It’s strange that the Nobel Assembly took so long to award the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Robert Edwards, the inventor of IVF (in vitro fertilization). It’s been over three decades since the birth of Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby.”
Maybe the moral questions that arose with Louise’s arrival held the Nobel Prize back all those years. Some of the moral questions had to do with potential harm to the mother through use of hormones to harvest multiple egg cells or to make her uterus hospitable to implantation. Some had to do with humans possibly playing God by causing conception in a Petri dish. Another question posed in a CBS News story about the Award yesterday was whether it’s appropriate to obtain stem cells from embryos created through IVF.
I’ve been thinking about the “humans playing God” question. I believe this question vastly diminishes God and vastly inflates human beings.
It’s true that we are the only animal that learns and practices science, but there’s an infinite distance between practicing science and playing God.
To me, what Robert Edwards figured out was a godly way for some infertile couples to be able to have babies. He used what God provided, the miracle of conception and his own miraculous human brain, and invented a method for bringing together an egg and a sperm that otherwise couldn’t join even though potential parents passionately wanted the baby that could come from the joining.
Edwards cooperated in this with Patrick Steptoe, an obstetrician and gynecologist. It was Steptoe who figured out how to administer hormones to a consenting, adult mother, to harvest her egg cells and ready her womb for an embryo. I can’t imagine God objecting.
As for the stem cell question, it’s a by-product of our ability to use God’s miracles to bring wanted babies into the world. Here’s another use for our brains; we need to come together in peace and goodness to work out moral guidelines for what may turn out to be another heavenly gift.