KARL JOHNSON: Good evening. And welcome to the Spring 2017 Alan T. and Linda M. Beimfohr Lecture. My name is Karl Johnson. I'm the executive director of Chesterton House, the Center for Christian Studies here at Cornell, and an affiliate member of Cornell United Religious Work.
The Beimfohr Lecture, which is made possible by Carl and Elaine Neuss and named for their friends, Alan and Linda Beimfohr, is designed to address issues of faith in a pluralistic society and has been called by Cornell Professor Emeritus Walter LaFeber one of Cornell's most distinguished campus presentations.
We'd like to welcome all those who are tuning in remotely via MyStream this evening and especially the Beimfohr and Neuss families. And we'd also like to thank them for making this event possible. This evening's speaker is a cancer researcher.
And before I introduce him, I'd also like to take a moment to recognize another friend of Chesterton House, Anthony Carpet, who succumbed to cancer just three days ago. Anthony, a 1990 graduate of the Industrial and Labor Relations School, was a great friend to Cornell University, a great friend to Chesterton House, and also a great friend to our other benefactor, Carl Neuss.
Carl and all of us here at Chesterton House extend our heartfelt condolences and also our prayers to Sandy and to their children. Like other Christian study centers at major research universities around the country, Chesterton House is committed to human flourishing in all spheres of society.
Towards that end, the bind for lecture has featured distinguished historians, sociologists, and public intellectuals. And this evening it is our privilege to host medical researcher, Dr. Jimmy Lin. The mapping of the human genome, one of the great scientific achievements of all time, holds great promise for health and human flourishing, but it also holds great peril.
As the earlier medical advances, this new technology raises fundamental questions about what constitutes human flourishing and even what it means to be human. All of which is to say that the practice of science raises ethical questions and issues that science itself cannot answer, but which must be addressed by a multiplicity of traditions of inquiry, including religious traditions.
To help us think about these things-- of how technology might humanize rather than dehumanize, it is our great privilege to host Dr. Jimmy Lin. Dr. Lin is the chief scientific officer of oncology at Natera, where he is leading the development of new diagnostic technologies for cancer.
He is also a social entrepreneur, serving as the founder and president of the Rare Genomics Institute, the world's first platform to enable any community to leverage cutting-edge biotechnology to advance understanding of any rare disease.
He has served in a number of academic posts, including director of clinical genomics at the genetics branch of the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute. He also serves on a number of boards and both at for-profit and to the nonprofit sectors.
He was educated at Yale and Johns Hopkins. And though this might not be exactly what some overambitious Cornell students most need to hear, he was at one time working on four advanced degrees simultaneously-- an MD, a PhD, a master of health sciences, and a master of arts in religion.
He has numerous publications in leading journals such as Science and Nature and has been featured in major media outlets such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, Time, and Wired. Dr. Lin is a 2012 TED Fellow. And his inspiring TED talk is very well worth watching. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Jimmy Lin.
JIMMY LIN: So before I start, I'd like to get to know you guys a little bit. How many of you are undergrads? OK. And then, who are grad students or above? OK. Who are studying the sciences? Where's the humanities? OK, more and more science. Heavy count.
And then, who comes from a Christian tradition or a Christian background? And then a non-Christian background? OK, good. OK, so it's a big topic today that we'll discuss, and I'm trying to cover a lot of ground. But we do have a long Q&A session, so we'll take advantage of that.
First a disclaimer. All these views are my personal views. It has nothing to do with the company I work at-- a nonprofit or other institutions. So humanity's relationship with technology has been explored for a long time, right? So who knows-- this is a picture of--
JIMMY LIN: --Icarus, right? So Daedalus is one of the known Greek innovators. He had many inventions, including creating a wooden bowl. I don't know if you know that story-- eventually, creating the Minotaur. Also, creating the labyrinth, resulting him to be locked up on this island by King Minos.
And then for him to escape, because of all his creation, he had to create these wings and the famous story of Icarus flying through, close to the sun and falling down. So thinking of technologies as ways as benefiting humanity, but also as ways of hubris and potential-- a dark side of humanity of technologies.
So at the start of the scientific age, there was a lot of optimism of thinking of what technology can do, right? And this is potentially one of the fathers of this new age-- Francis Bacon writing about a New Atlantis, where it's almost like a university where it's sort of ruled by scientists and discovery and thought, combined with the religion of this utopian world that was imagined.
And this was the optimism at the time as science was starting to boom, and new discoveries were coming. But before long, we started to think about, what are the other potentially not so positive things that science can do? And as we go later into 19th century and 20th century, we have examples.
For example, like George Orwell who thinks about the governments using science and screens to watch everybody, having a surveillance state, which some may say we already are watching ourselves today. But in parallel to him, of course, there was Aldous Huxley who explored not only technology in terms of screens, but in terms of genetic engineering.
Also, conditioning and pharmaceutical-- the soma thing that enabled the government to control its population by not only engineering a group of people, but training them to perform certain tasks and giving these drugs to make them a placing.
So there were these balances of-- there's optimism of how technology can be used for good, in ways that it can be abused, and potentially used for ill. And this tension has really been as with every new technology.
And as we talk about genetics-- because we're not only changing our environment, when we're thinking about potentially changing the essence of what we are, of who we are, our DNA, it has become very, very controversial. Of course, with the modern stories, storytellers are in movies.
And Gattaca is one of the stories that you always have to bring up when we talk about genetics and in a world of potentially where they're using genetic engineering to create two potential populations-- the valids and invalids who are ones that are created with perfect genetics, and ones with not, and starting to explore questions there.
And a lot of these would think that, wow, that's science fiction. That's far away. But recent developments in biotechnology has made people to start-- think. Are these things closer than we think? And should we start-- be worrying about the possibility of genetic engineering and these stories portrayed in movies?
So interestingly, the development of modern genetics-- it's a rather short history. But it's so much a part of who we are as a society that we don't remember. So DNA was discovered in terms of helix a little bit more than just 50 years ago, right? And we only knew about the genome about-- a little more than 10 years ago.
But this explosion of understanding genomics, understanding how to read and write the genome is unprecedented in terms of its technology. So in this talk, I'm going to split up into four sections. I'm going to split the first half, talking about the science of, what are developments?
The past, present, future of reading genomes, understanding our genome, and what that means. The second half is about editing and writing genomes, so very parallel to how my four-year-old and two-year-old learn languages, so first learning to read and then to write. And then the second half also talking about, what's the role of knowledge areas outside of science?
Is there a role of faith in these areas? First, making the case that there is a role for faith to be in these discussions. And then at the very end to provide-- using a faith tradition to see how that could be helpful as a rubric as we think about these questions. So first, let's talk about science.
And we'll do this rather quickly to sum up a lot of discoveries in a short while, but we'll do this quickly. The first part is reading and decoding genomes. And this is an area where I think people have heard about the Human Genome Project-- has probably-- understand a little bit more. And this is an area where it has-- popular media has described it more.
Of course, if we want to start talking about reading and understanding genetics, we think about the father of genetics, Mendel himself, who was a man of faith himself, looking at peas and then figuring out that there are characters in these peas through mating that can result in very predictable inheritance patterns.
But it was not until-- over about 100 years later by these scientists here, Avery, MacLeod, and McCarty, who proved that there is the substance that's been inherited-- is a substance of DNA. So there was some question. Is it DNA? Is it protein? What is the substance of inheritance?
So-- figured out that it was DNA. And only in-- a few years later in 1953-- this is a famous picture of Watson and Crick-- be able to figure out the structure that DNA is a double helix. And that has implications. That it has pairing. And that's how we're able to figure out replication.
And also, then we're able to start thinking about how we're able to create more copies of it and decode it from that. What's significant is if I say this, it's 1953. So that's only a few generations ago. And that's only when we knew that DNA was a double helix. I think you ask any kid to think about DNA-- it's like, oh, every day.
But we only knew this for a little more than 50 years. And one person that often is left out in this-- and I also just want to talk about genetics-- is Rosalind Franklin who is the great woman scientist. Actually, a crystallographer that took the picture of the DNA that Watson and Crick eventually decoded.
And it's always good to recognize her amazing efforts for this-- for us to be able to understand the structure in DNA. So after you understand that DNA is base pairs-- there's two of them-- the next step you'd figure out is, how does it code? And this is the next scientists.
Nirenberg and Matthaei were able to figure out that DNA is actually a very, very unique code-- for those who aren't in the sciences-- that DNA has a triplet code. So DNA-- there's four letters, A, T, C, and G. And they figured out that every three letters of DNA codes for one protein. That's some really elegant experiment to be able to do that.
So again, this is only within the last-- within 100 years or so, we even knew that there's some sort of code-- the genetic code-- be able to do that. And this is Dr. Sanger, double Nobel Prize winner. And he is the father of figuring out how we are able to actually sequence.
So he was for the first time allowing us to figure out ways to actually figure out these three billion base pairs. What are those sequences? So we didn't know how to even read the letters of DNA until very recently. So this is the '70s, right? So this is how short time has been that we talk about genomes. And we're like, wait a second.
Only in the '70s, we even knew how to read one letter at a time. And this is what often is the output of the DNA gels if people are in biochem. Or maybe you've run some of these-- be able to figure out different mutations as it's pointed there by running these big gels on ways to end replication of DNA, to be able to figure out the sequence.
So from then on, from the late '70s, there's a rapid uprise of our ability to start reading genomes there. This became more automatic-- automated through computers and technologies. And you can see how old this old Mac is as they're able to start reading this.
And this is state of the art. Instead of reading those big gels, we're actually able to use these computers to be able to do that. And ultimately, there was big machines that are able to read DNA sequences very laboriously, but able.
And then there was a dream then. That we're able to read tens, hundreds of sequence at the same time-- is, what if we're able to read the entire human genome? Three billion bases. And everybody thought that was a crazy idea in the late '90s. And you know what?
The thought was let's set a very, very high bar and enable-- develop new technologies. So maybe one day we'll be able to reach it. And this is the story of the first science geekdom in terms of the big fight between a private initiative and a public initiative.
Here Francis Collins leading the public initiative funded by the government, sequencing parts of the genome. And here as well, Craig Venter with a private initiative, trying to sequence as much as he could as well, wanting to patent it and profit from that and a big fight.
And at the end through government intervention and-- ultimately, it was declared a tie. And they came together through a White House conference. And so that was a historic moment that-- even though this was a big competition, they came together and for the first time decoded the human genome.
This seems humongous as we think about it. But on one hand, it's a humongous feat for us to be able to understand all three billion base pairs. But on the other hand, that was only one genome. That was the first genome. So imagine if you're first learning how to read, right?
So you first learn there's words, how you think there are letters. And this is the first time you read, reading your first book, right? And maybe for a small kid, that's a big accomplishment. But us as adults looking-- they're just reading one book. But this was the first book that we're able to read.
The thing is, were you able to read the letters? My four-year-old son is often able to read and sound things out. But we don't understand what the genome means. Out of the three billion base pairs, approximately 3% of it codes for some sort of information that we can recognize. And out of that 3%, people vary between 30 and 50%.
We actually know what that means. So we are-- we mapped genomes for the first time. And now, there's a big task of understanding what it means. And after the Human Genome Project, now there was this explosion of new technologies to understand how to sequence genomes even faster.
And these are two example technologies called Next-Generation Sequencing technologies. That instead of reading genomes one at a time, it's considered massively parallel. So all of a sudden, it didn't take us decades to read genomes. It became years. And now, ultimately weeks. And then now, we can read genomes in days.
And genome sequencing centers are now-- sequencing machines are now potentially as small as a USB drive. This actually is an actual product that is able to sequence genomes even today. And they're getting even smaller to be able to do that. So our ability to read genomes and digitize genomes has been dramatically increasing.
And a chart that often people draw here is-- the blue line here is Moore's law. That's how computers are advancing. The doubling time about a year and a half. And the orange line is how quickly the cost of the sequencing. And you can see it blows away computer technologies.
So our ability to sequence genomes-- the drop of price versus the drop of computer price. You can see the big difference. So what took at the beginning of the 2000s with the Human Genome Project, one genome cost approximately $3 billion, or if you want to count billions of dollars.
And we can now do it in thousands of dollars. So it's a million-fold decrease. So that's a huge, huge accomplishment in very, very short order. And the numbers-- a human genome sequence-- you can see it took a long time to get the first one.
And now, we're doing tens of thousands and now hundreds of thousands to be able to do that now. But the thing is we can sequence a lot of genomes, but we're only starting to figure out what it means. So these are some disease genes. WES is whole exome sequencing and whole genome sequencing.
And if you can look at actually the y-axis-- sorry for non-scientists or people who don't like graphs. But you see we only have 220. There's only-- we really know of a few hundred genes in terms of disease. There's 20,000 human genes that we know about. So we know only a very, very fraction amount of what it actually means.
But the press has already-- taken with this and made this-- bigger statements. That's often the role of the press and showing here, for example, on Time magazine that once you can sequence the genome, you can tell whether this kid will get cystic fibrosis, or cancer, or Tay-Sachs.
Some of those are actually true. Some of those are very well-known genes. But some of them-- we're still in terms of figuring out what that is. And then, ultimately, there's this area where-- depending on your genetic background, you can have special drugs that you take for that.
That's partially true. But that's actually very few targeted drugs, mostly in the cancer that you can do that. But there is a big promise of-- now, because we're so good at sequencing genomes, we can know what your genetic future is. We can now figure out what you're going to be best at, what food is best for you, what diseases you'll get.
And that's the dream that often people are talking about. And this is not even for adults who are born. So in 2012, one study that was published in "Science Translational Medicine" actually took blood in a pregnant woman and was able to sequence the entire genome of the baby in the womb by just taking blood.
So we can even determine the whole genomic sequence of a baby that's not even born yet. Again, we don't know what it means, but we can assemble that code to be able to do that. And cancers these days-- and this is the area of my work-- is we're sequencing large gene panels, or sometimes exomes on a very regular basis now.
Because there are specific cancer drugs that are used for specific targeted therapies. And now, even amino therapies are requiring us understanding the mutational rates there. So in the era of cancer, genome sequencing, actually, is starting to become the standard of care.
But like I said, we're only at the beginning of the race. This is the beginning of the marathon. Like a little child, we just learned the language. We just learned that there's letters. We just read the first book. We're just starting to read. We don't know what it means.
And there's a large amount of learning that's ahead of us in this marathon. Some of the work that is starting to understand what these areas-- this is one of my mentors when I was at Yale, Mark Gerstein. Some of our earlier work studying the first genomes that were sequenced.
But one of the initiatives that he's leading now is what's called the ENCODE project, an encyclopedia of elements there of DNA. So out of the genome, about 3% of them-- we know some of what it means, but 97% we have no idea.
So there's large international efforts to try to figure out, what is that rest of the 97% mean to be able to do that? Here's another-- for my PhD mentor, Bert Vogelstein, the father of cancer genetics. With him, we worked on mapping the first cancer genomes.
We did it in colorectal and breast cancer and glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer. It took us two to three years to map about a dozen. And now in our labs, we do that in an afternoon. But from those earlier work, in terms of understanding cancer genomes, there again, large international initiatives now.
The different countries are split up-- divide and conquer of different cancer genomes to be able to understand the context. And then the big dream is this dream of big data, which some people believe, some people think is a myth. But if we sequence enough genomes, then we'll be able to figure out what it all means.
And we'll be able to take someone's genome and be able to make sense of that just by the sequence. And some of you may-- heard that there is an addition of government initiatives, whether it's former President Obama with the Precision Medicine Initiative, or Vice President Biden with the Cancer Moonshot.
So there's efforts to be wanting to do that. Why is it then that these efforts are in existence? Is that the thought that the more of this data set-- the more books that we read from different types of people, we know that-- what they mean, and we can do compare and contrast.
Then we can understand what the different sections mean and make sense-- better sense of that. And that's why there's some of these initiatives to gather lots and lots of data, not just in the US. For example, the United Kingdom has 100,000 Genome Project that's ongoing.
And countries all over the world are entering in this effort. So before I go there, is that while we are able to now read genomes in a very, very cheap and fast manner, people are talking about $100 genome or even $10 or free genomes. The caveat is that as scientists, we still don't know what the genomes mean.
So this is what we want to think about is-- as hype on this thought of genetic determinism. That we're going to read your genome. We're going to know what's going to happen to you. That is still mostly not a reality within science.
The understanding of the genome is still very rudimentary and starting in its phase. And then that's very important as we talk about these discussions. That we just don't over-hype these technologies. So we know how to read. How about writing? Can we write genomes? Can we create genomes?
And I'm going to walk you quickly through the history here. And this is Alexander Todd. He was one of the first to actually synthesize and be able to create little bits of DNA in little chains to be able to do that. And this was done in-- again, around that time in the early 1950s-- the first writing.
This is Dr. Hamilton Smith and Dan Nathans. I actually studied with Dr. Nathan's son. They created the first scissors to be able to cut little pieces of DNA based on sequence, so then we can start manipulating them. And this is one of the first DNA synthesizers to create little bits of DNA to be able to print DNA-- very, very little small pieces.
And what was a big, big discovery then is-- and this is Kary Mullis in the 1980s. Actually, a little bit earlier than that-- had this amazing discovery with using a special enzyme from a very extreme thermal file to be able to copy lots of pieces of DNA, so we can manipulate them.
So we're gathering some of the tools. We can cut pieces of DNA. We can copy pieces of DNA. We can synthesize it. And this is starting to give us a toolkit of potentially manipulating, writing DNA ourselves. This method is called PCR.
And scientists have started to use this. This is one example here where the scientist was able to use an E. coli to create artificial circuits, like on and off switches within E. coli. And a lot of this is now used in industrial-- in an industry where they're creating biofuels and really not even using as an organism, but using as mini bioreactors.
And that's been used in yeast and E. coli. We're starting to be able to manipulate species in a very, very facile manner in yeast, almost. There's projects already to knock out every single gene. And basically, we can manipulate in these simple organisms-- basically, as easy as typing on a computer now, to be able to create that.
So these are people we've seen before-- Craig Venter, one of the sequence-- [INAUDIBLE] Ham Smith, doing restriction enzymes, cutting-- has come together and thinking about, what do we synthesize-- life from scratch? And that's what they did.
So they took a microbial species. And they printed and stitched together a genome, basically from scratch and booted it up in another cell. So it was completely from-- synthesized from scratch. What's the catch there? Is the information was already there.
They're sort of photocopying from scratch. They took a known sequence, and then they're putting it in an already existing cell. But this is giving us a glimpse for us to be able to print life almost from scratch against-- that with caveat, putting in a cell that already has a capability of life.
This is Jef Boeke, also one of my teachers I studied with at Yale. And he actually pitched this project to me as part of my rotation. He's like, Jimmy, why don't we synthesize the yeast genome as a project? I'm like, I don't think I can do that before I graduate.
And just two years ago he finished one chromosome. I'm like, man, I'm so glad I didn't take that project for my thesis. So what he did is made it into a class and had students all take little bits of it. And in 2014, they announced that he was able to synthesize one yeast chromosome-- to be able to do that.
And I asked him. I remember when he pitched me. So what's the effect? Like, but it's cool. I'm like, do you want to make new beer with it? Do you want like-- But I think it proved a principle that we can create chromosomes from scratch-- to be able to do that.
And now, there's companies that's 3D printing DNA faster and faster. This is one of the companies into laser called Cambrian Genomics. They can print DNA. You just send them a file where you want it to be printed, and they can send it back to you.
Of course, there's special measures to make sure you're not a terrorist printing horrible things. But you can almost do this from your home-- to be able to start-- print DNA. So this is the price of printing [INAUDIBLE]. And you can associate-- it's starting to drop from 10s to now 0.1.
And before long, it'll be-- again, to print DNA, you can just take out your credit card. It'll be tens or hundreds of dollars. You can print out entire species one day to be able to do that. And we cannot only print what's existing.
This group here-- not only-- if you remember the genetic code where the three things code for more protein. And there's four types of nucleotides. This group-- this just actually announced a month ago-- created whole new nucleotides in terms of A, T, C, G.
They created X and Y and is able to use that in an organism. So we're not only creating what we know about life. Now, we're creating new language, new letters to be able to do that. And they can now just imagine the possibility for good or for bad being able to do that.
And this is George Church, a very important person in the Human Genome Project. And all these new technologies is very fundamental there. But the big project now, amongst other things, is they want to start-- instead of the Human Genome Project reading, they want the Human Genome Project writing.
So this is actually two-- a few of my friends working on this project as well. Andrew Hessel here working with Autodesk there. They had this meeting to be able to do that, and journalists was invited. And I ended up not going myself.
But then somehow someone at The New York Times found out about it. And it became this like, oh, scientists are meeting in this secret location to wanting to write genome, and it became viral. I'm like, it was never meant to that, but that actually got that project a lot of press, so it's actually doing very, very well now.
So they now have this big plan of-- be able to print a human genome from scratch-- to be able to do that. And we don't know how long it's going to take, but this is now what's possible. And we can think about in the future-- a possibility now in the near future where you can sit on your computer, type away.
And this is what people are afraid of, right? You can choose your traits, choose hair color, intelligence, and then basically, 3D print a baby and putting them-- right? That's what people think about. We're far away from that, because we don't even know, right?
We don't understand the language yet, but we can actually print the letters to be able to do that. But when people talk about that, that's a thing of more-- still science fiction. One quick thing we talk about is not only printing from scratch, but also editing parts of the genome.
So this is Sir Klug, who was one of the first to find zinc fingers, where special shapes to be able to edit genomes that derive from this frog species. And we've been able to change little bits of genomes, even in humans and their species in a pretty effective manner, but it's very clumsy.
Every time you cut a new type of DNA, you need to create a new tool. So this is a new technology that's often even talked about in the press called CRISPR. Have people heard about CRISPR? Some have, right? So this is the latest technology. Why is it so exciting?
It's that you're able to edit the genome with-- basically, it has software they can basically put into it. So instead of creating a new scissor for every time a shape you cut, you can give it a program. And it can cut in different ways. And the software is actually just an RNA sequence. And this is a very, very versatile tool and now is able to-- it's a great excitement.
Because basically, we can now very easily edit genomes. And this is so easy that people in garages in your home can order kits and be able to do this. This is two of the inventors-- initial inventor, Jennifer Doudna, also one of my teachers as well as Emmanuelle Charpentier. They started this technology-- found it in bacterial species.
And then George, as well and Feng Zhang, who did it in humans, showing that this is possible in mammalian species and humans. And this is the big rationale to figure out how we're able to use this technology, which is originally-- actually in the immune system of bacteria-- be able to eat special sequences to be able to edit this.
Of course, the press has now worked up the frenzy and like, wow, now we can edit. Now, can we just choose a baby on your iPad and then send it off to print? And then using IVF then put it in your womb. And boom, you have the baby that you want. We are far away from that.
And these are some covers, right? "Editing Humanity," "We Can Now Engineer the Human Race," "The Gene Machine," so all these covers. And here, "Eugenics is Back," "CRISPR," and then this is, "No Hunger, No Pollution, No Disease, the End of Life as We Know It."
Of course, this is press making big. But what it is, is that we are starting. We are at the beginning of not only printing DNA as much as we want, but also editing. First, if you remember from the first part, we don't know what it means yet. So we don't understand the language.
But if we did understand that language, we can-- able to do that. The technology still needs to be perfected. It has off-target effects. So it doesn't only edit the one area. In other areas it might cause cancer if it is an area. So it needs to be perfected, but it will be.
And then the thought is then, what are we going to do with this technology? So already-- because this is so easy to do now, scientists all over the world can literally order a kit and try it at home. And anybody with a little bit biochemistry background, molecular biology can almost-- literally try this at home.
And there's a big international backlash in thinking about, no, we should not start editing humans. But this is one group in China that just decided to do it, so they tried to edit this. And basically, their paper published in this obscure journal that nobody read, but it caused big news.
But they did this-- was that they were able to edit, but none of the fetus actually survived. So it's like, oh, the paper was-- oh, we tried it, but it's very hard. I'm like, OK. But that being big news, because they're trying something that potentially is very taboo.
So because of this-- and now, scientists are very worried, right? So we're able to, number one, read genomes at a very quick and easy way. Now, we're able to print, potentially genomes and edit genomes in a very quick and easy way. What does this mean? What are ethical implications, societal implications, legal implications?
So quickly after that event happened in China and this big press, the different national academies got together. The National Academy of the US, of China, people from Europe gathered together in Washington, DC and had this international summit to talk about gene editing.
And this is where we're starting to shift over to think about where faith plays a role-- is that ultimately-- that when the scientists get together, they can talk science. They can say how we do it, how can do it better? But ultimately, science didn't have the tools to tell them whether they should do it, right?
Just because they could do it, there was no science experiment that they could do that could tell them whether they should or should not, for example, edit human genomes or not. So they started to bring in outside experts, bioethicists, people from other countries to weigh in into this discussion.
They wanted to invite more, so the advocates from the disability community, which not-- but just minorities to enter in this conversation. Because there's a lot of questions that the scientists realize that yes, we're very good at inventing tools.
But when we think about how we're going to use it, we're sort of at the end of ability of science to be able to do that. And this is where we think that the role of faith and ethics has great to contribute. So the first part to summarize then is that there is great promise. There is great development even within the last 50 years in terms of reading and writing genomes.
And we're just at the beginning. And before we know it, actually, a lot of these things that we think about will actually be a reality. So now is the time for us to start thinking about not only the scientific questions of method and technology, but thinking about ethics and morality. And this will-- start talking about in my second half here.
So morality-- science has-- even within the US when we talk about things like eugenics, we think it's such a taboo topic. And we forget in terms of even within US history, eugenics actually was something that was discussed actually even prior to Nazi Germany, talking about eugenics and talked boldly in state fairs.
This is one state fair in Kansas where they were able to choose. In state fairs, you choose what's the biggest tomato? What's the biggest-- the most beautiful cow? This is the fittest family here. You see it here-- fittest family. And promoting that the fittest family should be-- just as you want to grow better crops, you should grow better families.
And families who potentially are unfit who are causing a burden to society-- they either shouldn't reproduce, some were banned or sterilized. And this was-- now, we think about it and hear about it. We think it's abhorrent. It's crazy. But in the US at that time this was talked by proper high society.
People were discussing this as a way of helping the society in terms-- the human race as a whole. Even minorities thinking about ways that African Americans-- if they can take the elite of African Americans, they can help African Americans as a race, too, be able to rise to the top.
So as we think that eugenics is such a-- this is a horrible thing that we talk about-- it was actually not long ago a topic of a conversation that was not taboo. And we would talk about science and bioethics. There's two examples that people always bring up, where it shows that science are unable to answer those questions and resulted in abuses.
This is one of a very famous one from, of course, Nazi Germany. And this is a horrible one where-- you don't see this as well-- is they took kids and gave them different diseases and studied them. And then basically, sacrificed them, dissected them just to study how these diseases went, right? Scientifically if people are no different than animals and rats, we do that in rats all the time.
If people are no different for potentially the scientists, there was nothing wrong from a purely scientific perspective, right? But the backlash from the ethics community-- and this is one of the big things from this and others is that when we talk about-- when you do scientific experiments these days on humans, there's an Institutional Review Board.
And all these things actually were created, because of things like Nazi Germany experiments. And he's like, wow, that's horrible. Nazis are horrible. And maybe the eugenics was so long ago. And maybe there's other countries. But actually, in the US as recent as in the '70s, there was very, very significant abuses.
For those who haven't heard this, this is the Tuskegee Experiment where African Americans were exposed to syphilis and in the guise of-- and at the time syphilis already had a drug, right? Penicillin was able to kill it-- to be able to cure it.
But in the guise of providing free health care to this poor African-American community in Tuskegee, they-- oh, come on in. We'll do your regular check-up. But in fact, they were not giving them any medication and just watching them-- the disease progress.
And the study was to-- wanted to see the progression of syphilis in a population. And there was ways that scientists said that, you know what? This will help the population as a whole, because they're sacrificing, then we learn about it-- when we can do that.
So there's ways that they rationalize that. And for us-- again, I think that this is a point. And this is as recent as the '70s to be able to do that. So we can see clearly that science alone is insufficient to provide an understanding of what's right and what's wrong.
And things that we today think is every day and second nature-- actually, even very recently was practiced in that way. So this really underlines-- in addition to science, there must be ways that we think about ethics, think about morality, think about right and wrong to add to this conversation.
So what is the role there for these things? A lot of these discussions then often-- even for people of faith-- they enter this discussion that yes, there needs to be some sort of morality imported, or put in to help us think about right and wrong.
And there are-- from Christians there's a couple of different perspectives. One perspective is appealing to natural law. So Christians often from one faith-- they'll appeal to things that-- even though that they come from a specific faith tradition say that, you know what?
We should do this, because it's good for society, using non-Christian arguments to be able to do that. And that's mostly because-- to allow for conversation within the public square to not take a Christian background into these discussions.
Because the other side doesn't have that language. But the other approach is-- as more and more as interesting in these ethics dialogue, people are bringing in their perspectives while celebrating their identity. So whether it's minorities who come in and says, you know what?
From African-American perspectives, this is what I think. From a LGBT perspective, there's an area called queer bioethics where people say, as people of a certain sexual identity, I feel this. Or people from the disabled community be able to do that.
So my proposal is that for people of faith this is something that we can bring to the table as well-- as not necessarily as every time we come to this table and we talk about bioethics, only appealing to things that could be specific in an entire population, but be open and honest about our own faith traditions and use that as ways of building arguments of why we think we should do a couple things.
So that's what I've hopefully-- be able to help you think about in terms of it as another method of bringing even Christian wisdom to the table and not to be apologetic about oh, this is my-- because I think what we're really seeing is a welcoming of different perspectives.
And in the past where Christian voices were much louder, there was a silencing in the voice. But now, I think that there could be a resurgence of that. So what can that look like? I'll quickly go over some of that. Beginning life issues-- this is talked about to death of where-- so I'm going to skip this quickly.
And if you want to talk about more-- and this, obviously, is very, very controversial there. But there is very clear scriptures in the Christian scriptures about God knowing children while they're in the womb. And that's why I talk about beginning of life issues and abortion. But there's much, much more.
And often when we talk about the interaction of Christianity with bioethics, we often stop here, get stuck-- or at the end of life. So I like to go into the other issues there. So what are areas of the rich Christian tradition that we can appeal to, to think about how we think about genomics and science?
One thing we think about is the creation mandate. So for people who don't come from the Christian tradition, this is-- when God created Adam, one of the first things God told Adam was for him to take care of the garden and be a caretaker and even named the animals to be able to do that.
So from a Christian tradition, the pursuit of science is something that actually God mandated. That we shouldn't be afraid of doing science. This is one of the ways for Christians to understand that the world they're in-- understand the God that they serve.
But also, caretaking. So looking at different species and be able to do that is very, very important. Imago Dei-- jargon. But this is image of God. And this is a central, very, very important idea within the Christian tradition that humans are created in the image of God.
Humans are different from animals. And because they are created in an image of God, they can understand God's thoughts, and they have human dignity. And this is central now, when we talk about this discussion about genomics and human dignity there. So for example, when we talk about humanity, people are different within the Christian tradition than animals.
So from a purely atheistic perspective, it's-- depending on who you talk to, sometimes there's very little distinction between why we should experiment on humans-- not on humans, but we should on animals. Some have actually suggested we shouldn't even experiment on animals altogether. So that's one way of thinking about it.
But I think from a Christian perspective-- again, from a multi-perspectival approach, knowing that humans are different from other species. In that sense, we would think about-- as we approach bioethics when we're editing genomes and reading genomes and making changes that we differentiate how we treat cloning-- Dolly the sheep versus cloning Molly, my aunt.
So it's going to be very different as we think about people versus animals. Human dignity is very, very important, right? As all people are created in the image of God in terms of how you approach ethics. From Christian ethics, we less think about purely utilitarian-- people are only worthwhile if they're producing good to society.
So a child that's born, for example, with severe disability, or live for a short manner of life are not, quote, "producing good for the world." They still have dignity. So from a Christian perspective, looking at people who are disabled who have significant diseases-- they, too, have dignity in that sense.
And often from the disabled community when they voice their opinions, they're saying, you know what? It's not often so clear-cut what things are purely diseases and what are a spectrum of that. But the importance of thinking of what human dignity is and looking at, what is disease and what is healthy state? Is important there as well.
Another idea is shalom and fall. So shalom is a Christian-- a Judeo-Christian concept of wholeness, of wellness. And this wholeness and wellness doesn't exist, because of-- we live in a world that there is no wholeness, because of sin and turning the world from a Christian perspective.
How does this then help us think about-- in genomics? There's a big discussion within genomics as, what can we do in terms of the actual changes? There's a big differentiation between editing genomes to help alleviate diseases versus creating, quote unquote, "superhumans."
So if people have cystic fibrosis-- Christian, non-Christian alike-- within scientists there's consensus that working on that and helping that makes sense. And it's much more controversial where we're editing genes, for example, to make people a higher IQ or bigger muscle.
And that also is within Christian-- within scientific discussion. But I think from a Christian perspective, we can very-- from that perspective to be able to say that we are restoring a broken state. And what we use genomics for in terms of that makes sense in that rubric.
I sort of talked about restoration there. And ultimately, I think when we talk about new technologies, there's an envisioning of one day where there's no diseases, and everybody will be healthy, live forever, land of plenty. And what can that look like in different ways?
And I think-- I like the Pixar movie with WALL-E. People have seen that where they have nothing to worry about. They sit in their motorized vehicles and just sip drinks and watch TV all day. That idea of utopia. So even one day we're able to edit genes.
Let's say we're able to understand genes and edit and be able to get rid of disease. Is that ultimately the answer on what that looks like? And from the Christian tradition, there's a thought where there's a time where there are no diseases and then when people are with God.
And that's the ultimate state beyond just sort of a physical alliteration there. So that's something to think about is, if biomedicine and biotechnology ultimately is just to restore this physical state of longevity and life, is that sufficient? And I think there's a lot of richness that Christian tradition can bring, too.
So I'm going to end here. This is a thought. This is a picture of singularity where people talk about computers are going to be getting so smart. They're going to run us. And ultimately, we're going to just live within machines to be able to do that. And there's a lot of thought about what future will look like.
And I think there's-- whether with technology or not with technology, thinking about what we want our society to become. What we want humanity to be and what it is to be human are incredibly important questions that we should ask, and compare different worldviews and different traditions, and how they're able to answer that question. Thank you very much.
KARL JOHNSON: Thank you very much. That was a wonderful and wide-ranging lecture. And you may have noticed that all of our speaker's notes were over here. You never looked at them, which is very impressive for those of us who run for dependence on notes that you have this evening. We have some time for Q&A. And let's make the most of it. Let's take what time we have to ask for questions you might have for our speaker. Just speak up.
AUDIENCE: Thanks for the interesting lecture. I was wondering from a practical perspective, even when and if, as society decided, or as a country decided what the ethical standards are, how will we be able to practically implement it, even if there's always so many other countries that-- there's different standards?
Not only countries, but there might also be private institutions where there may be things that we know nothing about, especially given the fact, as you've mentioned multiple times, has become easier and easier to research. You don't need big research labs that we can have control. So even if you decide on what is good and what is not, I will be able to make sure that nobody's going behind their backs and doing something else.
JIMMY LIN: Yeah. No, that's a great question. And at this conference on the summit, looking at ways to look at genetic engineering, they've invited people from different countries from Africa and France and to be able to think about how different countries have different standards. And potentially, we can think about ways that there can be some sort of consensus.
And let me talk about the consensus first, and then let's talk about the biohackers, which may be the fun part. The consensus is always hard to come. And there are global organizations that are able to do that. So within the area of bioethics, for example, whether with the United Nations or UNESCO, there has been consensus, for example, on human dignity.
That even though different countries may have different perspectives, they have come to a common denominator in terms of recognizing that despite all the different countries of the world, as humans these are things that we think about-- what human dignity means.
And there's similar things that have happened in different areas, such as human cloning and others. That being said, so cloning is a great example where the scientific community has-- most countries have said that's not a good thing to do-- unethical thing to do.
But purportedly there actually are companies who are doing it in secret. And people are saying-- there are news reports that there have been people that have been cloned. So that's a issue that has been-- so I think that in terms of, how are you able to regulate ethics? Is always something that's hard, right?
So for example, we say that people shouldn't kill. But there's a large number of murders that happen. So I think there's two questions to say. Number one is to figure out as a society or as humanity what we think is right and wrong. And that's number one.
And number two then is, how are we able to implement that? When it becomes very, very easy in terms of biohackers, it is actually-- it is possible, actually, to think about people in garages 3D printing smallpox viruses in the future.
And there have been discussions. And I actually been interviewed by the press about these things. It's not possible these days, but it could be. So what we need to do then is have things that we will be able to attack that. So I don't think we will be able to contain it, because it becomes so easy.
And the same thing that people talk about 3D-printing guns. And that's now possible. That we need to create mechanisms to be able to go against that and becoming this-- ultimately, policing and cat-and-mouse game that happens.
So there's not going to be a clear answer, because it becomes so easy. But it will require enforcement efforts to keep that at bay. But it is a valid concern. And governments are thinking about that very seriously in terms of bioterrorism and for us, too. So let me talk, for example, about smallpox, right?
If we really eliminated smallpox and it doesn't-- or other diseases where we no longer vaccinate, but having then-- actually, the therapies and the vaccinations on board in case of an outbreak to be able to mitigate that will be some measures that are going to be important to be able to do that. So unfortunately, there's not an easy answer. So that there's ways to completely shut them down-- you won't be able to. And the ways that we'll-- to be able to is to survey and be able to respond.
KARL JOHNSON: If I could just ask a quick followup to that. Do you observe the nature of that pattern along the lines of, when a new technology emerges and questions or controversies about its appropriate use arise, is there a tendency for the ethical responses to those controversies to move toward consensus over time? It never feels like we have consensus, but partly because there's always moving, emerging technologies that are raising new kinds of questions.
JIMMY LIN: Yeah. I think in the beginning with the introduction of a new technology-- and for example, cars, right? There was a great concern that on these people-- like hitting pedestrians. And at one time cars needed-- you needed a person to be in front of your car to drive it.
KARL JOHNSON: Even bicycles. They're similar.
JIMMY LIN: Yeah. So I think with all new technologies-- I think in the beginning, we really don't know what its impacts will be. And there is going to be some exaggeration of concern. And then there's parts of it. There's going to be legitimate concerns, right?
We can have our cars. And now, we have safer cars, and we have seat belts, and we have rules of the road. So I think society adapts to new technologies. But they are still going to be adapting in ways that-- there's going to be ways of restriction and ways of freedom.
So a car is an example, right? Now, not anybody can drive a car. You need to take a test to drive a car. You need to-- not any car can be on the road. You need seat belts. They need the lights. So there's going to be regulation that help guide that technology.
So for example, cloning was a big deal back in the day. And we clone a lot of things these days, but just not humans. So with new technology, there's going to be guide rails that are eventually established. When it's new, everybody thinks that it's a free-for-all. But ultimately, I think there's going to be more nuance in terms of how we use these technologies.
KARL JOHNSON: Yeah, the back at the front section there.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. So my question is kind of more of a Christian position. I'm kind of furious as to exactly what studying or talking human genome really will achieve. I know that when you want to stimulate the antibodies in your system when you're finding a hole or whatever. They mix chemicals.
And they do some sort of test, and they mix them. And they have an animal like a mouse. They inject them with a tube chemical. And they observe them over time and watch them transform. Has there been any actual success stories of cloning someone?
When you're cloning new sheep, for example, it's a brand new sheep. It's a completely different sheep. Maybe it has the same DNA or whatever the purpose is. But the only way you can tell if something has been successful-- by using statistics.
So I know there has been in the political spectrum-- people trying to classify certain human beings as being smarter than others. That a smaller brain may correlate with lower test scores, or a larger brain with higher test scores. And in every single category, whether it be test scores or violence, African Americans tend to fall on the bottom.
The ones that get the end of the stick-- that is the most complex. So how can you define-- how can you make a case? Are you going to try and make a scientific argument-- suggests that it has been-- you are going to try to find this actual gene?
Having the DNA and say this gene is the one you want to stay away from, that will prevent African Americans from killing each other so often, and prevent them, or help them, or aid them to grow their brain much larger? What is the essence of this science, when as Christians what we try to achieve-- it suggests that everyone is an individual human being. And God's love will help us attain the greatest heights that we can actually reach.
JIMMY LIN: No, that's a great question. So the question is, why do we study the genome? Are we studying the genome so we can figure out how to make people smarter, or better categorize people, or what's the purpose? There's a couple things.
Before I start to even talk about [INAUDIBLE], I think there's intrinsic value in studying God's world as a Christian. So it doesn't have to eventually help-- and even an individual. Someone like Kepler, looking at planetary motion and marveling God's handiwork is a way of worship of studying God and his fingerprint.
So there's intrinsic value in studying science in itself, studying God's word. So that's number one. Number two, I think within specifically genomics there's-- I think what I'm actually interested is restoring the effects of the fall, specifically looking at disease. So I study cancer. And there's very clear genetic signatures that cause that.
So understanding the human genome can help us understand which are the disease alleles that cause different illnesses? It turns out. So I think as Christians, I think our co-laboring with God as stewards of this world and being with-- working with Christ to be able to turn back the effects of the fall. So that's number two.
Number three, in terms of the characteristics, that's going to be hard. I think we have-- there are some things to tie. For example, traits with muscle growth, so there's specific-- that's been found. Height as well to be able to do that.
But ultimately, these are descriptive, right? For example, let's say we have-- imaging technology is like taking X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scan. And we can see that people with bigger hearts, or a special kind of twitch muscles are better at certain activities.
So fast versus slow twitch muscles-- more fit to be a marathon runner versus a sprinter. So those are descriptive. So there's also value in that descriptive aspect. But description doesn't mean prejudice and labeling.
So that can also-- because, for example, we can describe people with different skin color when we could do that as a descriptive manner. Or we can do that in a prejudicial manner as well. So I think-- so it's a scientific way of doing that for just describing that-- understanding that has value in itself as well without falling into categorization and prejudice.
AUDIENCE: Could you simplify the process by which you guys use-- to tell exactly how you codify this DNA or double helix? Do you notice color is limited? This color is designated this. Because I was looking up online-- [INAUDIBLE]. And the reason I say it's the equivalent is because as a Christian, I find it somewhat perplexing that people are creating science, or defining this theoretical aspect of life as if it were true as an absolute.
It's their new guide. It's science. Now, you have documents. Some social scientists just continuously [INAUDIBLE] people. College campuses after campus, people are creating this new science or this new religion. And then I think to myself.
I've studied, and YouTubed, and googled, gone to conferences. And nobody can tell you exactly that they can read it as they describe it in a book, or they draw it out, or computers can actually apply numbers to certain things. I don't see that. Can you simplify that for us?
JIMMY LIN: Yeah, happy to. So first of all, I think science-- there's an interplay between science and faith. And I think as a scientist who is Christian, that science is the way that I worship or glorify God and understand this world.
And so science as a tool versus scientism, which we're seeing in science as the ultimate. And that's something separate. A quick primer on how to understand DNA-- DNA ultimately has four letters-- A, T, C, and G. And you can take that. And these machines are able to digitize.
So it just becomes a string of letters-- A, T, C, G. And simply what you do is-- for example, in cancer, you take someone's cancer and you get the letters A, T, C, G. And you look at their normal-- A, T, C, G. And you look at what's different. And those are-- the positions are different. That may be causing cancer.
You take a look at another cancer. And you say, oh. And after a while, you see a pattern. Everybody who gets colorectal cancer, or a large part of them has a specific gene-- has a specific mutation. And that's how you decode. And it's literally strings of letters that scientists are looking at. And it's just-- it's mostly by comparison.
And that's why we talk about big data and wanting to sequence lots of people. Because, for example, we can take a look at all of the people with, for example, autism. All the people without autism. And then see the differences in their genomes and be able to map those differences. And it's a comparative aspect.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, thank you.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I had a question about consciousness. But I think-- first, I just wanted-- make a small comment that I think I would be remiss if I didn't. As a neuroscientist and an African-American nurse, I just think it's important.
You say it was mentioned before is something called chronology, which is an old quackery type science that had to do with the size of the skull and correlating that to crime and violence. And that's not true. And so I just wanted-- say that first and foremost.
JIMMY LIN: Yeah. And actually, Jim Watson was harshly criticized for saying that as well, which has been completely disproven.
AUDIENCE: Right. As a neuroscientist, that's complete trash. And as a black person [INAUDIBLE]. By the way, that aside, I was interested in-- as Christians we talk about being dualists, understanding the brain and the mind separate from the soul. Most of my colleagues are physicalists, right? Meaning that the mind is the brain.
You can get a-- change the series or something to keep making your brain-- you can still have the soul. So just curious in terms of through the genomics side of things if you can 3D print life, if you will. Where does consciousness fall into that? Do geneticists think about that in the same way neuroscientists do in terms of--
JIMMY LIN: Yeah. So there's definitely neuropsychiatric genomics. Actually, some of that is done at Hopkins. It's incredibly complex as you would understand-- is because a lot of-- for example, looking at mental health and disorders and schizophrenia, there's genetic alleles that-- and they're predisposed-- predispose people to different mental illnesses.
And that's the most-- I didn't get to it. That you're more likely-- and you take all the people with schizophrenia. I think back to you. All the people who say, we ultimately don't. And these are the people who do have some of the alleles. And you have a little bit more likelihood of being-- having schizophrenia if you have these gene snips. That's the extent of it.
We know-- I know you would know more as a neuroscientist. We know so little about the brain in terms of that sort of complexity. And there's a big step from your genes and how it's expressed to the structures and then the synapses and neurons that-- from a genomics perspective, we're still understanding even what the susceptibility alleles are.
And that's even a very, very rude first marker. So for genomics to ultimately explain consciousness, that's, I think, very, very far away. And one thing I want us to talk about is humans and chimpanzees share-- I forgot the exact number, but 99.9.
I don't know how many nines-- percent of our genomes, right? And ultimately, we don't think that we are humans just because of that little difference between us and chimps. And actually, we share our genome with rats over 90%. So we are much more than our genes if that's one thing that genomics have taught us.
Because if your pure genes were actually not that much different from the asthma. So there's something more about humans than pure DNA. That's becoming clear. And that-- if you press scientists on, they would have to figure out, what is that something that's more? And from a Christian tradition, obviously, there are some answers there.
KARL JOHNSON: Right here in front.
AUDIENCE: All right. I've got two questions, OK? You said you understand about 3%-- the human genome. And what rate is that growing? And is that also-- is that similar to how much we know about the protein world in terms of what we understand and what we have decoded?
JIMMY LIN: Yeah. So the 3% number I use. And I didn't give as much in detail, because with general talk is-- approximate 3% of the genome are exons. So the exome is about the 3%. And then like you sort of said is, those are areas where we know code proteins.
And we understand that proteins are what ultimately acts within a cell. Then the causes are different. So because we know the genetic code, we know number three codes for amino acid. And we can make sense of those regions that these exomes code for proteins, and proteins have some sort of function.
So those are areas we understand OK. But we don't understand-- a vast number of proteins-- we have no idea what it does. And most proteins we probably know one of many, many functions that it provides. Outside of these areas and code for proteins there are untranslated regions.
Three, five-- five prime. We're getting into the weeds. There's micro RNA. So these areas-- there's a lot of other parts of the genome where it doesn't encode proteins. That scientists are still trying to figure out what it means.
And projects like the ENCODE project are trying to figure out, does it contribute? Is it just junk? Is it just molecular fossils? How does that contribute? If it doesn't mean anything, why do we have all these areas that potentially are non-functional, or we just don't understand the function?
KARL JOHNSON: We'll take two more questions here and then over in the back. That'll be the last question.
AUDIENCE: This question isn't directly pertaining to your research, but what is your opinion on the BioLogos Initiative?
JIMMY LIN: Yeah, I give entire talks about these topics. And usually, the discussion is framed charity, grace, and love at the intersection of science, faith, and evolution. Obviously, there are very contentious discussions and debates and attacks in the area of how we understand evolution and human origin.
And there are many different well meaning, God believing Christians who stand on many sides of the issue, whether it's young earth, old earth, whether it's theistic evolution like BioLogos. And so if I were to summarize these talks I usually give, I think I would-- instead of giving an answer-- and I actually-- I don't by the end of it, so to tell you this is the one that I think is right.
Because I don't think that we know which one is completely right just from the scriptures. It's what is important. And so you look at three things. You need to understand the science, which is important. You need to understand the scriptures that it refers to, specifically how to interpret those scriptures, which is called hermeneutics.
Often people who are in these discussions take passages out of context, so understand how to read the scriptures and how to understand doctrine within the whole book of the Bible, which is often called-- systematic theology versus biblical theology is going to be important.
So I think the way to address that would be more systematic. You need to understand what the science is. What's good hermeneutics of those passages? And there's a biblical theology, a systematic theology and then that come to their agreement there.
So I think, ultimately, the Westminster Theological Seminary looked into this in the late '90s, specifically about one issue. They're not even looking at evolution, but looking at the word yom as the Hebrew word for day.
How long is that day when it talks about the days of creation? And they surveyed historical theology, different fathers of the faith, and how it was used. And basically, they said that even before evolution, even before science, people have debated how to interpret that word.
And they say that on this side right now that there is not a clear answer that you can be dogmatic on how to interpret that. So as a seminary, they gave freedom for people how to interpret that. So I think as a Christian, I think you should-- we should strive to understand scripture clearly and come to understanding.
But I think we should be charitable and loving to our brother and sisters who have potentially other views on how that is done and not to be overly dogmatic. And the things that we agree on-- probably within these different areas, we agree probably similar to chimpanzee genomes in humans-- a vast majority.
And not to take these areas as ways of dividing. That being said, those also has implications too, when you take these ideas and draw-- and when they are taken out of context and take science into scientism, or you take methodological naturalism.
I'm sorry I'm throwing all these weird, long, big terms. But if you just see science and then lift it to its ultimate means, because what you think about evolution, or you think about evolution as true, and that you believe-- you don't believe in a good God.
Those also have implications. So it's a nuanced answer where, yes, we want to find a good answer, but we don't want to be dogmatic about it. But there are still ways that can lead brothers and sisters astray. So we need to be charitable to one another when we talk about that. So hopefully that helps.
KARL JOHNSON: And last question over here.
AUDIENCE: Hey, one of the topics that you brought up perfect was the difference between right and wrong and how that was through genomic testing. My question is, how do you justify what is right and wrong, inching on the cusp of which is still such a gray area when there are some people-- at least there's some cultures across the globe. So many people think so many different things are right and wrong.
JIMMY LIN: Yeah. So that's-- I mean, that's nothing new. So the study of ethics has been a while-- for a long while. And there's many different areas of thought of how you approach ethics, whether you wanted to look at virtue of things, or whether it's utilitarian ethics, be pragmatic or deontological. And people disagree on ethical issues and ethical norm.
So genomics is no different. So there are many different ethical issues that people disagree on, just like in the area of genomics. But there's ways where there are implications on a societal level that would result, not only from ethics becoming legal issues. And there's areas of ethics that have become personal choice within freedom of the law.
So there are issues. That is up to individual choice. So I think genomics is no different than other ethical issues in that sense, whether it's what kind of food you eat, whether you want to be a vegetarian, or you want to eat meat, or what you think about-- how you do your purchasing, whether you're enabling slave trade or fair trade.
So there are personal choices. And then there's things that are more societal and that would result in legal governmental regulation. So genomics wouldn't be no different. So there are laws in genomics banning-- or it should be the other way. It's protecting.
There's the GINA Act-- Genetic Information Nondiscriminatory Act. So if you get your genome tested, there's ways that needs to be protected. But then whether you should get tested or not, that's within personal freedom. So I think like all ethical issues, there's going to be a balance there between government regulation versus personal freedom.
KARL JOHNSON: OK, as we wrap up, just a couple of quick announcements. I wanted to mention, as you may have seen on our slide at the beginning, that tomorrow evening Chesterton House will be co-sponsoring the Veritas Forum at Cornell.
The title of the evening event is Beyond Colorblind? And the speaker is Dr. Andra Gillespie from Emory University. And even before that happens, those of you interested in continuing the conversation with Dr. Lin will be very happy to know that he is on Pacific Time.
So it's only 6:30 PM right now. I plan on taking him over to the Bear's Den. And so any of you who would like to join us, you are very welcome to. Thank you very much for joining us this evening. With that, please join me in giving a final thanks to Dr. Lin.
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Dr. Cheng-Ho Jimmy Lin will deliver the 2017 Beimfohr Lecture March 1 at 8 p.m. Lin is the Chief Scientific Officer of oncology at Natera, where he is leading the development of new diagnostic technologies for cancer. Prior to this, he led the clinical genomics program at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the NIH as well as working on pioneering research at Johns Hopkins and Washington University in St. Louis. He has published in top academic journals, such as Science, Nature, and Cell, and has been featured in media outlets, such as New York Times, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Washington Post, and the Financial Times.