Before they can clone Charlie, scientists must first read and map the Human Genetic Code — and that is a long way off.
Consider that every complete molecule of human DNA contains a 3-billion-step code that describes the owner’s unique life print. It is a chainlike structure that contains the blueprint of life, a genetic code from which all 350 human cell types — hair, skin, eye, bone, brain, etc. — emerge. What mysteries awaiting discovery are now hidden within this elegantly wound double helix (two intertwined strands of base pairs) — discoveries which could cure diseases, extend life by finding and cutting out the “death gene,” or, God forbid, allow genetic engineers to breed a master race?
In the 80’s an international effort called the Human Genome Project was launched to map the entire human DNA code. The project is scheduled to continue well into the next century, and much has already been discovered, if the number of books coming out on the project are any indication. It is heralded as the greatest scientific undertaking ever attempted by man. Consider the enormous task: Our heredity is not written in words separated by spaces, but in a script we don’t understand and ordered in a “filing system” we have not yet discovered. The best comparison is to single letters. In your local library, for example, is a mammoth unabridged dictionary almost too big to lift, which contains in its 2000 plus pages of tiny print, about 76 million letters — the number of letter codes found in just one of our smallest chromosomes (some are over four times larger). We have 46 chromosomes. Every cell in our bodies has its own edition of the complete 3 billion letter code. Reading it, however, is much more complex than “simply” reading a linear text, because placements and relationships along the text line combine to form other unknown levels of coded information and instruction.
Ultimately the Genome Project may learn that genes aren’t the fundamental basis of human life. There is more. “Life is not a collection of things,” writes author Tom Wilde in his new book Perilous Knowledge: The Human Genome Project and Its Implications (Univ. of Calif.); “a life has more the character of a story which unfolds and in which all incidents are equally necessary to the story’s completeness.”
For years I have been carefully following, as a layman, the scientific pursuit to decode the human genome. It stirs my soul to think we can now see the very script of the Creator, his written instructions imbedded in man’s flesh to “reproduce after his own kind.” Elements of this unique “written” formula for each of us can now be seen. Will scientists succeed in decoding it all? Will they soon be able to “construct” the kind of designer human they or their investors want? On a special cassette tape I consider these questions, and even bigger questions — the business of God putting his “spiritual DNA” into his sons and daughters. If you would like a copy, ask for the tape “Is God Replicating Himself?” or for the late Dr. Charles Dorothy’s excellent parallel presentation, “Participation in the Divine?” or order them both.
Author Tom Wilde offers this speculation (I think he is right), “…in the face of all the technical details of the genetics, [we may find] that human life is greater than the DNA from which it sprang, that human beings retain a moral value which is irreducible and which transcends the sequence of 3 billion base pairs within the human genome.”
DNA “fingerprinting” might catch a brutal murderer, mapping human DNA will teach us much about how we are made, and experimentation with human cloning will surely take place. Cloning however, even if remotely successful, would not solve one of the problems that have bedeviled our race since history began. Mankind’s ills are of the spirit, not the flesh. The infinitely greater breakthrough awaiting the human race is not a novel way to to replicate ourselves, but is the ability to change our nature and character for the good. This is the heart of the Gospel message: the voluntary conversion of sinful human nature into the divine nature of God himself. It means taking on the “spiritual DNA of Yahweh who created us to be “in his image.” It is the Divine Genome Project that should be engaging our hearts and intellect!
— Kenneth Westby