Genetic Diversity and Human Dignity
Delve into the science behind some genetic differences found in humans and see how genetic diversity is a gift to the body of Christ.
Genetic Diversity and Human Dignity
Give your students a framework for responding with compassion to human differences.
Christians affirm that humanity bears the image of God, and this gives each person value and dignity. But how do we respond when an individual human’s genome has differences or even “defects” compared to what we consider a typical human genome? How can we prepare our students to welcome genetic diversity as a gift to the body of Christ—a body of many members who are not all the same?
- How does understanding genetic differences illuminate the inherent worth of all people?
- How can we show the compassion of Christ to those who are different from us?
- What creates the beautiful spectrum of eye colors?
- What determines race: biology or society?
- Are mutations always harmful?
- How can we uphold the dignity of individuals overlooked by society?
- Are all humans either male or female?
- How should we and society as a whole respond to human genetic diversity?
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What will students know or be able to do after this unit?
- Give examples of ways Christians can imitate Christ by showing compassion to people who feel misunderstood or who are marginalized.
- Reflect on the beauty of genetic diversity among humans.
- Use models to demonstrate how both physical and genetic factors produce the spectrum of human eye color.
- Articulate why human genetic differences are best explained with reference to ancestry, not race.
- Explain why the racial categories we use today are socially defined, not biologically defined.
- Give an example of how a mutation can be beneficial, harmful, or neutral, depending on the environment or cultural practices.
- Defend the position that people with genetic differences can serve and bless their community.
- Consider how genetic testing can be used to help or harm vulnerable groups.
- Explain the cause of one difference in sex development (DSD), called androgen insensitivity syndrome, in terms of chromosomes, hormones, and anatomy.
Modules Included in this Unit
5.1 Meet: Teacher and Faith Leader Samuel Caraballo
Mr. Caraballo works for inclusion of people with disabilities in church communities.
5.2 Grow: Compassion
In this brief devotional, students reflect on Jesus’ compassion for people and discuss our Christian calling to show compassion to those who are marginalized or suffering.
5.3 Experience: Seeing Diversity
Students observe the vast diversity and beauty of eye color in a population of humans and build a physical model of the iris. They then learn about the complex genetics behind eye color to appreciate how there can be an almost infinite number of variations in a physical trait like eye color.
5.4 Engage: Genetics, Race, and Ancestry
Students explore the complex relationship between genetics, ancestry, and race and reflect on how understanding the genetics of human diversity might help people overcome race-based prejudices.
5.5 Experience: Tasting Diversity
Students test their taste sensitivity and learn about the prevalence of a non-obvious source of genetic variation among their peers. Students then learn about lactase persistence, which arose in different parts of the world from mutations with variable contextual effects.
5.6 Engage: Life with an Extra Chromosome
Students learn about a significant genetic difference, Down syndrome, and how people with this condition contribute to society.
5.7 Engage: Variations in Biological Sex
Students learn about factors involved in sex determination and about genetic differences that affect sexual development in various ways. Students then study how eunuchs are valued and provided for in the Bible as a model for inclusion.
5.8 Integrate: Moving Toward People with Differences
Students apply what they have learned about inclusion and compassion for individuals with genetic differences.
Integrate is a much-needed resource, as there is a huge lack of materials that integrate biblical teachings well and are also aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
- Unit lesson plans (PDF download, 51 pages)
- User Introduction and Overview (Google Doc)
- 11 student handouts (Google Docs and Slides)
- 1 answer key and teacher’s note (Google Docs and Slides)
- 10 images for printing or projecting (JPEG)
- Integrate Glossary (Google Docs, 64 pages)
- NGSS Alignment (Google Doc)