Research into the universe of life used to be, during centuries, a quest for ideal truth in terms of natural theology, with beauty emerging as splendor Dei veritatis. Both truth and beauty receded when observation of nature was replaced by its dissection. In the 20th century, catalysis of bioorganic interconversion became the basic concept of experimental biology. Its depiction on lab wallpaper could still induce a certain aesthetic pleasure, but any perceivable trace of beauty disappeared finally with the triumphal march of textual information as a guiding principle “Big Data” genomic biology. Both, beauty and truth, have shed their traditional emphatic meaning for molecular cell biologists. Soberness of argument and provisional acceptance by peers is what we aspire to.
Jens Reich is a physician and University Professor Emeritus of Bioinformatics at the Medical Faculty of the Humboldt University in Berlin. Reich has written about the ethics of human genome and stem cell research and has repeatedly taken public stances on political issues over the course of his career, which included playing a crucial role in the East German opposition movement in the late 1980s. Reich studied at the Humboldt University in Berlin, where he later became a professor of biomathematics and the director of the Central Institute for Molecular Biology. In 1984, he was forced to resign from this position after refusing to collaborate with the Stasi and to break off contact with friends and colleagues in the West. In 1991, Reich returned to research, with stays in United States and at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg before being appointed senior researcher at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, where he studied human genome research until his retirement. He is the author of, among other works, Es wird ein Mensch gemacht. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Gentechnik (2003) and Teufelsfragen. Ethische Konflikte in der Biomedizin (2005).