DNA Burial: The Future of Funerals
By Mysterious Q
Here we are in the first half of the twenty-first century and while we may not have flying cars, we are moving a bit closer to a real-life Jurassic Park. For the first time that I can remember, scientists are talking seriously about bringing back extinct species of animals like the Mammoth and preserving species on the brink of extinction. This is all possible because of advanced DNA research.
Not everyone is pleased with the idea of trying to fool Mother Nature and many question the wisdom, cost, morality and actual science of re-creating everything from dinosaurs to people. Cloning, for example, has not exactly been a shining example of success. Sheep, horses and bulls have been successfully cloned, but some clones have not lived very long and attempts to clone other animals has not yet produced viable embryos. Some scientific researchers say that re-creating extinct species of animals is a far more complicated process than anyone will admit and that the process is no where near a reality as of yet. Others claim they are all but there.
If you lived in the first half of the twentieth century you would find books and periodicals filled with stories about the certainty that people would one day set foot on the Moon. Some of these articles were published when a number of scientists still felt that it was not possible for humans to withstand speeds of greater than sixty miles per hour. They predicted that the organs in a person's body would simply shut down at such a great speed. Either way, a lot more people thought of space travel and a moon landing as more fiction than fact. In 1969 the skeptics and nay-sayers were silenced when landing on the moon became a reality for two U.S. Astronauts.
It is not unreasonable to assume that we will eventually have no problem re-creating extinct animals or even people who have died as long as there is some viable DNA to work with. Regardless of the social, legal or moral consequences, I feel strongly that this process will be perfected and that it may happen sooner rather than later. In the meantime, the possibility of cloning someone might provide a solution that some forward thinking people can use to make the Earth a better place to live.
Right now the vast majority of people in the USA choose traditional funerary and burial methods as a means of dealing with loved ones that have passed away. They have the body prepared and buried intact. Many say that they do this because of religious conviction, personal preference or to follow a tradition long established by now deceased family members. Whether a body is buried in the ground, shelved in a building or placed in a mausoleum, it does take up a lot of space.
Burial is an expensive proposition that offers no guarantee of longevity. There are hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) of graveyards in the USA alone that have been forgotten, disturbed, moved or simply built over because there was no one left who cared enough to preserve those burial sites. The idea of DNA preservation offers a new and novel idea for burial. If you can get past the idea of burying or warehousing the body of a loved one that will eventually decay, disappear or be disturbed anyway, imagine the simplicity and cost effectiveness of preserving their DNA instead.
Apart from the obvious cost and space advantages, preserving the DNA of those who pass away could be the key to bringing what was once their body back to life as a clone at some future time for whatever reason. The rest of their remains could be cremated or otherwise disposed of. That would still provide a need for funerary professionals, but the costs would be much lower and the overall effect on the environment would be a far more positive one.
As a Christian, I am more interested in the soul and spirit than the body. I find no biblical command that applies to anyone today regarding specific burial instructions for bodies. As far as cloning goes, I think that people have to make up their own minds about the morality or lack of it. Again, I do not see any Biblical commands against such a practice. I would oppose the re-creation of people for the purpose of 'spare parts' which has already been the topic of fiction and non-fiction books and films.
Apart from the concept of cloning, if we do wish to preserve something of ourselves or our loved ones, what better does that than DNA? I will let the scientists argue over how DNA is best preserved and allow the theologians that never agree with each other anyway to argue over the morality of cloning. For me, the idea of DNA burial presents a wise, ecologically-friendly and cost effective manner of burial that should be considered as a means providing comfort to the survivors of those that pass on while helping to free up space in a crowded world.
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