Contemplations

What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

DNA, The Secret of Life

I read this book over the Thanksgiving holiday. It's kind of a history of genetics, a science I have found fascinating since 10th Grade Biology. The book traces genetics all the way up to the year 2000 announcement that the rough draft of the sequence of the human genome had been discovered. (Page xiii)

Genetics describes how our hereditary information is stored and how it is replicated. In the 1970's, when I was still in high school, man began manipulating (some say "tinkering") with the DNA of living organisms. This began to raise all kinds of red flags.

We're all appreciative of the strides genetic engineering has made to make our lives better. Take agriculture for example. Geneticists have utilized "artificial selection" to manipulate wheat, which for centuries grew to heights of over five feet, but which today only grows half that height and produces larger and more nutritious seed heads because the plants put less energy into growing stems. (Page 157)

But when these same genetic techiques are applied to humans we all become a little squeamish. Watson writes about the field of "Eugenics", for instance, which loosely can be defined as "the self-direction of human evolution." (Page 20) He gives several illustrations of how eugenics got out of hand: the proposed segregation and sterilization of certain groups of society; selective breeding of humans; euthanasia; etc.

Since I don't believe in the theory of evolution (I'm a creationist) I immediately see where the tinkering of the scientist in his laboratory demands scrutiny. I don't think man is good at trying to play God. I'm not saying that everyone takes genetic engineering as far as Hitler did with the search for a "pure" race, but I think the disrepute of eugenics is a good microcosm of why genetics has a dangerous side and why we should always be students of what is going on in the lab of the genetic engineer. That's why I wanted to read this book.

Some of the advancements in genetics are astounding and tremendously useful for man's benefit. The discovery of recombinant DNA "rivaled the importance of the discovery of fire itself." (Page 88) I agree. And that is precisely why we should care about the science of genetics. Fire is a great tool until it gets out of control.

Watson believes that the Genome Project proves Darwin right. (Page 215)

Creationists believe however, that it is not what the human genetic structure has in common with lower life forms that matters as much as the genetic information that distinquishes it. To say that I evolved from an ape because we have simlarities in our genetic stucture is like saying a Hummer evolved from the Suzuki Forenza I drive. They have a lot of similarities but the differences aren't insignificant! All forms of life were made by the same Creator. Perhaps that is why they have so much in common.

Watson makes other psuedo-scientific claims that have little or no basis in fact as well. He states that Neanderthal DNA proves evolution. (Pages 230-232)

All it proves is that all human descendants are the offspring of Noah's three sons and their wives.

I have about as much faith in DNA testing of fossil remains as I do in Carbon-14 dating - a tool now in disrepute that was once previously hailed as a sure-fire method of telling the age of fossil remains.

The problem with using genetics, or any other field of science, to prove one's presuppositions is, it is not the framework, but rather the interpretation thereof, that "proves" or "disproves" many of the hypotheses springing from DNA research.

Those of us who believe that God created man by a specific act need not be intimidated by false representations of pure science.

A couple other interesting notes I made from the book:

Page 45 - "Ernest Rutherford first described the structure of the atom." That is interesting to me because my mother's maiden name was Rutherford.

Page 130 - "The silk of a spider's web is, by weight, 5 times as strong as steel. The Pentagon is now researching protective suits of spider silk."

Now you see, that's the kind of thing that makes me exclaim, "Wow, God is a wonderful Creator," not, "Wow, evolution is so amazing!"

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