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With great power…

December 17, 2007

So, sorry for not posting much of substance lately. Holidays and all. I will be back on track with some theoretical/ranting posts after Christmas (although I may take the opportunity to do a little rant re: political correctness and Christmas/Xmas/Holidays).

Meanwhile, now that humans have begun harnessing the power of the genome, we can finally give such marvelous novelty gifts as glow-in-the-dark cats.

Now, according to the article, the scientists did have a rational reason for doing that — it’s a much easier pitch to the lay-public when they can SEE the effect science has had with their own eyes, as opposed to “see these bands on the chromosomes under the electron microscope? We moved those. Science!” So making living creatures who are genetically (and benignly) altered clones is a great way to make a point: We know what we’re doing, we have an unprecedented level of control.

But that’s also, of course, potentially a bad thing. Even though I’m not sure I have a lot of ethical objections to manipulating the genome, there are basic logical ones: how do we know that the adjustments we make will be benign? Natural selection creates an equilibrium; unfit mutations do not survive or produce less offspring and thus the gene pool balances out. But what if, through artificial selection, we introduce a mutation that we think is good but turns out to be bad, and the usual equilibrium process winds up wiping out the new mutation, which by artificial means comprised an entire generation of a population?

Bad times.

And even if there’s nothing but good that could be expected from this, I expect people to miss the point entirely. Either by getting up in arms about the existence of glow-in-the-dark cats (without understanding their implications), or worse yet, by WANTING a glow-in-the-dark cat or other designer pet (likewise).

Although it is good fodder if I ever get around to writing a sci-fi social satire.

From → technology

One Comment
  1. Master Darksol permalink

    The vast majority of the genome-tinkering is heading in one direction: altering the HUMAN genome. All this extra is just preparation and proof (i.e. look, we can do it. It’s easy.)

    As far as ethical questioning goes, I can understand from a religious perspective. A person wouldn’t want us to screw with God’s design. Without jumping into whether or not I believe in God, that’s fine… for THEM. For the rest of human-kind, we shouldn’t be shackled by the fears of the religious group.
    … but the Natural Selection argument doesn’t really fly. For hundreds of years now we have effectively REMOVED ourselves from the clutches of Natural Selection. Civilization and modern medicine have allowed people to survive (and pass on their genes) when otherwise they would have died. We have a multitude of people with disorders, genetic diseases, deformities, mental instabilities, etc. that would have been weeded out … but with treatments and pills they can survive by depending on the healthy population.
    Don’t get me wrong in thinking that I’m aiming towards a “kill off all the sick people” goal with this logic; we’re far too late for a solution like that (not to mention the ethical ramifications of an act like that), but by now nearly everyone has SOME kind of disorder, or is a carrier for one.
    At this point, for our species to “evolve” or grow or improve physically in any way, we would need to turn to gene-therapy or altering.

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