Should we really be ‘playing with the entire kingdom of life’?

‘If you can hack the rules of mRNA, “essentially the entire kingdom of life is available for you to play with,” says [Stephen] Hoge, a physician by training who left a position as a health care analyst to become Moderna’s president in 2012.

‘Adjusting mRNA translation to fight disease “isn’t [sic] actually super high-risk biology,” he adds. “It’s what your genes would do if they were rational actors”.’

Stephen Hoge, President of Moderna, interviewed by Science Magazine in 2017 (my highlighting)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for the Times of Israel entitled ‘Vaccine Apartheid’ – blatant blood libel but too good to resist‘. I wrote that there is such an international appetite today for ‘Israel is apartheid’ libels that influencers in the world’s legacy media, mainstream political parties, governments, and NGOs seem unable to help themselves in combining it with a high-tech version of oldest antisemitic libel of all:  the Blood Libel. (Just today the BBC has admitted it was wrong in its reporting that Israel has responsibility for vaccinating Palestinians, but as always, the antisemitic damage has already been done, and the BBC will continue its cycle of obsessively libelling Israel, and then apologising after the damage has been done.)

What I neglected to say in my ‘Vaccine Apartheid’ piece is that my personal choice is to not have the jab. This means that if the proposal by Israel’s Transport Ministry for the COVID-19 vaccine ‘passports’ are accepted, and similar proposals by my own government here in the UK are accepted, I will not be able to visit Israel any time soon. It will be a pity if this happens, because in recent years I have been a regular visitor to Israel, to holiday, and to meet friends, scholars, and advocates for Israel with whom I share similar interests.

I am not anti-vaccination. And when I served in the British Forces I was obliged to be vaccinated with the common vaccines, in case we were deployed anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat.

* * *

Both the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine employ a novel method of vaccination that involves triggering the human body’s mRNA, or messenger RNA, to produce the ‘spike protein’ toxin of the virus.

For the purposes of this article, and for the sake of simplicity, I will consider the Moderna vaccine only. It has been widely deployed here in the UK.

Moderna was founded 10 years ago as ‘ModeRNA Therapeutics’, a biotech start-up company. It has yet to manufacture licensed medicines, but nevertheless has been very attractive to investors on its ‘ongoing exploration to advance the promise of mRNA science’.

Moderna’s “About Us” page opens:

Welcome to Moderna. We believe mRNA is the “software of life.”
Every cell in the body uses mRNA to provide real-time instructions to make the proteins necessary to drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease.

I accept the first part of the third sentence as true. The rest of the sentence, from ‘to drive all aspects of biology…’ seems to me to be misleading, but, I suppose, this is marketing copywriting, not science writing.

[ In my profession as scientific technical writer, I spent three years from 2012 in the life sciences, involved in the study of proteins, or proteomics. Proteomics, itself a new field, sees the human body more holistically than the Moderna copywriters suggest. Proteins network, contrary to the ‘central dogma of molecular biology’, which explains information flow as only linear and unidirectional, from DNA to RNA to the protein. Protein forms and nourishes and determines the geometry of every structure of our body, from head to toe, and most of it needs to be replenished with food, including the protein in food, to keep us alive. ]

If I were to write that food and water ‘drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease’, it would be an improvement, and more medically meaningful, because the annual deaths caused by diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, and obesity in 2020 are many times more than the 2 million global deaths (reported to WHO) caused by COVID-19.

The second sentence of Moderna’s ‘About Us’ is more problematic:  ‘We believe mRNA is the “software of life.”’

I most certainly do not believe, and I am very philosophically opposed to, the belief that mRNA is ‘the software of life.’ This worldview gets even worse when you couple it with the off-the-cuff words of Moderna’s president: ‘the entire kingdom of life is available for you to play with,’ once you ‘hack the rules of mRNA.’

Now, we have known for decades that we can simulate some of the extremely complex systems that make our bodies work by using software, including Artificial Intelligence (AI). This has had applications in medicine, toxicology, forensic science, drug testing in sport, and military defense (against nerve agents and other forms of chemical and biological threat). This use of software in systems biology is known as ‘bioinformatics.’ In fact, bioinformatics was my route into the life sciences. Although my background is in the physical sciences, not biology, I am a certified IBM developer in the computer sciences. The life sciences today is a very interdisciplinary field.

* * *

I do not object to anyone’s choosing to receive the mRNA vaccines. A few colleagues and friends have told me that I am an ‘idiot’ or a ‘Luddite’ or an ‘anti-vaxxer’ for declaring that I will not be taking the vaccine. They are entitled to their opinion. I would not call them idiots for choosing to be vaccinated with the new generation of biotech vaccines, and I wish them well. However, I have serious concerns about the many voices and lawmakers in governments calling for international take up of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines through a combination of coercion and law. Former PM Tony Blair wants the UK to use its influence in the G7 to push for ‘digital vaccine passports.’ Here in the UK, there is even talk of ‘domestic passports.’ On February 14, 2021, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP, refused to rule out domestic vaccine passports, even to enter  shops!

In the meantime, there seems to be in the UK an aggressive carrot-and-stick ‘public education’ campaign, using celebrities such as Elton John and Michael Caine. This campaign will of course make it easier for our democratically-elected lawmakers to pass laws that discriminate against those of us who have chosen to decline the vaccine, unless we start to speak up soon.

Policy-makers seem to be refusing to admit that this novel vaccine carries unknown risks, and downplaying the novelty. We only need to look at what Moderna and the FDA publicly tell us about the Moderna vaccine on their websites, compared to what our governments offer for the public’s education.

Moderna’s current guidance to healthcare providers and recipients regarding Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, in the US, informs us that clinical trials are ongoing. It is obvious, in any case, that there is not as yet any long-term data for this medicine.

  • “The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA, under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID 19) for use in individuals 18 years of age and older. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19”.
  • “The vaccine contains a nucleoside-modified messenger RNA encoding the viral spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 formulated in lipid particles. It is an investigational vaccine not licensed for any indication”.
  • “The EUA for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 EUA declaration justifying emergency use of the product, unless the declaration is terminated or the authorization is revoked sooner”.

As noted, I hope the vaccine deployment achieves its aims, and safely too. But we need wider discussions, including theological and philosophical discussions, on what synthetic mRNA molecules actually are, especially if this is to become the standard technology for future vaccination medicines. And I suggest that there must be greater respect for those of us who choose not to accept these medicines, at least until we know a lot more about them. Already we are told by the US Centers for Disease and Control: ‘future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection for multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases’.

And having allowed editing of mRNA, how far are we from genetic modification (GM), supposedly to ‘improve’ our human being?  Which leads me to my final ethical (and rhetorical) question: why are many secularists and scientists of the West so desperately keen on accessing their ‘software of life’?

Now, as noted, I do not accept Moderna’s claim that mRNA (with DNA) is ‘the software of life’. To claim this, and to work within such a paradigm, is to enter a whole field of philosophy and medical ethics that we all need to discuss, rather than be coerced into accepting it through denial of ‘vaccination passports.’

Suddenly, through the USA’s ‘Emergency Authorisation’ of mRNA vaccines (in the country of origin), we seem to be one step closer to the realm of transhumanism which amongst some of the billionaire visionaries of California’s Silicon Valley has become a quasi-religious movement. The transhumanist founder of Google, Larry Page, on setting up his life sciences company Calico, made it his mission “to solve death,” he famously said, or to at least go for massive life extension.

Life is not in fact software. Every single cell of all life is extremely complex, with its own veritable sub-microscopic ‘galaxy’ of information (largely unknown), some of which is analogous to software. If life were merely software, man could create life, but we cannot. We cannot create a single cell of life (claims to have done so are in fact synthetic DNA nurtured in existing life), just as, in fact, we cannot create a single atom of matter. To claim that life is software is scientific reductionism in the extreme, and is, I suggest, barking up the wrong tree of knowledge.

The faith that the People Israel gave the world informs us to keep the body holy, a temple, a dwelling place for God, as we are reminded in this week’s parsha.

Of all the nations of the world, the Holy Land, I suggest, must be very careful about joining the international voices, such as the UK Government, proposing stipulation of a new breed of vaccines and potential future biotechnology medicines that first need to be discussed by all of us, and in all aspects, including theological and philosophical.

I don’t believe there is a software of life. Life is the breath of God. It is the breath of God that animates the human soul. And the entire kingdom of life has only one King, God of Israel, in whom, and only in whom, I trust my eternal life.

About markpickles

Scientific Technical Writer, Artist: Blog: Blog mainly covers antisemitism, philosophical theology and the philosophy of science. In spare time fighting anti-Semitism/anti-Israelism, and writing book that synthesises monotheistic, philosophical and scientific worldviews. Twitter:
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5 Responses to Should we really be ‘playing with the entire kingdom of life’?

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