Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fearfully . . . and Mysteriously Made?

One of the most intriguing passages in the Bible is Psalm 139:13-14, in which King David writes, “For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…. I know that full well.”

This passage is often cited by pro-life groups to support the personhood of the unborn, and I believe rightfully so. But what if the idea of being “fearfully and wonderfully made” extends beyond things like bones and blood, muscles and organs? What if the complexity of the unique persons that God intends for us to be extends into the very building blocks of human existence – our DNA and genetic makeup?

The God Gene, a novel by Jaymie Simmon,
raises some intriguing questions.
That’s the premise of an intriguing, fast-paced novel, The God Gene, written by Jaymie Simmon, whom I’ve become acquainted with over the past year or so. The story line surrounds Dr. Rosalind Evans, a grieving scientist funded by a pharmaceutical company to discover a cure for the disease that took the life of her young daughter. Her quest takes a startling and life-changing turn, however, when she discovers something else – the Ten Commandments, embedded in the section of genetic code under scrutiny.

How did the Ten Commandments get there? Was it a hoax, a laboratory error or computer glitch, industrial sabotage – or an actual encryption from God in the foundational building blocks of life? This discovery unwittingly places Dr. Evans in the conflicting roles of hero and heretic, revered and reviled, an instant celebrity both famous and infamous.

The God Gene is a suspenseful narrative, filled with unexpected twists and turns keeping the reader off balance and intrigued to learn what will become of the beautiful but bedeviled woman of science. An avowed atheist, Dr. Evans – and everyone around her – find the constant turning of events causing them to question everything they believe, and don't believe.

While not a scientist herself, author Simmon has done a masterful job of exploring and grasping the intricacies of genetic research and what is known about the human genome. She crafts a compelling story line without pontificating or choosing sides in the ongoing and often tumultuous debate between the scientific and the spiritual. As with all fiction, there’s an element of suspending one’s disbelief, but it also suggests a rationale for expanding one’s belief.

Ms. Simmon’s insertion of the mysterious "Starry Messenger" provides a unique vehicle for escalating the suspense by raising challenging questions, and – true to the rest of her story – leading to a startling climax that will prompt many readers to ponder, “Well, what if…?”

Thousands of years ago, when Psalm 139 was written, mankind knew nothing about genetic codes. Watson and Crick and their discovery of the acclaimed DNA double helix model were yet many centuries into the future. We now understand that DNA contains the physiological coding – the molecular roadmap – that ordains things ranging from race and gender and hair color to other distinctive physical and mental qualities and traits. But what if our genes contain even more than that – specific, intentional traces of the Divine, for instance?

Many people would argue that humans are inherently good by nature, but what if that “goodness” has been built into our genetic makeup? What if our notions about good and evil, such as the nearly universal convictions that murder, stealing and lying are wrong, aren’t the result of some unexplainable evolutionary construct, but rather the handiwork of God right in the center of our gene pool?

David continued to write, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body” (Psalm 139:15-16). What if, unbeknownst to the Israelite king, that included the very cellular structure that defines values and morals, not just physique and individual attributes?

Jaymie Simmon doesn’t attempt to answer those questions, but through her work of fiction she poses questions many of us would like to have answered.

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