Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Romancing the gene: The human genome as our 5 million-year-old story
by Clogston, Christi L., Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2009, 245; 3486442
Abstract (Summary)

One of the most heroic science projects undertaken in the last century is the massive and institutionally coordinated DNA sequencing of the entire human genome. Evangelically promoted by scientists to the general public, the Human Genome Project (HGP) developed a messianic veneer, promising molecular salvation for incurable diseases and nearly-divine control of our biological destiny. While the Herculean task of sequencing the entire human genome seems to literalize human condition to a set of DNA base-pairs, the meaning of the human genome has a mythic dimension: to definitively know the human genome is to ultimately know ourselves.

This dissertation examines the many metaphors used to promote and explain the HGP to various audiences. Scientists coined some of the most popular genome metaphors used to communicate the HGP's value to governments, scientific organizations, and to the public. Many genome metaphors used in public discourse reveals an unconscious religious or mythological impulse: the Holy Grail of Molecular Biology, the Book of Life, a Form of Secular Soul, the Blueprint of Humanity, and a Human Map. However, not all human genome metaphors are equal; some are created with a particular social or policy agenda in mind.

This work considers the different ways the human genome is changing the way we are thinking about ourselves, as a species, as groups, and as individuals. Comparing our genomes to each other's, to that of the chimpanzee and to Neanderthals, the human genome is reorienting humanity as a biological species. The HGP occurs during a time in the United States when the role of religion in society is once again, being hotly debated.

Looking at how the HGP has inspired a number of artists who use portions of human genome DNA sequences as the basic for creative works, it is clear that the human genome is more than just a DNA sequence. Considering the artistic forms that have emerged from the HGP, and how the Project is affecting our psychological and mythological processes, both personally and culturally, the human genome is a touchstone for an emerging creation myth, a new genomythology.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Paris, Ginette
Commitee:
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Philosophy of Science, Science history
Keywords: Depth psychology, Human Genome Project, Post-genomics
Publication Number: 3486442
ISBN: 9781267044136
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