Stories showcasing biotechnology's promise are regularly juxtaposed these days with articles warning of its danger. This newspaper recently ran a story about a genetically altered weed that turns red in the presence of land mines, a development that could speed the detection and safe removal of mines that cause thousands of injuries and deaths each year (Feb. 19).
The same week The Washington Post reported on the potential for terrorists to develop new diseases that could infect huge numbers of people. Bioterrorism, it said, could be "the greatest threat to this country's physical and political existence in the 21st century" (Feb. 18).
The genie of bioengineering is clearly out of the bottle, and the question of how to guide its peaceful uses and prevent the harmful ones will occupy a central place in public debate for years to come. It's somewhat reassuring to remember that over the centuries terrorism has existed as long as history and that intelligent and courageous people have banded together to defeat it.
Still, no one would deny the diligence needed now to defend society from mistaken and malicious uses of biotechnology. Beyond the scientific research required for this defense, the Post writer also mentioned the importance of psychological preparation.
The power of this mental preparation was evident in the remarks of people interviewed in a recent PBS documentary on Martin Luther King Jr. A woman who had been one of the young recruits in the civil rights movement remembered how Dr. King had inspired them to face the terror of violence in the American South. "He took all the fear out of you," she remembered.
While King battled with fear like the rest of us, he found superior courage in the conviction that divine Providence was protecting the movement's just cause. No matter how intimidating the threats, King's faith in God's power and will to establish peace on earth emboldened him, and thousands who heard him, to combat hatred and fanaticism with love.
King is one of a great company of sung and unsung heroes, including the Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, who've trusted divine goodness as the only way truly to conquer evil.
No stranger to intimidation, including bomb threats, from those who opposed her progressive religious ideas, Mrs. Eddy wrote: "At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 571).
Mrs. Eddy's conviction of safety rested in the understanding she gained from the Bible that reality is spiritual rather than material. From this perspective, "know thyself" means first knowing the infinite Spirit that gives life to all. "If you love me and truly know who I am, I will rescue you and keep you safe," the Bible says (Psalms 91:14, Contemporary English Version).
Know God and you are safe - that's clear defense that anyone can practice. Know God as eternal Life without beginning or end. Universal Love inspires only acts of kindness. Supreme wisdom governs the universe. Think what this reveals about each of us as God's image and likeness. We must be immortal and spiritual beings, not destructible organisms. We must be directed by perfect intelligence, neither vulnerable victims nor deranged villains. God designed one united family loving one another.
This spiritual knowledge is power. It removes fear and reveals natural wisdom. Universal love overcomes the narrow self-interest that blocks intelligent solutions from emerging. A weed that detects land mines might be one example of such a solution. The more God's supremacy and everyone's true nature as God's likeness are acknowledged, the more natural it will be for the good uses of technology to increase and its negative ones to diminish.
The Lord will keep you safe from secret traps and deadly diseases. He will spread his wings over you and keep you secure.
Psalms 91:3, 4 (Contemporary English Version)