You remember Floyd, right?

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From: Wayne E Baisley (
Date: Thu Sep 28 2000 - 22:01:58 PDT

I know Geege does. Apropos to the cloning discussion, you may find the
following of interest. Last year Wheaton College (or is it University
now?) had a panel discussion about the ethics of the HGP. One of the
speakers, Dr. Francis Collins, couldn't make it, due to the hurricane.
But he prepared some useful comments, which I tried to get Wheaton to
post. They intended to, but I'm not sure they ever got around to it,
and while I waited for them, I forgot about it. Until now. So, without
further delay, nucleotide pairs for all ...

Dear Wayne,
        I too was quite disappointed that Floyd decided to show all of us his
power (and his ability to knock out mine). I have no problem with
posting the comments on Wheaton's CACE pages. I have pasted in the text
below, in case you don't have easy access to it.

                                                September 16, 1999

To the attendees at the 1999 David A. Penner Debate, Wheaton College:

        I sincerely regret that the arrival of Hurricane Floyd in the DC area
prevents me from being able to be with you this evening. All flights
from local airports have been canceled, and we are experiencing
torrential rain and high winds.

        Since I cannot be with you, I thought I would send along a few thoughts
about the theme of the evening. First of all, I want to congratulate
the planners for choosing this topic for the debate. Progress in
determining the sequence of the human genome, the instruction book of
human biology, is moving with great swiftness. Thus it is indeed timely
that you turn your attentions this evening to a consideration of the
consequences of this research, from a Christian perspective. As a
committed Christian myself, I have often been troubled by the relative
rarity of serious dialog between science and faith, and I regret that I
won't be able to enjoy the interplay tonight

        By the spring of the year 2000, a "working draft" of the human genome
sequence, containing 90% of the information, will be available to anyone
with an internet connection. The finished sequence will be available in
2002, or possibly sooner. Though heavily capitalized efforts are also
underway in the private sector to determine this information for private
gain, and restrict access to its use by patenting or secrecy, the
publicly funded international human genome project is absolutely
committed to the goal of placing all the information that comes out of
the human sequencing effort in the public domain.

        The medical consequences of having this information, as well as a
catalog of common variants in human DNA (which is also being constructed
right now), are likely to be profound, but they will not arrive
overnight. The first consequences will be the ability to make
individual predictions of risks of future illness, which when combined
with an individualized program of diet, lifestyle modifications, and
medical surveillance, can be lifesaving for many conditions. Such a
program of individualized preventive medicine is likely to be available
for a dozen or more conditions in the next ten years. In the somewhat
longer term, these gene discoveries will allow the development of new
and powerful treatments - some of which will be gene therapies, but many
of which will be new drug therapies based on a better understanding of
the genetic underpinnings of disease. As all diseases except trauma
have a genetic component, this strategy will have very broad

        But of course genetic information can also be misused. Recognizing
this fact, the Human Genome Project has from the outset set aside a
significant portion of its budget to explore the Ethical, Legal, and
Social Implications (the so-called ELSI program) of this accelerated
pace of genetic research. Out of this has come a wealth of excellent
scholarship and analysis, allowing us to focus on real problems (not the
Hollywood version), and to develop a range of potential solutions. A
particularly pressing set of issues relates to the possibility of
genetic discrimination and breaches of privacy, which are currently the
topics of several pieces of federal legislation. Regrettably, none are
likely to pass this year, but there is good reason to believe, so long
as the public continues to demand it, that the necessary protections
will ultimately be put in place.

        A more nebulous but also potentially destructive risk of genomic
research is the tendency to slip into a new brand of genetic
determinism. In its most full blown form, this reduces humanity to
mechanics, concludes that there is no need for God, and rejects the
entire concept of free will. This view of humanity must be vigorously
rejected, as it has no scientific validity.

        I am sure you will also discuss this evening the potential use of
genetic technologies to enhance human traits. Most observers would
agree that the use of such approaches to alleviate suffering and prevent
serious illness is a good thing, and is entirely consistent with long
held Christian principles. Christ Himself spent a great deal of His
short time on earth healing the sick - surely He intended for us to
notice that. The rejection of all genetic research, as some extremists
have proposed, would thus be the most unethical stance of all. But
there is no sharp dividing line between diseases and traits (consider
obesity, for instance). To what extent are we comfortable using these
same technologies to alter the characteristics of ourselves or our
offspring? Carried to an even greater extreme, if we develop the
capabilities of doing so, shouldn't we "take charge of our own
evolution" and try to achieve greater human perfection? Here is a
situation where the thoughtful Christian must raise serious questions:
who decides what is an improvement, for instance? And what
would such wholesale alteration of ourselves do to our relationship with
a Creator God, in whose image we were created?

        The good news about these thornier problems is that we are many years
off from having to face them in reality - we really have no idea how to
enhance most human characteristics by altering our genes, despite what
you might read in the popular press. But that opportunity may
ultimately come. As people of faith, we should be prepared to make a
reasoned, logical case for where the line should be drawn.

        Proverbs 19:2 says "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor
to be hasty and miss the way" (NIV). Guided by the wisdom of Drs. Koop,
Bohlin, and Peters, I am confident that your zeal and knowledge will be
well blended this evening.

        Blessings to all

                        Francis Collins

-----Original Message-----
From: I'm not a real doofus, but I play one at a national laboratory
Sent: Friday, September 17, 1999 2:03 PM
To: Collins, Francis (NHGRI)
Cc: cace@david.wheaton.EDU; Wayne E. Baisley
Subject: Dr. Francis Collins's remarks

Dear Dr. Collins,

I was disapponted that you got "floyded out" of last night's debate at
Wheaton, but very much appreciate and admire the remarks that you had
faxed to Dr. Koop. Is there any chance that these could be posted
somewhere, perhaps in Wheaton's CACE pages? I appreciate that they
wouldn't be appropriate to post on the NHGRI site (just as Dr. Koop felt
he couldn't post them on


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