This paper addresses the cultural and spiritual impact of genomics and the Human Genome Project. Notably, it addresses the claim made by Max Delbrück that Aristotle must be credited with having predicted DNA as the soul that organises bio-matter and the claim made by Francis Collins that the genome is the language of God. Building on the work of continental philosophers such as Hegel, Teilhard and Lacan I 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, symbolical ambiance. Whereas the former ultimately builds on the alphabet of the nucleotides, the latter is informed by primordial texts such as the Bible and the Koran. Bioethical deliberations regarding genomics and religion often focus on very specific issues such as selective abortion, artificial reproduction or paternity testing but in such debates, science is easily framed as liberating and progressive while religious world-views are seen as conservative and restrictive. This paper rather focusses on the broader cultural ambiance of the debate to assess the impact of genomics on human self-understanding. Coming to terms with the spiritual and ethical implications of human genomics requires a mutual learning dialogue between science (genomics research) and religion (notably world religions such as Islam and Christianity), to which this paper aims to contribute from an occidental perspective.
Erasmus School of Philosophy

Zwart, H. (2018). In the beginning was the genome: Genomics and the bi-textuality of human existence. In Islamic Ethics and the Genome Question (pp. 205–225). Retrieved from