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 fitwhether 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
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 handsby 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, evilhow 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.