DNA testing is used today in many different fields. Whether for scientific research, medical research or criminal investigations, its common use is causing much controversy, with today’s scientists believing that DNA tests can now reveal what human beings are made of and how they were created.
In The Beginning
In 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson discovered DNA’s double-helix structure, and in doing so provided a beginning to biotechnology. This discovery provided a foundation for understanding life on earth, and has even shed light on diseases like cancer and diabetes.
From Copernicus to Charles Darwin, scientific discoveries have had a habit of offending religious doctrine. Most scientists tread carefully and avoid directly attacking religion, but Dr Watson and Dr Crick are outspoken atheists.
Dr Crick, 86, expressed his views on the relationship between science and religion in his book ‘Of Molecules and Men’. Crick felt that with a new scientific world view being rapidly established, erroneous Christian concepts about the nature of humans and the world would not be valid; traditional beliefs about the “soul” would soon be replaced by a new scientific understanding of the physical basis of the mind. He felt that it was important that evolution by natural selection be taught in schools and once joked that “Christianity may be ok between consenting adults in private but should not be taught to young children”.
His distaste for religion seems to have been a major motivation for his research and eventual discovery. “I went into science because of religious reasons, there’s no doubt about that. I asked myself what (are) the two things that appear inexplicable and are used to support religious beliefs: the difference between living and non-living things, and the phenomenon of consciousness.“
Crick’s view of the relationship between science and religion continued to play a role in his work, as he later made the transition from molecular biology research into theoretical neuroscience.
Devout Christian and Scientist
The American effort to read the genetic recipe of a human being, the Human Genome Project, is led by a devout Christian, Francis Collins, who succeeded Dr Watson in that post in 1993. Dr Collins complained at a recent meeting of scientists in California that God was receiving a “cold reception” during celebrations of the 50th anniversary.
He is concerned that the anti-religious views of these “very distinguished figures” will increase public antipathy to genetics, given that American polls suggest that 70-80per cent of people “believe in a personal God“.
The antipathy to religion of the DNA pioneers is long-standing. In 1961 Crick resigned as a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, when it proposed to build a chapel. When Winston Churchill wrote to him, pointing out that “none need enter [the chapel] unless they wish“, Dr Crick replied that on those grounds, the college should build a brothel, and enclosed a cheque for 10 guineas“.
Science, Logic and Reason
Professor Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling book The God Delusion and the TV series “The Enemies of Reason”, believes in science, logic and reason, and dismisses as dangerous and unfounded, religion and spirituality. According to him, all that we need to understand the creation of the human race, can be found in a DNA test, and not, in any religious scripture. Dawkins goes on to explain that DNA tests reveal what human beings are made of. Science has shown that we are all made up of genes and molecules, and Dawkins even went on to promote the controversial study of cloning, famously saying that he would consider cloning his own daughter. Religion countered, saying that existence was something out of our hands, and not to be tampered with.
There will always be major debate regarding this topic and for some of the issues the answers will always remain pending. The complexity of the subject derives endless discussion. In the meantime, DNA testing is advancing at a rapid rate and will continue to push the boundaries of human knowledge as well as its applications.
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