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From Genes to God:

Human Search for Immortality and the Significance of the Divine


Kuruvilla Pandikattu SJ

On March 1, 2000 American President Bill Clinton spoke of an announcement “that will be one
of the great honours of my life.” He elaborated. “We will announce that the human genome has
been fully sequenced and we can now set about the business of analysing the very blueprint of
life.”1 There was a similar controversial front page announcement in the newspapers recently
when an American firm has been awarded two British patents which seem to grant the company
commercial rights to human embryos created by cloning.2 In this article we briefly sketch the
scientific importance of genetic research specially on human beings and its profound theological
and religious significance. We limit our theological concerns to two areas: immortality for the
privileged few at the cost of mortality for the rest and the quest for human immortality.

The Genesis of Genes


Inside the nucleus of nearly every cell3 in the human body, a complex set of genetic instructions,
known as the human genome, is contained on 23 pairs of chromosomes. Chromosomes are
mostly made of long chains of a chemical called DNA–deoxyribonucleic acid. Each of the 46
human chromosomes contains the DNA for thousands of individual genes, the units of heredity.4

The Human Genome Project is an ambitious effort, launched in 1990, to understand the
hereditary instructions that make each of us unique. The goal of this effort is to find the location
of the 100,000 or so human genes and to read the entire genetic script, all 3 billion bits of
information. Though originally it was expected to be over by the year 2005 today’s prediction is
that it will be over in about a few months time.

Even before it is complete, the Human Genome Project has transformed both biology and
medicine. Our genes orchestrate the development of a single-celled egg into a fully formed
adult. Genes influence not only what we look like but what diseases we may eventually get.
Understanding the complete set of genes, known as the human genome, will shed light on the
mysteries of how a baby develops. It also promises to usher in an era of molecular medicine,
with precise new approaches to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. In short, the
international Human Genome Project, which involves hundreds of scientists world-wide, is an
investigation into our own life.

1
Indian Express, March 2, 2000, Pune, p. 7.
2
Indian Express, January 30, 2000, Pune, p. 1.
3
Each of the 100 trillion cells in the human body (except blood cells contains the entire human
genome–all the genetic information necessary to build a human being. This information is
encoded in 6 billion base pairs, subunits of DNA. (Egg and sperm cells each have half this
ammount of DNA.) Further, inside the cell nucleus, 6 feet of DNA are packaged into 23 pairs of
chromosomes (one chromosome in each pair coming from each parent).
4
The enormous number of websites dedicated to genome project is an indication of the popularity and importance
of this project. For details see http://www. nhgri.nih.gov/Policy_and_public_affairs/Communications/
Publications/Maps_to_medicine/how.html.
1
In the genes, hereditary instructions are written in a four-letter code, with each letter
corresponding to one of the chemical constituents of DNA: A, G, C, T. It is normally
represented as a spiral with these four letters. 5

Genes: The Story of Life


Our genes are made of DNA, a long, threadlike molecule coiled inside our cells. Within the cell
nucleus, the DNA is packaged into 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome, in turn, carries
thousands of genes arrayed like beads on a string. Genes, which are simply short segments of
DNA, are packets of instructions that tell cells how to behave. They do so by specifying the
instructions for making particular proteins.6 The hereditary instructions are written in a four-
letter code, with each letter corresponding to one of the chemical constituents of DNA: A, G, C,
T. Genes are, in essence, the "paragraphs" in this DNA language, with a certain sequence of As,
Gs, Cs, and Ts constituting a recipe for a specific protein. If the DNA language becomes garbled
or a word is misspelled, the cell may make the wrong protein, or too much or too little of the
right one– mistakes that often result in disease. In some cases, such as sickle cell anaemia, just a
single misplaced letter is sufficient to cause the disease.

Once the molecular basis of a disease is revealed, scientists have a far better chance of defeating
it. These scientists are developing strategies for gene therapy. Errors in our genes are responsible
for an estimated 3000 to 4000 clearly hereditary diseases, including Huntington's disease, cystic
fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and many others. More importantly,
altered genes are now known to play a part in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other
common diseases. In these more common and complex disorders, genetic alterations increase a
person's risk of developing that disorder. The disease itself results from the interaction of such
genetic predispositions and environmental factors, including diet and lifestyle.

The Human Genome Project develops tools to identify the genes involved in both rare and
common diseases over the next 15 or 20 years. Such discoveries, in turn, are likely to bring
improvements in the early detection and treatment of disease and new approaches to prevention.
Once the molecular basis of a disease is revealed, scientists have a far better chance of defeating
it. One approach is to design highly targeted drugs that act on the cause, not merely the
symptoms, of disease. Another is to correct or replace the altered gene through gene therapy.
Even before that, however, gene discovery can lead to predictive tests that can tell a person's
likelihood of getting a disease long before symptoms appear. In some cases, preventive actions
can then be undertaken that may avert the disease entirely or else detect it at its earliest stages,
when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Once physical maps of the genes are complete, investigators can localise a gene to a particular
region of a chromosome and then simply go to the freezer where DNA for the physical map is
stored and pick out the piece that contains the gene.
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Each gene is a segment of double-stranded DNA that holds the recipe for making a specific
molecule, usually a protein. These recipes are spelled out in varying sequences of the four
chemical bases in DNA: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). The bases
form interlocking pairs that can fit together in only one way: A pairs with T; G pairs with C.
6
Proteins, which are made up of amino acids, are the body's workhorses–essential components
of all organs and chemical activities. Their function depends on their shapes, which are
determined by the 50,000 to 100,000 genes in the cell nucleus.
2
But, unfortunately, finding disease genes can be harder than looking for the proverbial needle in
a haystack. This is especially true when the disease is poorly understood at the start of the gene
search, as was the case for cystic fibrosis. The problem lies in the vast size of the human
genome, which consists of 3 billion chemical bases. If printed out, the entire human genome
would fill 1000 one-thousand page telephone books. Somewhere in that mass of letters lurks the
suspect gene–but where? Without clues to guide them, scientists have had to scour all the
chromosomes, a practice that until recently could take up to 10 years. Not surprisingly, only
about two dozen disease genes have been found this way.7

The Human Genome Project is designed to speed this process once and for all by providing new
tools and techniques that will enable scientists to find genes quickly and efficiently. The first of
these tools are maps of each chromosome. One type of map, called a genetic map, consists of
thousands of landmarks - short, distinctive pieces of DNA - more or less evenly spaced along the
chromosomes. Now very detailed, this map should enable researchers to pinpoint the location of
a gene between any two markers. Another important step is to create what are called physical
maps of each chromosome, a process that is also well under way. Physical maps consist of
overlapping pieces of DNA spanning an entire chromosome. Once these maps are complete,
investigators can localise a gene to a particular region of a chromosome by using a genetic map
and then can simply go to the freezer, where the DNA for the physical map is stored, and pick
out that piece to study rather than searching through the chromosomes all over again.

The ultimate goal of the Genome Project is to decode, letter by letter, the exact sequence of all 3
billion nucleotide bases that make up the human genome. It will be a daunting task. Before
plunging into massive sequencing, researchers from numerous fields–biology, physics,
engineering, and computer science, to name a few–are developing automated technologies to
reduce the time and cost of sequencing. Once the human genome sequence is completed,
attention can shift from the job of finding genes, which will then simply be a matter of scanning
a computer database, to understanding them.

The Genome Project: Future Prospects


In its first five years alone, the Human Genome Project has already had a profound effect.
Thanks to tools emerging from the project, the pace of gene discovery has nearly quadrupled.
The gene involved in cystic fibrosis was identified in 1989; already, a diagnostic test is available
to identify gene carriers among high-risk families, and the first human gene therapy efforts are
under way in federally approved clinical trials. In early 1994, scientists discovered two genes
involved in a hereditary form of colon cancer. An estimated 1 million Americans carry
misspelled copies of these genes, which give them a 70% to 80% likelihood of developing colon
cancer. Now that the genes are in hand, a simple blood test to detect those high-risk individuals
is not far off. This test will open the door to preventive strategies that promise to greatly reduce
deaths from this disease.

The new found ability to probe our genes, however, can be a double- edged sword. For some
diseases, for instance, our ability to detect the non-functional gene has outpaced our ability to do
7
New technologies, such as fluorescent in situ hybridization, allow scientists to identify the location of specific
pieces of DNA on a chromosome. For more information about the Human Genome Project, contact the Office of
Communications, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Building 31, Room
4B09, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 402-0911
3
anything about the disease it causes. Huntington disease is a case in point. Although a predictive
test for high-risk families has been available for years, only a minority of these individuals has
decided to be tested. The reason for it is that there is no way to cure or prevent Huntington's
disease, and some individuals would rather live the uncertainty than with the knowledge that
they will be struck, sometime in midlife, with a fatal disease. And what might happen if a health
insurance company or a potential employer learns that an individual is destined to develop
Huntington disease–might that person be denied coverage or a job?8

Though scientists had known for years that an altered gene was to blame for hereditary colon
cancer, finding it was tricky for they had few clues as to where, on any of the 23 pairs of
chromosomes, the gene might reside. Finally, using tools emerging from the Human Genome
Project, an international team tracked the gene to a region of chromosomes 2. Seven months
later, two teams zeroed in on the culprit. Just three months after that, they had identified a
second gene on chromosome 3. Together, these genes account for most cases of this inherited
cancer.9

These discoveries offer a preview of how the Human Genome Project is likely to transform
medicine by opening up new approaches to prevention. The earliest beneficiaries will be those
families facing a very high risk of colon cancer. First, for those who choose to take it, will come
a simple blood test to determine who in these cancer- prone families does or does not carry the
altered genes. The consequences could be enormous. For example, it is estimated that as many
as 1 in 200 Americans may carry one or the other of these altered genes. Individuals found to
carry an altered gene would likely be counseled to adopt a high-fiber, low-fat diet in the hope of
preventing cancer. They would also be advised to start yearly examinations of the colon at about
age 30. Such exams should help physicians detect any benign polyps, wart-like growths on the
colon, early in the disease process and then remove them before they turn malignant. For those
individuals who turn out not to carry the altered genes, the diagnostic test may be a huge relief,
removing the fear they have lived under and sparing them the need for frequent colonoscopies.

Despite the life-saving potential of such diagnostic tests, numerous issues need to be resolved
before they are introduced into general medical practice. Genetic testing is not so simple as
drawing blood and telling someone the results. For one, the best way to test large numbers of
individuals is by no means clear. In deciding whether or not to be tested, individuals need
information not only about the disorder and its risk but also about the test and its limitations.
Equally important, genetic testing must be accompanied by counselling to help people cope with
information about their future risk, whatever the outcome of the test. Those who test positive and
who are trying to decide what course to pursue will need to know how effective various
strategies, such as frequent colonoscopy and polyp removal, actually are at preventing colon
cancer. Definitive answers are still lacking for these questions. Broader, societal issues arise as

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The sponsors of the project are aware of these ethical issues. Because of such concerns, the
Human Genome Project has, since its inception, devoted about 5% of its budget to research
aimed at anticipating and resolving the ethical, legal, and social issues likely to arise from this
research. This is one of the first times scientists have begun to explore the potential
consequences of their research before a crisis had arisen. With careful attention to these ethical
quandaries, and adequate safeguards when necessary, society can reap the full benefits of the
Human Genome Project.
9
. See *. Using tools emerging from the Human Genome Project, an international team tracked the gene for
hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer to a region of chromosome 2.
4
well, such as how to protect the confidentiality of genetic information and ensure that it is not
used to discriminate against individuals in employment or insurance.

Even before these colon cancer susceptibility genes were discovered, the Human Genome
Project had begun planning pilot studies to address these and other questions about testing for
cancer risk. It is important that these questions be answered now, before widespread testing
begins. The identification of genes involved in hereditary colon cancer is just one in a long string
of discoveries that can be expected as the Human Genome Project progresses. Careful attention
to these social and ethical issues now will help prepare the public and the medical profession for
the choices that lie ahead.

Genetic Immortality?
Nearly 4,000 genetic diseases afflict human beings. Given enough time and effort, scientists can
learn to prevent or treat a great many of them. This requires answering three questions – major
landmarks on a trail of genetic discoveries: Which altered gene causes the disease? What protein
does this gene normally produce? Can the altered protein or gene be fixed or replaced?

Two different strategies may be used. Researchers may find the altered protein first (if it can be
detected chemically in tissues that are affected by the disease) and then locate the gene that
codes for it. When this is impossible, they use positional cloning: They find the gene first (by
zeroing in on the DNA inherited with the disease, or by locating a similar gene in a mouse) and
the identify the protein the gene makes.10

Suppose that a child develops a currently incurable genetic disease. Scientists who wish to find
a specific treatment or a means of preventing the disease in other children must trace it to its
cause: an altered gene. Various clues, such as a visibly missing piece of a chromosome, may
reveal the gene's rough location on a chromosome. When there are no such clues, researchers
look for markers of the disease by comparing the DNA of the affected child to that of parents,
relatives, and persons in other families. When placed on a "genetic map," these markers reveal
which chromosome carries the altered gene. As more markers are added to the map, the location
is narrowed to the space between two known markers.

The result may be remarkable. Scientists may able to diagnose the disease prenatally by
following the inheritance of markers in an affected family. They may also recognise healthy
carriers of the altered gene. By "walking" or "jumping" toward the gene, scientists create a
physical map, or a chain of overlapping segments of DNA in the space between the flanking
markers. One of these segments must contain the altered gene. In the future, when researchers
have covered all the chromosomes with overlapping fragments of DNA, any fragment they want
will be available from a computer database.

Zeroing in on the altered gene, scientists analyse each segment: They ask: Is it different from
normal DNA? Finally they find the guilty gene and determine the error in its sequence of bases.
The most common error in the CF gene is a deletion of three DNA bases out of a total 250,000.
Scientists can test for the disease directly in patients and pre-natally. They can identify healthy
carriers of the altered gene in the general population–not just among members of an affected
10
Scientists have employed such strategy. Such a strategy recently led to spectacular progress
toward diagnosing or treating cystic fibrosis (CF), Duchenne muscular dystrophy,
neurofibromatosis, and other inherited disorders.
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family. They can study the disease process in cultured cells and in animals, with a view to
developing new treatments.

Knowing the gene's sequence, scientists use the genetic code to determine which amino acids
make up the protein. Then they study the protein and find out what it is supposed to do. The tens
of thousands of proteins in the body have different shapes and do different jobs, depending on
instructions encoded in the gene. So the question is: does the sick child's altered gene produce
too little protein, a flawed protein, or not protein at all? Scientists need to understand just how
the protein change causes the disease. As the mechanism of the disease becomes clear, scientists
can devise new approaches to treatment involving either the protein or the gene. Understanding a
relatively rare inherited disorder may also bring important insights into more common and
complex diseases. To make up for the genetic error, scientists may try to replace a missing or
ineffective protein with a drug or with the normal protein. Such experiments are usually carried
out first in cultured cells in the laboratory, then in animals, and finally in humans. Another
option is gene therapy. Some scientists "infect" cells with a virus into which they have inserted
normal genes. Others use non-viral methods or even inject DNA directly into cells. Experiments
that work in cultured cells are tried in animals and then in humans. For example, a patient's
bone-marrow cells may be removed, treated with normal genes, and returned to the patient. The
result is that treatments are being developed for some genetic diseases. People will always carry
genetic alterations, but in the future, prevention and treatment will vastly reduce suffering from
genetic diseases.

So the future of gene therapy seems bright. Once all the genes in the human body are mapped,
all genetic disorders can be cured and even prevented. So the health of the population can be
tremendously improved. At the same time, the genetic engineering has significant religious
concerns. We deal below with two basic theological issues.

Scientists have already been able to trace out the gene for ageing. And if this ageing gene could
be located, then it is at least theoretically open to genetic modification.11 The scenario that such
a situation opens up is mind boggling. If biologists could open the possibility of overcoming
physical ageing and finally death, human quest for life takes a startlingly different perspective!
No scientist today actually claims that science can overcome physical death. But genetic
engineering opens the doors to that possibility. Theoretical immortality brought about by
scientific progress will become a deeply embedded part of the collective human psyche.

What is important is not that immortality will be realisable – at least theoretically – in the near
future. Certainly it will elude us and our next few generations. What is significant is that the very
plausibility of humans achieving personal immortality – or even the speculations on it – will
change human consciousness, human way of living and humans’ response to the divine: in short,
human’s world-view. So we need to be aware of the tremendous challenge to the religious world
view posed by such a possibility. In the next section we give some sketchy reflections.

Theological Significance
The theological significance of the technological quest for immortality is fabulous. We are not in
a position to see its ramifications. We limit ourselves to two significant aspects of it. First,
relying ourselves on a respectable scientist, we try to show that the quest for immortality for a
few should not be at the cost of the mortality. The divide between the rich and the poor the
technologically advanced and under-privileged has serious technological theological
11
See http://www.extended-eternallife.org/ for details on extended and eternal life.
6
significance. Secondly, we delve a bit deeper into the role and significance of God in a scenario
where humans can achieve physical immortality. We do claim that the role and relevance of God
is in no way diminished in such a situation.

Immortality for a Privileged Few?


The first question that comes to ones mind while dealing with better human prospects and even
that of immortality brought about by genetic advancement is that of its affordability for the
ordinary citizens. The whole genetic search funded by multinational corporations and protected
assiduously by patent rights will not be available to the common persons who need it most. So
the theological and moral issue of profit vs person is crucial in this technology.

Our arguments gain more credibility when it comes from a well known scientist himself.
Freeman J. Dyson, one of the world's pre-eminent physicists whose futurist views consistently
challenge humankind to reconcile technology and social justice, has won the 2000 Templeton
Prize for Progress in Religion, whose prize amount exceeds the Nobel Prize. Dyson, Professor
Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, has dedicated much of
his life to advocating the development of "joyful and useful" technologies for the benefit of all
humankind, regardless of economic or cultural situation. His insistence on using current
emerging technologies as social equalizers – in much the same way that vaccines, antibiotics,
and electricity helped bridge economic and social gaps in the 20th century – has put him at the
forefront of scientists who call for eliminating the wedge that technology drives between the
haves and have-nots.12

This role as a synthesizer has been echoed ever since in areas where Dyson has cultivated
mutual understanding and respect for science and society. In particular, he has chastised science
for concentrating too much technology in "making toys for the rich" – cellular phones, ever-
smaller laptop computers, and the like – rather than helping to spread knowledge, well-being,
and wealth around the world so that one day "every Egyptian village can be as wealthy as
Princeton."13

This "long-range moral and social fallout of today's scientific miracles" which fail "to produce
benefits for the poor in recent decades is due to two factors working in combination," he wrote
in Imagined Worlds. "The pure scientists have become more detached from the mundane needs
of humanity, and the applied scientists have become more attached to immediate profitability."
New medical technologies, he adds, "too attractive to forbid and too expensive to be made
generally available, will exacerbate the inequalities that now exist within and between
societies."14

In a statement prepared at the Templeton prize reception Dyson urged for more respect and
understanding between scientists and theologians, noting: “Science and religion are two
windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to
understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but both look out at the
12
In nominating Dyson for the prize, Dwight E. Neuenschwander, professor of physics at Southern Nazarene
University in ethany, Okla., described him as "one of the outstanding physicists of our time," adding, "He has
written extensively on the meaning of science and its relation to other disciplines especially religion and ethics....
He is truly a man of a third culture that is in the making."
13
See Templeton Web Site: www.templeton.org.
14
Meta….
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same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features
of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.”15

Dyson also made a strong appeal for technology to employ ethics to drive its progress: To lift up
poor countries, and poor people in rich countries, from poverty, to give them a chance of a
decent life, technology is not enough.... Science and religion should work together to abolish the
gross inequalities that prevail in the modern world.

In a similar vein, Times of India commented editorially. “The lab-created corneas are an
appropriate symbol of blind science groping for light.”16 Will our quest for immortality be
another “toy for the rich” which quenches their craze for power even at the cost of the poor?

God and Human Immortality


Before discussing theologically on personal immortality, it would be beneficial to remember the
terminological difference between contingency (perishability and dependence) and immortality
(non-perishability and dependence). Only the temporal contingency is ruled out by immortality.
Again it is useful to recall that God as God of life and is life-enhancing. Further, both science
and religion as human enterprises fosters and promotes life.

The monotheistic religions affirm in no uncertain ways that God is the sole creator and sustainer
of the world and particularly of human life. This theologically means that we are eternally
dependent on Him, not that human life necessarily needs to be finite. The crucial point to be
noted is that even an immortal - temporally - life is very well be dependent -ontologically -
totally and completely on God.17 The angels, for instance, are examples of beings, who are
immortal and at the same time eternally dependent on God. So God as creator of human beings
does not necessarily imply that humans need to be or to remain mortal.18

We should very well ask if the immortality that science promises brings along with it betterment
of other human contingencies? Does human immortality necessarily eliminate suffering and
pain? It may be remembered that immortal life is not identical to the eternal life that Jesus
promises to give. It may be assumed that we cannot have eternal life without immortality, not
vice-versa. Eternal life implies the fullness -eschatological - of life. Eschatological concerns are
valid even in an immortal human existence. The eschatological fullness deals with human
"salvation" or final, ultimate "yes" to the human life and it involves axiological, ontological
fulfilment, besides the temporal fulfilment: only the last is assured by immortality. Immortality
does not rule out total ontological dependency.

With these cautions, we can say that since God is life affirming, the human task - both from a
religious and scientific perspectives - will be to seek for immortality, if such a task is ever
feasible. So the search for immortality can very well be conceived of as a "sacred duty" or "holy
task" provided we do realise that such a task does not imply replacing God or we "playing
God."19

15
Kuruvilla Pandikattu *
16
Times of India, Pune March 6, 2000, 12.
17
This may call to mind the finite regress that is discussed in connection with the "proofs for God's existence."
18
This raises the issue if God wanted humans to be immortal, when he created humans. The answer to this question
can only be guessed. Scripturally there does not seem to be any conclusive evidence for one way or another.
19
Ted Peters, *
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We worship God not because we will die, but because we are alive. God is the God of the living,
not of the dead or the would-be-dead. Therefore theologically, belief in God is not necessarily
for the concerns of future only; the concerns of the present are enough to postulate or affirm
God.20

If the "glory of God is man fully alive" then obviously a human being who is "immortal" gives
"more" glory to God. Such humans are more to the image of God. Creation of such humans
make us "created co-creators"21 in its most appropriate sense. This implies that the God we
believe in is not the "God of the gaps", the God who satisfies one only at the limit situation of
one's death. We do not need crisis moments to lead us to God. It is the conviction of a genuine
believer that God can be found in the depths of the daily lives and not necessarily at the end of
daily lives. God is present both in the limit-situations and in the every day life of the people as
well in the glorious human achievements, including the genetic achievements, provided, of
course, that they are in consonance with the human and divine aspirations.

The state of human immortality, if at all attained as a result of the genetic advances we discussed
above, will not even lead us to the "paradise" of Adam and Eve or to the "Kingdom of God"
which Jesus came to proclaim. Still it is our task as religious and scientists to seek for
immortality provided other ethical concerns are respected. The issue of human significance and
meaning is not at all exhausted by immortality.

It must be remembered that the venture of seeking immortality beset with many dangers and
fallacies. We simply cannot be blind to the totality of life and be one-sidedly enamoured by the
promise of scientific immortality, which is physical longevity. It is here that religious spirit and
ethics have to encounter technology to justify, correct, critique and strengthen the search for
immortality. Religion can collaborate and interact with such a venture.22

We must be cautious that it is not the human hubris that is at work here. It has been the
traditional teaching of all religions that hubris leads inevitably to destruction. If our search for
immortality stems from hubris - replacing God by ourselves, idolizing - then such a search
cannot be religiously justified. But it is our contention that we can genuinely seek for
immortality with humility, with respect and with awe before the infinite power of the Divine.

But we also need to be aware of the wider dimensions of justice and love. Some vital questions
need to be faced: Does immortality for humans imply immortality for a select few (the elite) and
mortality for other humans and non-human beings? Does immortal humans become a machine -
similar to the "soulless computer"?

Conclusion
The announcement which American President Clinton will make about the sequencing of
human genes will have tremendous medical consequences and human significance.23 It will
20
Cf. Paul Tillich and Gilson *
21
Ted Peters, "Genes, Theology and Social Ethics: Are We Playing God?" in Ted Peters (ed.) Genetics: Issues of
social Justice, Cleaveland: The Pilgrim Press, 1998, p. 33.
22
It may be noted that the religious critique goes much more than the ethical critique. Religious critique goes much
more than the ethical norms: It asks the most basic question of what human being is and what is immortality?
Philosophical considerations play a significant role here.
23
According to the latest report the announcement will take place in June, 2000. See Maharashtra Herald, Pune,
April 2, 2000, p.9.
9
change the shape of genetic biology and human life. In that “better” world where even human
immortality is imaginable religion does have a more significant contribution to make. Templeton
Prize winner Dyson’s cautions to technology need to be taken seriously. Our idea of God too
needs to be purified.

Therefore, our search for immortality calls for humility, openness, respect both to the whole
cosmos and to the divine. It urges us widen our vision, to deepen our insight and to purify our
faith: widening our vision of the humanity, deepening our insights on God and purifying our
faith in God and in the human beings. It leads us to focus our faith on the "depth dimension" of
existence. It encourages us to search for further answers scientifically, technologically,
religiously and ethically.

This calls for serious dialogue between scientific and religious quests. It calls for mutual
collaboration between the two. It also requires that each performs an informed critique of the
other. One needs to be aware of the ulterior motives and unspoken assumptions and unconscious
considerations. It requires humility and openness from both the partners of the dialogue.

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