The Genome's Out of the Bottle:
Cracking the Human Code & Other Genetics Issues

 - Celera Genomics, Inc. is making news these days. Using a computerized sequencing method, they claim to have nearly completed deciphering the millions of combinations (base pairs) of human DNA. Meanwhile, a publicly funded international consortium called The Human Genome Project is taking a more methodical and public approach, daily posting findings on the Internet. As if the "brave new world" opened up by genetic engineering weren't complicated enough already, the actual patenting of human genetic information is now being considered. Should the blueprint of human life be patented and sold like a commodity? British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bill Clinton recently declared, "Raw fundamental data on the human genome, including the human DNA sequence and its variations, should be made freely available to scientists everywhere."

At a deeper level, questions like these remain: How can parents handle information about genetic predisposition of their unborn child to a disorder or disease ? What rights and responsibilities do employers or insurers have with such information? What are the pros and cons of knowing our own genetic proclivities? Should genetic engineering be used for curing diseases? If genetic engineering is inevitable, who will regulate such research and practice? Should the lives of human embryos be destroyed to save or enhance another human life? Who is responsible for a technologically created life--the technologist, the egg donor, the DNA donor? Are we playing God and hurtling unrecoverably down an abusive track by tinkering with these basic building blocks of life? Etc., etc.

Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, writes that once researchers have spelled out the three billion letters of the human DNA code, important new questions will confront us all. We discuss some of the many issues surrounding the exploding bio-tech industry in our special focus.

Sound off with your opinion

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Feature Articles:

For the Patient's Good or the Company's Profit?
C. Ben Mitchell, Senior Fellow at The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity
"For the patient's good" has been a governing axiom of moral medicine for centuries. Many contemporary business arrangements in medicine threaten this axiom and, thereby, threaten patient well-being.

Cracking the Code
Les Sillars
Mapping the human DNA sequence is a dream come true for many scientists, but the possible consequences are giving bioethicists nightmares. Meanwhile, some observers think Darwinian assumptions cause researchers to place too much emphasis on genes.

Human Genetic Engineering
Ray Bohlin, Ph.D.
Genetic technology harbors the potential to change the human species forever. The soon to be completed Human Genome Project will empower genetic scientists with a human biological instruction book. Knowing this complete code will open new horizons for treating and perhaps curing diseases that have remained mysteries for millennia. But along with the commendable and compassionate use of genetic technology comes the specter of both shadowy purposes and malevolent aims. The author deals with specific ethical questions regarding medical applications of genetic engineering.

Genetic Testing for Diseases: A Judeo-Christian Perspective
Michael Atchison
A variety of technological advances over the past 3-4 decades make it possible to acquire a great deal of genetic information on any given individual. This paper looks at some of the ethical issues that arise from this technology and will examine how different worldviews shape our approach to those issues.

Genetic Engineering
Ray Bohlin, Ph.D.
Our culture teeters on the edge of a steep and dangerous precipice. New technologies will soon allow us to change, radically and permanently, the world in which we live. Indeed, we will hold in our hands the capability of directly and purposefully changing who we are as human beings. The technology I am speaking of is genetic engineering. Ethical and technical questions swirl around discussions of genetic engineering like the wall clouds of the eye of a hurricane.... I hope to lend a reassuring voice with a dose of sober realism.

Untangling a Ball
Les Sillars
A six-paragraph primer on the human genome and the job of those cataloging its code.

A Perfect Identifier
Bob Jones
DNA testing helps British police fight crime, but will liberty be another casualty? This article from World Magazine explores the implications.

Related Articles on Human Cloning:

Biotech Cannibalism
C. Ben Mitchell
Government-approved human cloning may begin any day now. Already we've seen the cloning of sheep, monkeys, cows, and pigs--a veritable barnyard of clones. Ole McDonald, the mythical farmer, is next.

To Clone Or Not To Clone
Hugh Ross
Is cloning inherently evil or merely a tool? Are there circumstances in which cloning a human might be good?

Begetting and Cloning
Gilbert Meilaender
The author, a Protestant theologian, considers the question of human cloning. He seeks to understand and explain the issue in a distinctly Christian context. This task involves looking back to the biblical account of God's plan for family life.

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