The Last Shall Be First: Human Potential in Genetic and Theological Perspectives
Genetics and Religion in the Crosshairs: Prospects for Dialogue, University of Minnesota
In much of the rhetoric and some of the research in the area of human genetics, the notion of human potential has extraordinary normative power. Maximizing human potential remains an implicit goal of progressive thought. Yet behavioral genetics argues that genetic factors may limit human potential in a variety of areas. This paper considers and critiques the notion of "potential" within contemporary genetics from a theological perspective. It takes up this thread on human potential in two ways: first from the perspective of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, in which God appears to systematically choose or prefer those whom, from a human perspective, rate rather low on the scale of "potential"; and second from the perspective of the Christian virtue tradition, in which genetic limitations on human potential play an ambiguous role.
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