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21st Century Research Genetics - John Medina

Watson and Crick asked science to tell them the structure of DNA; contemporary geneticists ask science to discern how life begins, from the fusion of parental genetic material to selective activation of genes in a developing embryo. This “idea of turning genes on and off and seeing in some cases profound effects of activation on cellular careers,” says Dr. John Medina in his presentation ‘Womb with a View: The Research Genetics of the 21st Century,’ “is providing great insight into our understanding of this marvelous embryonic construction project. And the more we understand what is occurring, we will be knocking on the door of deeper and more profound questions about the substance of life. Even issues like identity begin to change.”

“[U]nbelieveable vistas are coming,” Medina says. “It is an amazing thing, and it is not terrifying - it is awe-inspiring.” There are, however, “many things that bring concern to me a scientist,” he says. “It can start innocently enough - there’s nothing wrong with A’s and G’s and T’s and C’s, nor is there anything wrong with trying to keep a little girl who has cystic fibrosis alive from choking in her own fluid. The problem is simply that our curiosity comes with some unintended consequences having to do with both the nature of the inquiry as well as the nature of the inquirer. In the end, we have asked science to answer a question for us” - what are the beginnings of life, how does this cell work, and how do you make certain things occur? And the answer we have received, Medina says, “has not only changed the nature of the interrogation, it has had a powerful transforming effect on the people asking the question.”

“From genetic testing to stretching our definitions, it is the whole purpose of this conference to bring dialogue to these issues,” Medina says. “And for us who both perceive and profess moral absolutes, to see where the conflict lies, it is the twenty-first century’s most interesting contribution to the age-old quandary of pain and suffering.”

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