The Nobel prize-winning molecular biologist Walter Gilbert described the mapping and sequencing of the human genome as “the grail of molecular biology.” The implication, endorsed by enthusiasts for the new genetics, is that possessing a comprehensive knowledge of human genetics, like possessing the Holy Grail, will give us miraculous powers to heal the sick, and to reduce human suffering and disabilities. Indeed, the rhetoric invoked to garner public support for the Human Genome Project appears to appeal to the best of the Western tradition's enthusiasm for progress: the idea of improving human lives through the practical application of scientific knowledge.
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