Human Genome

July 6, 2000

The joint announcement that scientists had completed a rough sequencing of the human genome was heralded as one of the great scientific breakthroughs. I would put it on the level of the discovery of the structure of the atom or the discovery of the structure of DNA itself.

Yet even though we have a roadmap, we still do not have street signs. We have been able to transcribe human DNA in computer-searchable form, but we still have a book full of letters and don't really know what most of them mean. That task still awaits scientists.

Nevertheless, this is a remarkable feat. It is no small task to map the 3 billion chemical codes that make up tens of thousands of genes on the 46 human chromosomes. Now we can begin to ask where we go from here.

Here is the great challenge in the 21st century. Mapping genes on chromosomes will allow us to identify genetic defects which we will eventually be able to treat and cure. But in this intermediate stage, all we can do is identify the defects, not fix them. I believe this new knowledge will lead to more abortions as couples confront a genetic disorder and decide to abort and child and try again.

Another concern is whether this new genetic information will be utilized to breed a superior human race. One scientist recently stated that he believed that rich parents would want to "enhance" their children's looks, intelligence, or strength by genetic manipulation. As the cost of technology dropped, others would want to follow suit. Huxley's Brave New World or the movie "Gattaca" warn of what a genetically engineered society might look like.

The announcement last week was significant, and the genetic information we have in our hands is powerful. Now we as a society must ask what we will do with that information.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.