Is DNA the Essence of Life?
we treat nature in general, or DNA specifically, as sacred and
therefore morally immune from technological intervention? Ronald
Cole-Turner criticizes Sinsheimer and Rifkin for making an unwarranted
philosophical and theological leap from the association of DNA
with life to the metaphysical proscription against technical manipulation.
DNA the essence of life? Is it any more arrogant or sacrilegious
to cut DNA than to cut living tissue, as in surgery? It is hard
to imagine a scientific or philosophical argument that would successfully
support the metaphysical or moral uniqueness of DNA. Even DNAs
capacity to replicate does not elevate this molecule to a higher
metaphysical or moral level. Replication and sexual reproduction
are important capacities, crucial in biology. But they are hardly
the stuff of sanctity.
raise DNA to a status of functional sacrality, says Cole-Turner,
is arbitrary. Theologians in particular should avoid this pitfall.
To think of genetic material as the exclusive realm of divine
grace and creativity is to reduce God to the level of restriction
enzymes, viruses, and sexual reproduction. Treating DNA as mattercomplicated,
awe-inspiring, and elaborately coded, but matter nonethelessis
not in itself sacrilegious.
can argue to this position on the basis of creatio ex nihilo,
creation out of nothing. All that exists has been called from
nothing by the voice of God and brought into existence, and at
any moment could in principle return to the nonexistence from
which it came. Life, as everything else in existence, is finite,
temporal, and mortal. The natural world depends upon a divine
creator who transcends it. Nature is not its own author. Nor can
it claim ultimacy, sanctity, or any other status rivaling God.
This leads biologist Hessel Bouma III and his colleagues at the
Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship to a pithy proposition:
God is the creator. Therefore, nothing that God made is
god, and all that God made is good. This implies, among
other things, that we should be careful when accusing physicians
and scientists of playing God. We must avoid idolatrous
expectations of technology, to be sure; but to presume that
human technological intervention violates Gods rule is to
worship Mother Nature, not the creator. Natural processes are
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| Contributed by: Dr. Ted Peters