Genetics and Suffering - Introduction
In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick cracked the genetic
code, and out tumbled As, Ts, Gs, and Cs in three-dimensional array. Over forty-five
years later, we are dealing with the questions raised by this new genetic
science and the unforeseen manipulative power it has placed in human hands. Not
only do we now understand the makeup of our biology, we are on the horizon of
being able to alter our biology as we see fit - whether for medical,
agricultural, or economic reasons.
We are not simply facing technological aspects of genetic
science, however. Our genetic code is indicted as the source of suffering for
millions of individuals inflicted by genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs, Cystic
Fibrosis, or even learning disabilities. Suffering from disease, indeed,
suffering of any sort, has always challenged the Judeo-Christian faiths, which
profess believe in a God who as all-good and all-powerful. If such a God truly
exists, many ask, then how can this suffering continue?
Genetic science, however, has added a twist to the age-old
question of suffering. Now the possibility exists that suffering, at least that
suffering inflicted by genes gone awry, can be remedied with human hands - by
changing the genetic makeup of an individual. Christians now have a two-fold
question raised by genetic technology:
If God is truly all-good and all-powerful, how can we explain the
presence of suffering from genetic disease? And, the new question, what course
of action should we take in light of the possibilities of genetic technology?
Does this technology promise to eradicate suffering? Could gene therapies be a
type of redemption? Science, suffering,
genetics, evil - how do these intertwine with one another and in our lives as
human beings? On October 17, 1998, one hundred people gathered in a small
auditorium to discuss these things in a conference entitled Science &
Suffering: Genetics and the Problem of Evil.
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| Contributed by: Heather Evans