What makes us human beings?
My 3rd grader could give the correct scientific answer—DNA.
It gives all of our cells instructions and makes each of us individuals. Based on my heritage, I have blue eyes, brown hair that started going gray in my twenties, skin that tans easily, and a second toe that is slightly longer than my big toe (My sister and I used to tell our friends it was a sign of royalty. I think they might have even believed us.). In a very real and physical sense, our DNA makes us who we are.
But is it all that we are?
In my novel, Created, a biology professor manipulates animal DNA to try to prove evolution true. He messes with the blueprint of an animal just to make a point. Many people would say it’s fine to manipulate DNA in animals—after all genetic experiments on mice are helping in the fight against cancer—but most people draw the line on manipulation of human DNA.
Why are we so special?
On a basic level, we’re made up of the same amino acid base pairs as animals. Our hair, skin, and toes are unique combinations of adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine (AGCT). And while our DNA is unique, it’s hardly perfect in a scientific sense. New research on cancer has found that while lifestyle and family history can be important, many cancers are simply random genetic mutations. Similar to a typo in a book that causes the meaning of a sentence to be lost, a typo in our DNA can cause our cells to lose the ability to stop replicating, then they grow out of control and turn into cancerous masses.
Some advocate fixing the typo, but is this the right thing to do? A lot of people would support changing the typo to stop cancer, but that’s a slippery slope, because then who decides what is a typo? If we change hair color, eye color, nose size or even prematurely gray hair, then we’ve slid down the slope into playing God.
At that point, we aren’t just correcting the typo in the instruction manual, we’re making value judgments, assuming our big bundle of instructions is all that we are. But what if changing a person’s DNA somehow changes the soul attached to that DNA?
Most people believe humans have souls—the intangible thing that makes us more than just DNA-directed cells. But few can agree on where and how our DNA mixes in with the spiritual component. Thousands of books have been written on the subject, and yet it remains a mystery.
I believe it’s a God-protected mystery. Perhaps He keeps it from us because we wouldn’t understand it. Or maybe He knows that if we had another way to connect to the spiritual realm (besides going through Him), we would manipulate it and get into trouble. Or could it be that our DNA determines our soul somehow?
Although the scientist in me would love for someone to figure out the spirit-body connection—to answer that million-dollar question: How do we get our soul?—I’m not sure the human race could handle the knowledge responsibly.
What do you think? Can we ever hope to know our spiritual side through scientific means? Is it wrong to change our DNA like we change computer codes? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Photo Credits: DNA photo from www.dreamstime.com; Mind Body Soul photo from www.depositphotos.com.