Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sept 10 Ridley Ch 1, 2, 3 (Life, Species, History)

This reading selection included a vast amount of information about the rise of genetics through the scientific undertakings of its early fathers as well as some of the glaring genetic similarities between humans and other species in the context of ecological evolution understood in a new light so that bacteria are higher evolved. I wish to ignore all of this though and address Ridley’s choice of repetitively drawing upon ‘the word.’ “In the beginning was the word,” says Ridley, and in the cultural context of a Roman Catholic reading this, I understood him to be quoting the first passage in the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Bible. The next piece that should have followed was “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Ridley took a different route. By page 17, he claimed, “RNA was the word.” While I understand he is trying to make the point that RNA preceded DNA and proteins and is, in his mind, the origin of life, I was so thrown by his unexpected twist to this beautiful, sacrosanct description of my belief that I grew angry with Ridley. I do not require that he share my belief in God; I do require that he respect my belief and, in so doing, not mock what I happen to deem one of the most beautiful expressions of the character of God.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sept 8 Kitcher Ch 2 (Our Mortal Coils)

This particular reading is loaded with technical information about genetics and DNA, taking me back to high school biology lessons. While some passages are more complex than others, I can generally remember learning most of the information already; granted – this version is ‘dumbed down’ for an everyday reader. The point is, since 1953 with Watson and Crick’s revelation about the double-helix structure of DNA, scientific advancements have made genetics increasingly available to everyday people and significantly increased the amount of information available concerning the microbiology concepts of what makes us tick. With this increase in information comes an invitation to us to use it as we see fit. Does that mean we should genetically modify and clone hardy plant species in attempts to fight world hunger? Does that mean we should start making decisions about which fetuses are allowed to grow to maturity and which should be destroyed? In the eloquent words of Kitcher, “Will the hundreds of tests developed by probing particular regions of DNA prove liberating—or painful?” (Kitcher, p63) He did not mean ‘painful’ in the sense that the tests would physically cause pain as much as he meant that because of the array of tests available and the decisions we will face, we may experience emotional pain and internal struggles over ethical dilemmas.