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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

No Thyself

It's ten years since the announcement of the mapping of the human genome, and, as humans are wont to do, many are taking the occasion to celebrate and reflect. At The Economist, their response is guarded, but giddy, and in the larger scheme of things, goofy (June 19th 2010).

At last, The Economist firmly declares, human beings are able to confront "the threat and promise of self-knowledge." "Self-knowledge," the lead editorial explains, "is often the hardest to learn and the least welcome, but the brutal truth is the best. Humanity had better hope so, anyway, for the truth will soon out for the entire species."

Especially promising at the moment is the ability to compare the human genome with that of Neanderthal Man, "a true human." These comparisons, The Economist insists, "will do what philosophers have dreamed of, but none has yet accomplished: show just what it is that makes Homo sapiens unique."

Well, no. Unless, of course, you insist on living an "under the sun" worldview where the only thing that matters is, so to speak, matter. Nothing counts but what you can count. Man is only the sum total of all his material parts, including - and especially - the chemicals that make-up his DNA. Once we are able to read and understand all those mapped strands of DNA, we'll really know what kind of being we are, what it means to be human.

But the end of all such materialistic science, no matter how valuable it may otherwise be, can never be complete human self-knowledge. Scientists cannot entertain the idea that human beings are more than merely material creatures, that we have an immaterial aspect - the soul - which relates to God and which is the formative influence in making us what we are. Christians cannot forfeit this idea, no matter how compellingly or scornfully scientists argue against it.

The human genome approach to the ancient challenge to "know thyself" will only leave us with "no thyself" at the end of the search. For God has made human beings a little lower than the angels, in His own image - spiritual beings, first and foremost. And we who understand this had better hold firmly to it, lest they who reject this view decide that our kind represents a genetic wrong turn.

T. M. Moore
T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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