I’m assuming you’ve heard of the Human Genome Project, the much ballyhooed endeavor to map every strand of human DNA. Much has been made of the potential that could be ours if we could master and manipulate the genetic code. Much of this, of course, is (or would be) great. It is also, however, a humanist’s dream. In the words of Fast Company magazine:
It is one of the biggest scientific endeavors in history, premised on the notion that the results can be used to prevent or fix many things, or possibly everything, that ails the human body – from allergies to cancer to aging itself. (emphasis added)
That’s heady stuff. In fact, it’s no leap to say that what is described here is nothing less than salvation by other means, the fountain of youth, eternal life achieved by our own ingenuity. Think of a world without sickness, without aging (without death?), with a quick fix to any malady.
Well the genome was finally mapped 6-7 years ago. Fast Company, again:
Yes, we’ve cracked the genome. Experts can identify every one of the 3 billion bases in every micrometer of DNA in any cell in your body. But so far, that has given the medical world no more ability to treat or predict most illness than knowing that Al Qaeda is camped out in Waziristan has allowed the U.S. government to clean up terrorism or predict where it will strike next. In fact, while thousands of links have been cataloged in journals and trumpeted in the media, with precious few exceptions virtually no promising new treatments or even highly useful diagnostics have emerged. And the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
What happened? Well it turns out that these things are pretty messy and downright complicated. These genetic connections “happen to be hideously convoluted.” You can read more about it all in the Fast Company article.
But I suggest that Christian theology/worldview might have something to say about this (it usually does). All of this seems to me to corroborate the doctrine of sin, specifically the idea that the world is completely screwed up because of the Fall, which is to say because of human sin. Allergies and cancer and Parkinson’s and aging and death are a part of life on a fallen planet because it has been marred by sin.
That’s clearly not an explanation that would satisfy most scientists, operating as they do from a naturalist / secular humanistic worldview and presuppositions. But maybe it might be enough to make a few of them think about it and ask bigger questions. I hope they do cure cancer, but they won’t ultimately cheat death. Only one man has done that, so it stands to reason that he’d be the only one to tell us how.