Disfiguring Nature

William Hurlbut uses the example of St. Francis of Assisi to question our biotechnological ambitions:

St. Francis’s attentive and appreciative disposition toward the multiplicity of natural forms, even the tiniest and seemingly insignificant, expresses an understanding of the universe as an ordered and intricately interrelated whole. … Recognition of the fragile interdependence of living nature urges us to be cautious — lest we disrupt the basic balance of being and thereby drain the created order of its beauty, vitality, spiritual significance, and moral meaning. We have no license for an attitude of arrogance as masters and possessors of nature. Plants and animals may be used, not as mere raw materials, but with tenderness, compassion, and genuine gratitude. Genetically engineered featherless chickens for cheaper pot pies and leaner pigs with severe arthritis are a violation of basic kindness and courtesy — of the concern that Francis extended to even the lowliest of creatures.