to be at risk for a hereditary disease such as cystic fibrosis. If from a single fertilized egg, two to four identical embryos could be created by the artificial twinning process, then one could be tested for the genetic marker, and the others held in frozen storage. The genetic testing may require the destruction of the initial embryo. If the test is negative, then one of the reserve embryos could be thawed, implant- ed, and brought to term. This process is hardly respectful of human life. If the test confirms the presence of the genetic disease, all embryos could be destroyed.

Another suggestion is that the artificial twins could be kept frozen as an insurance policy even after the original child is born. If the original child dies at an early age, a frozen twin could be thawed, and the parent would have the identical child to raise again. Another suggestion has been to keep the frozen twins available in case the original twin needs a bone marrow transplant or some other organ. The tissues would match perfectly. A couple in California has already set a precedent by electing to have another child to provide bone marrow for their older daughter that had contracted leukemia. Fortunately for them, the tissues matched and both children are doing fine.

A final scenario suggests that frozen twins can be kept in reserve as the saleable stock for children catalogs. A catalog could be set up offering pictures and descriptions of the original twin and offering prospective parents the opportunity to have the very same child. This may sound foolish to you, but there are many in our society who would be willing to pay for just such a service. If you truly respect human life, then none of these possibilities should make sense. In light of what we have discussed, the subject of placing limits on scientific research also needs to be addressed.

What Can Constrain Scientific Research?

One of the questions that inevitably comes up is whether such research should be allowed to be done at all. Some of the scenarios I mentioned earlier are chilling. We wonder if such things can be stopped by restricting the kinds of research that is done.

I have to admit that as a scientist myself, I am wary of giving the public a free voice to approve or disapprove what kinds of research are pursued by qualified scientists. Scientists themselves are usually the best judges of whether a particular project is worth doing on its scientific merits. Only other scientists can judge the worthiness of a research proposal based solely on its ability to contribute significantly to our body of scientific knowledge. In a society deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage, scientists could generally be trusted to make the correct moral decisions about their research as well. But this is not the case in our society today. We are a culture which is without a moral rudder. There is indeed a culture war going on. One of the consequences of this lack of direction is that many scientists and ethicists believe that scientists should be free to pursue their research goals regardless of what the long-term consequences might be.

John Robertson is a professor of law at the University of Texas. In a recent editorial, he said:

As long as the research is for a valid scientific purpose, embryos that would otherwise be discarded can, with the informed consent of the couple whose eggs and sperm produced the embryos, be ethically used in research. Neither the lack of guidelines, the moral objections of some people to any embryo research, nor the fears about where cloning research might lead justify denying researchers the ability to take the next step. (Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 November 1993, p. A40)

Essentially Professor Robertson has insulated himself from any criticism from outside the scientific community. As long as informed consent can be obtained from the parents, the sole criteria is a valid scientific purpose. Questions concerning the sanctity of human life are not allowed. Questions concerning the potential abuses are not allowed. In other words, scientists exist in some kind of a moral vacuum.

I am afraid that this kind of research is going to continue simply because there is not a large enough moral consensus present in society to prevent it. We have become too powerfully driven by the personal end in mind to repudiate the means to get there. Do we raise our voices in protest? Certainly. Do we continue to point out the moral and logical fallacies in the prevailing arguments? Certainly. But until the culture at large turns its attention from the immediate gain and considers what is right, the ethical slide will continue.

Moreover, there is the even more questionable and fear-provoking question of whether true human cloning is feasible.

Is Human Cloning Really Possible?

True cloning, as opposed to artificial twinning, is much more involved. Cloning is a technique that is partly successful in frogs. Frogs can be cloned by collecting eggs from a female frog. The nucleus in the eggs is destroyed by irradiation. Next, cells are isolated from the intestinal lining of a tadpole. The nucleus is removed from the intestinal cell and placed within a previously enucleated egg. The egg now has the opportunity to begin cell division and development.

Most of these embryos do not survive. Of those that do survive, the majority grow into rather grotesque monsters. Only about one in a thousand develop into a normal looking adult frog. One small catch is that all of these normal looking frogs turn out to be sterile. Even so, this is a remarkable achievement. But is this possible in humans, and if so, what are the barriers.

The first item to note is that the frog experiments utilized nuclei from a developing tadpole. Embryonic tissue is still actively dividing. Using a nucleus from a dividing cell is crucial to the success of these experiments. Non-dividing cells such as adult bone and neural cells have had the cell division portions of their genes turned off by a variety of molecular mechanisms. That is why the use of most adult cells would be impossible in these experiments. They wouldn’t work. It also explains why DNA from long dead cells such as from a mummy, or even a dinosaur as in Jurassic Park is totally impractical.

Some cells in the adult body are actively dividing, such as skin fibroblasts. These cells continually supply new skin cells to replace those which sluff off. In fact it was skin fibroblasts that were purportedly used for cloning a man in David Rorvik’s fictional book, In His Image: The Cloning of a Man, back in the late seventies. But there are difficulties here too. Skin cells have had many genes switched off. These are skin cells, not liver cells, or eye cells, or bone cells. All of the genes needed to produce the unique proteins required by all these specialized cells have been switched off by a variety of molecular mechanisms. Many of these mechanisms are unknown; consequently, we do not know how to unlock them. Nor do we know how to get them expressed in the correct sequence necessary for embryological development.

There are so many roadblocks to the successful cloning of an adult human that I don’t expect it any time soon. However, I am afraid our current culture will pursue this possibility as long as there is potential profit and a perceived scientific benefit.

© 1994 Probe Ministries