This paper addresses the cultural impact of genomics and the Human Genome Project (HGP) on human self-understanding. Notably, it addresses the claim made by Francis Collins (director of the HGP) that the genome is the language of God and the claim made by Max Delbrück (founding father of molecular life sciences research) that Aristotle must be credited with having predicted DNA as the soul that organises bio-matter. From a continental philosophical perspective I will argue that human existence results from a dialectical interaction between two types of texts: the language of molecular biology and the language of civilisation; the language of the genome and the language of our socio-cultural, symbolic ambiance. Whereas the former ultimately builds on the alphabets of genes and nucleotides, the latter is informed by primordial texts such as the Bible and the Quran. In applied bioethics deliberations on genomics, science is easily framed as liberating and progressive, religious world-views as conservative and restrictive (Zwart 1993). This paper focusses on the broader cultural ambiance of the debate to discern how the bi-textuality of human existence is currently undergoing a transition, as not only the physiological, but also the normative dimension is being reframed in biomolecular and terabyte terms.

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Keywords Human genomics, Human Genome Project, concept of the soul, genomics and religion, continental philosophy of science, psychoanalysis of, science, dialectics of the molecular life sciences
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/20502877.2018.1438776, hdl.handle.net/1765/116417
Journal New Bioethics
Citation
Zwart, H.A.E. (2018). In the Beginning was the Genome. New Bioethics, 24(1), 26–43. doi:10.1080/20502877.2018.1438776