CBS’s news reporter, Mike Wallace, has conceived an interesting idea in his new book, The Way We Will Be 50 Years from Now (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2008). Predicting the future is always a dangerous business, but assembling 60 of what are called "the world’s greatest minds" to share their vision of the future is worth the time to at least scan over some of the comments and ideas.
Though the publisher, Thomas Nelson, is historically a religious publishing house, this is not a particularly religious title at all, unless secularism counts as religion. It includes contributions from activists, scientists, business leaders and political figures. The range of contributors is intriguing, to say the least, but there is not one deeply and self-consciously religious response in the entire book, with perhaps one lone exception.
Dr. Francis Collins, the geneticist who led the human genome project, writes chapter two: "A Revolution in Medicine." As you would expect he writes about the promise of changes that are rooted in the discovery and development of DNA research. The whole field of genome research is moving so quickly that Collins only makes a few guesses about where we might be in 50 years. He writes: "I am quite confident that in fifty years each of us will have a copy of our own complete DNA sequence, incorporated into a highly accurate electronic medical record and accessible from anywhere in the world. Perhaps this will even be encoded on a chip that’s been inserted under the skin of the forearm, along with a large amount of other medically important information" (5).
Collins ends his essay with the only reference to religion that I could find by skimming through the entire 60 entries. He writes: "Will all this high technology result in a change of our views about humanity? Will we see ourselves as molecular machines rather than creatures capable of noble actions and concerns for our fellow human beings? I am not too worried about that. Yes, science will provide us with many opportunities. But people will still be searching for answers to the meaning of life, and most of us will continue to find comfort and joy by discovering God’s love and grace" (6).
As most of you know Collins is a Christian believer. He is not an ardent conservative Christian, in the way most people think of that term, but he is clearly a follower of Christ who has made his own faith clear in other places. His conclusion is thus hopeful.
Having noted Collins’ comment, there is frankly enough here to drive one into a deep depression about the future. I will write more on this tomorrow.