Flash of light at conception: God’s miracle to admire, not ours to exploit
May 12, 2016 (BreakPoint) -- God’s active act of creation, as described in Genesis 1, begins with those familiar words “Let there be light,” or, as my Latin-loving colleagues prefer, “fiat lux.”
Throughout the Scriptures, God’s presence and power is associated with light. This is most obviously true in all of the writings the Apostle John. In fact, as 1 John tells us, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
But this is more than history and metaphor. As it turns out, it’s observable in the microscopic realm as well.
The lead to a recent article in the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper sums up a remarkable discovery by researchers at Northwestern University near Chicago: “Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film. An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.”
Think about this for a moment. At the moment that you, I and everyone else who has ever lived were conceived, the microscopic equivalent of “fireworks” went off. A kind of mini “Big Bang.”
As Simcha Fisher wrote at Aleteia, when she saw the headline, her response was, “It’s almost . . . as if something amazing is going on! Something that shouldn’t be messed with!”
Unfortunately, that’s not how the people behind this discovery responded. After seeing nature’s “fireworks” their minds turned to how they could use what they saw to control and manipulate nature.
One of the co-authors of the study called the results “transformative” and “important.” Why? Because, she said, it makes in-vitro fertilization more reliable. As she told the Telegraph, “There are no tools currently available that tell us if it’s a good quality egg. Often we don’t know whether the egg or embryo is truly viable until we see if a pregnancy ensues.”
The “fireworks” suggest that there may be “a non-invasive and easily visible way to assess the health of an egg and eventually an embryo before implantation.” This, she continued, “…will help us know which embryo to transfer, avoid a lot of heartache and achieve pregnancy much more quickly.”
This, this, is what they saw as “transformative” about this amazing discovery?
I remember John Piper once saying that no one looks out over the Grand Canyon and thinks, “I am awesome.” Apparently, however, there are those who – in the words of Fisher – “behold the brilliant spark of life itself” and say “Think of the commercial possibilities.”
For Fisher, this story brought to mind a scene from C.S. Lewis’s “The Magician’s Nephew.” The magician of the title, Uncle Andrew, is privileged to be present at the creation of Narnia, as Aslan sings the world into being. Yet, like these researchers, all he can think of is growing iron trees in Narnia and selling them back home for a profit.
To which Frank the Cabby replies, “Oh stow it, Guv’nor, do stow it. Watchin’ and listenin’s the thing at present; not talking.”
Frank the Cabby and Fisher are both spot on. For those of us privileged to witness something amazing, even holy, our response should be awe and reverence, including reverential silence. Since we have nothing to do with the miracle unfolding before our eyes, our response should be wonder and gratitude, and ultimately worship - not plans to exploit our knowledge and play God for profit.
Of course, the right response requires acknowledging that we have nothing to do with that miracle and, thus, it is not ours to exploit. And that kind of humility, which is a prerequisite for wonder and gratitude, is in increasingly short supply.
Reprinted with permission from Break Point.