In recent weeks, newspapers and scientific magazines hailed the completion of the mapping of the human genome. Smithsonian Magazine exclaimed, “Scientists have deciphered the missing eight percent of our genetic blueprint, setting the stage for new discoveries in human evolution and disease.” TIME Magazine festively quoted Evan Eichler, one of the leaders of the mapping project, “The excitement in the genomic and medical community is palpable. ‘Hallelujah, we finally finished one human genome, but the best is yet to come,’ Eichler said during a briefing. ‘No one should see this as the end, but the beginning of a transformation not only in genomic research but in clinical medicine as well.’”
It is great that we have “Sequenced a ‘Gapless’ Human Genome,” as Smithsonian Magazine described it, but reality shows that the more we know, the less we understand. Decoding the human genome might help solve some problems, but it will not make our lives easier or happier. Since we have no understanding of our surroundings, we don’t understand the context by which our genes evolved and how they operate in relation to the environment.
Therefore, all the formulas and knowledge will be swallowed in the abyss of our incomprehension of reality, and we will deepen and worsen our problems through our own doing.
Every single gene that is encoded into us is there for a reason. If we alter or manipulate it, we will alter everything connected to it. Nature does not create malfunctions on purpose. It only mends. Therefore, when we try to “mend” nature, we invariably spoil what was not broken except we could not see it because of our blindness.
Our sages in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 156a) wrote that if a person is born with the nature of a killer, he may become a murderer or a thief, or a butcher or one who performs circumcision. In other words, we should not try to change people’s basic characteristics, but only use them where they help all of society.
Instead of trying to modify people’s genes, we should teach them how to use their innate nature for the benefit of society rather than to harm it. To do that, we should create a social atmosphere where those who contribute to it are the most respected, venerated, and admired people.
Currently, the “leaders” of society are narcissists who appreciate nothing but themselves and aspire to be as “unique” as possible, or those who exploit society to gain wealth, power, and clout. When these are the people that everyone admires, society cannot but disintegrate. The self-centered values that everyone tries to follow divide society and break it into smaller and smaller pieces. Finally, everyone will be left to fend for themselves. They will feel that they have no one close to them, and anyone is a potential enemy. In such a state, the only escapes from misery will be drugs and suicide.
Leaders will not change themselves. They are leaders only because we ourselves are like them, so we venerate people who excel in how we would like to be. Therefore, we should not wait for the idols of society to change. Instead, we should change who we are, and as we change ourselves, the personas that we idolize will change, as well, and new values will take center stage.
Once we change the values of society, we will discover that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of us. Our only flaw was how we used what was instilled in us by nature. In other words, the intention behind our actions was the culprit, not our DNA.
Because our current intentions are only for self-aggrandizement, everything that we discover and develop is harmful to society. And because we live in the society we harm, the very society that nourishes and sustains us, everything we develop and discover ends up harming us.
We need not change what we are, but who we are. Our problem is not what we do, but why we do it. If we work in order to benefit the society we live in, we will benefit ourselves.
It takes a joint effort to transition from our narcissistic mindset, but the global situation is already so poor that I think we have no choice, and no time to waste.