[The Leaven – exploring the relationship between science and religion (cont)]
The advent of personal computers, in the 1980s, allowed science to move at an accelerated pace. Answers are now virtually received before the questions are even asked. Research moved at a comparatively slower pace in the earlier part of last century.
In the 1940s, scientists knew vaguely that chromosomes consisted of protein and DNA but at first assumed that proteins transferred hereditary information and that DNA had a structural role merely to provide a framework for the cell and these proteins. This view was overturned when Avery and co-workers discovered that purified DNA taken from infectious bacterial cells could be transferred into non-infectious cells in turn rendering them also infectious. In 1952, Hershey and Chase reinforced this finding by devising an experiment that distinguished the DNA molecule from those of protein. This was achieved by labelling the different molecules with radioactive isotopes and then determining which component was actually transferred into bacterial cells by measuring the radioactivity.
Following this initial research, the importance of DNA was becoming realised and the interest in the molecule surged. In 1953, Watson and Crick deduced the structure of DNA from an X-ray diffraction photograph made by Rosalind Franklin. In a paper published in Nature, they proposed that the DNA molecule was a double-stranded helix and that its replication was semi-conservative with one strand behaving as a template to give rise to an identical daughter strand. These discoveries have been reinforced by further research and have resulted in the complete characterisation of the DNA molecule. The central dogma of molecular biology proposed by Francis Crick was that DNA contained a genetic code organised into genes that was deciphered into proteins by ribonucleic acid (RNA).
Subsequent advances in genetic research have led to a fairly sound understanding into how hereditary functions at the molecular level. Based on much of this knowledge, humans now possess the ability to create a living being, albeit, in a far less elegant way than nature could perform a similar task. Cloning, previously a fantasy in science fiction novels became reality when in the mid 1990s the public were introduced to Dolly the sheep; a clone produced from the genetic material of an adult cell inserted into an empty ova. The cloning of mice and cows was soon to follow, making the ability to clone humans, with all its controversial implications, a very plausible event. In the Bible, it is clear that only God could create a human being in this way. In a process hauntingly similar to cloning, Eve was created by God from Adam’s rib.
Then the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping he took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the flesh. He formed a women out of the rib and brought her to him.
Cloning continues to be an explosive issue that creates conflict between religious and scientific communities. Perhaps, because science is not currently in a position to provide answers to all the questions that are being asked.