Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Human Genome Project

Human Genome Project - What is it?

The Human Genome Project, comprised of the U.S. Department of Energy and NIH Human Genome Programs, is the national coordinated effort to characterize all human genetic material by determining the complete sequence of DNA in the human genome. The Human Genome Project's ultimate goal is to discover and map all of the approximately 35,000 human genes and make them accessible for further biological study. To facilitate the future interpretation of human gene function, the Human Genome Project is also conducting parallel studies on the genetic makeup of other organisms.

Human Genome Project - The DNA Sequence Has Been Revealed
After years of multi-billion-dollar research, the Human Genome Project and Celera Genomics (a non-government biotechnology company) jointly announced drafts of the human genome sequence in 2000. By mid-2001, scientists associated with these ventures had presented the true nature and complexity of the digital code inherent in DNA. We now understand that there are approximately 35,000 genes in each human DNA molecule, comprised of approximately 3 billion chemical bases arranged in precise sequence. Even the DNA molecule for the single-celled bacterium, E. coli, contains enough information to fill all the books in any of the world's largest libraries. We now appreciate that the DNA structure is one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time, only first discovered at its base level in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick.

Human Genome Project - What it Means for the 21st Century

As a result of the work of the Human Genome Project and other genetic scientists, including the recent media-hyped cloning of Dolly the sheep, we now realize that the possibilities of genetic manipulation are profound. With this awesome technological discovery comes dramatic potential for significant abuse. As such, we need to keep a careful eye on "science" and continually remind the popular culture that technology is not the supreme authority. Regardless of a person's DNA, every human being is a unique and special individual created by God. Genetic engineering seems to accept that our DNA is the entirety of who we are. In contrast, the Bible teaches that every person has a soul, separate and distinct from our genetic material. When a person dies, the soul continues to exist. Therefore, contrary to general scientific principles, we are more than a combination of genetic code and 17 naturally occurring organic elements. The Director of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, is a Christian who highlights the positive aspects of genetic research, "We have caught the first glimpse of our instruction book, previously known only to God." While this is an exciting statement, we must never lose sight of the fact that no matter how "smart" we get as a society, we are not God and should not put ourselves in a position to play God. Since we live in a post-modern society influenced more by humanism, materialism and moral relativism than by Judeo-christian values, we must keep careful tabs on the potential uses and abuses of human genetic engineering.

Human Genome Project - A Monstrous Final Thought

The Human Genome Project is a phenomenal undertaking. Unfortunately, it reminds us that some of the worst events in human history have occurred when technological expertise was united with spiritual emptiness. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, explains it perfectly in the introduction to her famous book, "Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the World."

The Human Genome Project - What is its Purpose?

The Human Genome Project was a 13-year project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health. It completed its initial mission in 2003. The initial purpose or goals were to:

* identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA,
* determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA,
* store this information in databases,
* improve tools for data analysis,
* transfer related technologies to the private sector, and
* address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project.

Identifying the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA was an enormous achievement of the Human Genome Project which some say is akin to developing the periodic table of elements. However, deriving meaningful knowledge from DNA sequence will define biological research through the coming decades and require the expertise and creativity of teams of biologists, chemists, engineers, and computational scientists, among others. Many research challenges remain in genetics even with the full human sequence in hand. Some of the application areas where specific goals (additional purposes) have been defined are as follows:

* Molecular Medicine
* Energy and Environmental Applications
* Risk Assessment
* Bioarchaeology, Anthropology, Evolution, and Human Migration
* DNA Forensics (Identification)
* Agriculture, Livestock, Breeding, and Bioprocessing

A short list of the many challenges (the purpose is to overcome these challenges) include the following:

* Gene number, exact locations, and functions
* Gene Regulation
* DNA sequence organization
* Chromosomal structure and organization
* Noncoding DNA types, amount, distribution, information content, and functions.

The purposes of the Human Genome Project and the ongoing effort to understand the relationship between the code and life is more than just a set of objectives, goals and challenges to overcome. The purpose also includes the significance and appropriateness of what is being done to our world and how it relates to our worldview and its values. The project team realized this and included an ethical, legal and social issues topic as part of their objectives and they spent about 3%-5% of their budget in this area. However, that doesn't mean they considered limiting the work to accommodate a Christian Theistic worldview that is opposite to the dominant naturalistic, humanistic worldview in the scientific community. In fact, they assumed that the theory of evolution is true and that God doesn't exist by including the study of evolution into their objectives.

It would seem that the most appropriate, significant and profound purpose of the Human Genome Project would be to identify if the evidence points to special creation or (macro) evolution. Zero percent of their budget went toward inferring or concluding what the data implied regarding the biggest question in the universe! Their naturalism presupposition compels them to conclude that macro evolution is true and that God does not exist. This, in part, has happened because of a redefinition of science.

The 1934 edition of Webster's New School dictionary in defining the word "science," "acknowledged truths and laws, especially as demonstrated by induction, experiment or observation." However, by 1983 the basic definition was changed as follows in the Webster's Collegiate dictionary; "knowledge concerning the physical world and its phenomena." Scientists have lost this fundamental understanding of the original purpose of science since its definition has now been altered. This (new) definition removes the idea that science is the search for truth, but only exists to identify and emphasize natural phenomena.

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