Bogged down

I feel like a Luddite. I want to be a tree hugger. Both impulses yank at me in this week's section.

What to do as genetic engineers continue their forced march through life forms? (See Laurent Belsie's article, right.) The brave new world that researchers pursue in their labs has me harboring sympathies with the early 19th-century English factory workers who smashed machines that were putting them out of work.

This time, the machines manufacture identity. I'm sorry, but I just don't accept DNA predestination. I'm not ready for humanly contrived faces with one green, one blue (or orange or purple) pair of eyes looking at me. It's just not, well, "natural."

Which is why I cling to tree hugging, a simplistic bonding with nature. One example: We in the Northeast (and many other regions of the United States) feel the effects of months of drought.

To look at what for years had been a water-filled pond or soggy wetland and see dry, cracked, mud and withered vegetation seems as surreal as the prospect of mandatory pre-natal gene-testing to determine insurability.

But what transpires in a parched pond is acceptable as a greater cycle of life (see wetlands, page 16). It's really part of the balance and diversity of nature's hand, not the latex-covered hand of the lab.

Welcome rains will fill the ponds and wetlands again in the fall.

Scientific breakthroughs from genetic research labs will pour down on us as well. The technological bogs they create won't be so welcome.

We better get our moral and ethical hip-boots out.

*Comments or questions? Write to Ideas editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, or e-mail

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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