When two groups of scientists announced in mid-February that they had finished mapping the human genome, scientists, politicians and journalists paid rapt attention. The human genetic code has been deciphered! We are on our way at last to obeying scientifically the old Delphic oracle: Know thyself!
Debate over the significance of the discovery and how it will be used in therapeutic or reproductive medicine is well under way. What does it mean that we now know the genetic building blocks of human life? Two leaders of the genome project, J. Craig Venter and Francis Collins, both warned against the notion that human choices are “hard wired into DNA and [that] free will goes out of the window.” Among the human choices, of course, has been the decision of scientists, politicians and corporations to invest in the genome project. Nothing “hard-wired” there.