Francis Collins, who heads the human genome project, is a devout Christian. He actually believes in original sin. He also believes there is evidence for original sin at the most basic genetic level. "There are no perfect human specimens at the DNA level," says Collins. "We are all walking around with a significant number of misspellings [in our DNA]." Most of us have as many as 40 or 50 glitches in our DNA, most of which never cause us serious problems. But some of these glitches are the real causes of ailments like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Collins believes that the genome project may be "a bright light we can shine into the darkness of our ignorance about almost every disease." Most of these diseases, Collins believes, will eventually be addresssed by pharmogenetics, drugs designed to address specific genes or DNA misspellings.

These potential solutions may be nearer than we think but they will be costly. They also have huge downsides since someone must decide who gets them, at least initially, and who does not. This all underscores the incredible potential of such medical advance as well as some grave dangers since those touched by original sin are both doing the research and making the decisions. It seems to me that we must, as always, steer a steady course between hype and hope. And we need to be particularly wary of human cloning according to Collins. He asks, "At what point does that entity [created via cloning] become sacred?" That question is one Christian ethicists, and ordinary folks as well, must become much more knowledable about if we are to reap the true benefits of this science and avoid the very real dangers of the "brave new world."

And don’t forget one basic fact in all this genetic advance. "It is [still] apppointed unto man to die once." Nothing we can create will stop the end result. We can improve life, lengthen it for some, and better the human situation overall but we will never defeat death this side of the final manifestation of the kingdom of Christ. He alone defeated death and those who are in him are those who have real hope beyond the grave.

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