The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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July 28, 2000 Issue

Forbidden fruit?

Genome research: potential for life, death

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Recent news stories about the mapping of the human genome should give us hope and, at the same time, cause us grave concern.  

By mapping the human genome - our biological blueprint - we vastly increase our knowledge about ourselves. It should allow us to cure some diseases and even increase the human life span.

But, the cures for some diseases may be possible only through immoral means. And, before we even reach that point, the increased ability to diagnosis potential problems before birth could lead to more abortions. So could increasing the human life span with abortion seen as a way to relieve world population pressures caused by longer-living Americans and Western Europeans.

As the story of the fall in Genesis illustrates only too well, there is often an enormous difference between what we can do - whether it's eating forbidden fruit or genetic engineering - and what we should do. Sadly, because knowledge doesn't always translate into understanding or wisdom, we often are unable or unwilling to tell the difference until we've acted. And then, it's too late.

The mapping of the human genome presents us with some wonderful opportunities. But we need proceed cautiously, recognizing this as the moral and ethical minefield that it is.

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