This lecture represents a summary of the Gifford Lectures delivered at St. Andrews University in December 2012.
Over the past few centuries the pendulum has constantly swung between an emphasis on the role of either nature or nurture in shaping human destiny, a pendulum often energised by ideological considerations. In recent decades the flourishing of developmental biology, genomics, epigenetics, and our increased understanding of neuronal plasticity, have all helped to subvert such dichotomous notions. At the same time the field of behavioural genetics continues to extend its reach into the social sciences, reporting the heritability of such human traits as religiosity and political affiliation. In parallel the human genome continues to be presented as the ‘blueprint of life’ as in the recent flurry of publications describing results from the ENCODE project. There are therefore many continuing challenges to notions of human freedom and moral responsibility with consequent theological implications. This lecture will critically discuss these challenges and will bring the recent literature on differential human behaviours and variant genomes into conversation with the theological understanding of humankind made in the image of God.