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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.

 Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Heather Evans

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