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April 17, 1998     The Message
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April 17, 1998

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 11 YFATHER ROBERT L. KINAST Catholic News Service elny newsletters each month and institu- the most intriguing one the Humility Theology t first arrived }ago, Unsolicited, I thought a I soon dis- COmes from the John promotes fists and the- science figure into faith? scientific progress is a sign and cause of hope, foreshadowing in some way the age to come (No. 39). Genetic research serves as an excellent example of scientific hope. Initial success with cell therapy in treating immune deficiencies in children raises new pos- sibilities for preventing or correcting genetic defects that cause disease. When scientific breakthroughs, espe- cially in medicine, contribute to the improvement of human life, they give me a glimpse into the coming kingdom of what can go wrong. The great promise and initial success of genetic research is shadowed by grave concerns that some people may misuse this technology and try to control or elim- inate those they consider undesirable. Because genetic research is so new and costly, there are moral concerns about allocating scarce resources for this work and determining who will benefit from advances that are made. Similarly, it is too soon to tell what side effects or consequences I tions that temper my enthusiasm for sci- entific progress, but they do not alter my fundamental attitude toward science. As Vatican II phrased it, "Christians are convinced that the achievements of the human race are a sign of God's greatness and the fulfillment of his mysterious design (No. 34). Father Kinast is tile director of the Center for Theological Reflection, Indian Rocks Beach, Fla. conviction ns deal with more the vast, complex )le with the even mysterious nature of tists and theolo- in conflict with each harmony. Vat- :tried to change this pat- he rightful autonomy and the validity of ("Pastoral Con- Church in the Modern insisted that belief in God to understand  World. As a theologian can II, I share I welcome the even if I do not them or see immedi- faith and spir- I I believe thai true scien- !Cannot conflict with faith of the world and the from the same God zs a good exam- they reveal to me the the Creator's an elaborate scientific summed up fGenesis that God divine image. "" With Vatican II  that God where pain and suffering finally will be eliminated. Of course, scientific progress is not to be simply equated with God's kingdom but, as Vatican II affirmed (No. 39), it is of vital concern to the kingdom. But my openness to scientific break- throughs is balanced by an awareness of certain techniques may have, es/ecially on future generations whose mem- bers have no say in what is being done now to the genetic codes they will inherit. These are serious ques- "Like Vatican II, I believe that true scientific knowledgecannot conflict with faith because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God," says theologian Father Robert L. Kinast. "Genetic research is a good example." CNS graphic illustration byAnthony DeFeo i .i Continued fram page 10 Our obligation of stewardship would seem to involve not only conservation of life but also shepherding it toward the unfolding of its full potential. Although great care is essential when dealing with our DNA, we need not rule out the prudent, compassionate application of genetic science to the alle- viation of suffering. However, to use the same knowledge for the purposes of gene enhancement or to create "the perfect child" would, for e ..._r.....r.aCe Ma katnl ......... ........................... : .............. CUsslon Point: or welcome new breakthroughs in science? Why? many complex reasons, be considered irresponsible by most Christian ethicists. Beyond these ethical issues, however, it seems to me that there is an even more serious reason for concern about our new genetic expertise. Our mastery of DNA sequences easily can be taken as conclusive evidence of modern science's "demystification" of life. Have the disciplines involved in genet- ic research stripped living beings down to their molecular particulars, denuding them of the mystery that traditionally evoked astonishment and reverence? Such an interpretation, though common among academic scientists and philoso- phers, is completely unwarranted. To argue that our discovery of DNA's chemistry expels the sacredness from life is like saying that our knowledge of the physics of harmony removes the beauty or value from music. The unique melodies that DNA assumes in the various forms'of life tran- scend the chemistry of the genetic code. These patterns are no more reducible to physical laws than the content of this page is reducible to letters of the alpha- bet or to the chemistry of ink and paper. Reverence for life can, at least in prin- ciple, outlive any advances in genetic science. Professor Haught is chairman of the The- ology Department at Georgetoum Universi- ty and a noted author. G! i i/iii  i:'  ii i From Readers: medical, I'm always positive and hopeful for.., cures that plague humanity. In other areas of science, for exam- [ and reticent, asking... 'Why do we need this?,... I think advances in science often benefit mankind." Diana Jackson, Weirtun, W.Va. nothing to fear from science, but the people may have some- Scientists who lack morals. Examples range from the human death camps to scientists not taking seriously the dignity Curtis Martin, Steubenville, Ohio .r 'welcome'... I would rather say 'respect' new break- not only because they give us hope.., and call us to the potential, but also because they challenge us as that they serve the human good and do not detract from or Jim Tucker, Helena, Mont.  VOice: ks: How does your family pray at mealtimes? respond for possible publication, please write: Faith Alive! hington, D.C. 200l 7-1 ](X). One way scientists are attempting to grasp what makes human beings tick is through the study of our genes. In November 1996, the head of the human genome project, Dr. Francis Collins, addressed a group of U.S. Catholic bishops. Recalling jesus" ministry to the sick, Collins said: "The reason I am excited about genetics.., is that someday we may get to the bottom of the mystery and be able not only to make predictions about disease, but also to cure the problem." Predic.tions based on genes, then, may make it possible to cure diseases. But is that to say that our genes make everything about us predictable? Collins cautioned that some in society are starting to believe people become happy or remain faithful in marriage only if they have a gene for happiness or fidelity; he called it "ridiculous" to think a gene explains why spiritual mat - ters interest some more than others. In an age of genetics, the human person remains a mystery, not a pro- grammed, predictable machine. We are driven by some elusive combination of htunan spirit and Holy ir- it, genes and inspiration; we are invited to grow beyond what anyone might predict is possible for us. David Gibson Edilor, Faith Alive! ...... ........ :