A Brave New Future Awaits! Are You Ready?
Advances in biotechnology promise us the ability to not only heal the sick but to enhance the human body and even create new life forms. Rapid advances in molecular genetics led to the creation of the Human Genome Project, an international mega-project, completed in 2003, that sequenced and identified all three billion chemical units in the human genetic instruction set. Eventually your personal genome will be available to you on a disc or chip. Sound impossible? It isn’t. In fact it has been done more than a handful of times already. It will list all your approximately 25,000 genes. It will be your “owner’s manual” which you will be able to take to your doctor. This opens up a new field called bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data.
Gene mapping will result in some wonderful cures. Individual genetic diseases, specific cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, even aging will be affected. We will also likely be able to enhance our genes to enable us to excel in sports or change our appearance, or beautify our children so they can have a better chance to succeed in life.
One troubling development in all this is the potentiality of bringing back extinct species of biological life. Our DNA differs from that of chimpanzees by only 1.5% It will soon be possible to reconstruct the genome of the “missing link,” and potentially we could even bring back the Neanderthal. But this raises many ethical questions, the least of which is, what do we do with them? The biggest question I have is, why?
If one subscribes to a belief in evolution, be it Darwin’s model, old-earth creationism or a form of theistic evolution, it doesn’t sit well to try and bring back a humanoid life-form that is no longer represented. In my reading I have yet to come across any reason to do so apart from “because we can.” It seems quite irresponsible of us to want to bring back a living and breeding prehistoric life-form. Would we keep them in a zoo? Train them as slaves? Keep them as pets? Study them in a laboratory?
We have arrived at an unparalleled point in human existence, where nothing seems to be the limit, especially not the sky. One part magnificent and one part horrifying, we can do things now and in the near future that could be used for great good or great evil. Do we know what we’re doing? What Pandora’s Box are we opening? We’d best think twice–or more–before we rush into the new realms opening before us. We seem dreadfully close to manipulating the building blocks of creation itself.
I am amazed when I ponder the capacity of human beings for expressive communication, be it through emotion, spirit, passion, intensity, or style. These things distinguish us from all other biological life. All forms of artistry, the wide range of mankind’s creativity, is truly spectacular. And beautiful. Those who have skills in construction and design build magnificent edifices out of raw materials. Feats of engineering boggle the mind. And advances in science and technology constantly amaze us. Mankind’s ability to collaborate and collectively solve problems gives me hope for the future. Yet we still have not solved the problem of evil inherent in the human species. We are crippled by it, yet have the opportunity to embrace the redemption and forgiveness offered freely through God’s Son, who offers us a way out of our predicament through a changed life, a life with hope and meaning, peace and a reason to live.
We stand on the precipice of our own brave new world as we charge through the twenty-first century. We have a responsibility to handle new discoveries with intelligence, responsibility and restraint. And my hope is, that when mankind as a whole gets “too big for his britches,” that God will intervene.
Does any of this trouble you? Or are you excited about what the future holds? Chime in and share your thoughts.