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Nobel scientist has new spin on 'original sin'
Posted By Drew Zahn On 03/05/2011 @ 10:15 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Christian de Duve
A Nobel Prize winner is warning that the forces of natural selection in evolution instilled mankind with an innate “original sin” that – if not overcome – may lead to humanity’s extinction.
His ideas, he says, are not new, but as old as the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
Biochemist Christian de Duve, a professor emeritus at New York City’s Rockefeller University and 1974 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, said in an interview with NewScientist that the essential problem … is selfishness.
“Natural selection has resulted in traits such as group selfishness being coded in our genes,” de Duve explains. “These were useful to our ancestors under the conditions in which they lived, but have become noxious to us today.”
Unfortunately, de Duve says, that while evolution favored the survival of early tribes with a me-first nature, there are dire consequences to the success of a selfish race.
Put more simply, he says, natural selection “doesn’t care about your grandchildren.”
“The cost of our success is the exhaustion of natural resources, leading to energy crises, climate change, pollution and the destruction of our habitat,” he continues. “If we continue in the same direction, humankind is headed for some frightful ordeals, if not extinction.”
De Duve has written a book, “Genetics of Original Sin,” in which he explains how he sees the intersection of his theories with the Bible.
“I believe that the writers of Genesis had detected the inherent selfishness in human nature that I propose is in our genes,” he told NewScientist, “and invented the myth of original sin to account for it.”
The biochemist is quick to point out, however, “I am not acting as an exegete – I don’t interpret Scripture.”
Indeed, while the Bible prescribes redemption and regeneration of the human heart through Jesus Christ as the solution to mankind’s inherent selfishness, de Duve proposes another answer: population control.
“It is a simple matter of figures,” he says. “If you want this planet to continue being habitable for everyone that lives here, you have to limit the number of inhabitants.
“Hunters do it by killing off the old or sick animals in a herd, but I don’t think that’s a very ethical way of limiting the population,” he continues. “So what remains? Birth control. We have access to practical, ethical and scientifically established methods of birth control. So I think that is the most ethical way to reduce our population.”
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