The completed thirteen year human genome project has ignited our imaginations. We now have a complete map of the human genetic code. Each of our 46 chromosomes is filled with the tens of thousands of genes that determine our physical appearance and health. Now we dream of altering our genetic material once we determine which genes produce weaknesses and defects. Not only do we hope to eliminate our physical problems we also dream of altering behaviors. Will we be able to isolate the genetic material that gives children with Down’s syndrome such a sweet gentle nature? Can we make Down’s syndrome a relic and also enable other children to have that gentle nature? Will we be able to eliminate alcoholism and other dependencies?
There are scientists who dream of injecting our cells with a 47th chromosome filled with all manner of physical and behavioral cures. Will we be able eliminate the “terrible twos?” Most likely we would not want to do that since that is an indication of maturity and the recognition of self.
Our future is filled with discussions of responsibility for misbehaviors and whether or not certain life style choices are really choices. If we think we have seen nature versus nurture arguments in the past, just wait, the most animated ones are yet to come. Moreover, where does repentance and character development enter the discussion. Will the Christianity of the 22nd century be very different from traditional appeals for divine help in being a better person? I doubt we will ever genetically alter away our selfishness. While we rejoice in human progress we will always need forgiveness.
Witten by Roger Bothwell on August 20, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453