Genetics!!!

The title above was used among my group of sensible Uni friends to describe more “genetically abled” folk in any particular “field”, i.e. slaves/blacks in running events and other humorous and non PC varieties.

 Prior to the turn of the year I had started writing a piece on our almost guaranteed future foibles in regards to genetic engineering; how it might benefit or damage our society. Originally the vehicle for this analysis was to be Brand New Day, the dystopian classic which considered this question, among others, almost a century ago. I quickly realised that this debate is far too unwieldy to be handled responsibly in a single blog entry, either that or I’m too dumb to tackle it, for now anyway. However, whilst writing the original article myself and some friends engaged into some drunken debate on the topic, some of which was tackled on a more concise, topical basis on facebook. Here is one of such exchanges in relation to a recent development in the field. My friend whom we shall call Hong Kong due to his Brit and Oriental influences is a Biomed student. Without further ado (with a few edits…you know, so we don’t look like idiots):

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jan/05/chimera-monkeys-combining-several-embryos

HK: Quite interesting, but the fact that this can occur spontaneously in humans,  that the offspring are ok and that this could be a powerful tool in scientific and medical research means that no alarm bells ring in my head. Jack Feltham in the comments goes on to quash some worries. It could be said that we are using our ‘god’ given intelligence.

 

VB: It’s interesting that this occurs spontaneously in human beings but power rarely comes without price. I’m hardly an activist but doctoring the inception of another creature makes me uneasy. Our ‘God’ given intelligence should also be complimented by an emotional one whether one deems it as product of “morals” or not. Deference for the life and existence of species in general is important. That said if these consideration are indeed included then perhaps I am just making a lot of noise haha But if there are moral hurdles to be passed then they should be as robust and rigorous as possible with every breakthrough as my unease likely stems from the new potentials, positive and negative brought by each breakthrough.

 

HK: Perhaps doctoring the inception of another creature could be thought of as homo sapiens using an animal further down the animal kingdom for our own survival, just as the orca uses the capture of a seal for its survival. In this case however our survival has a unique set of ideals unlike that of any other species, including and by no means limited to, civilisation. We are capable of bending the rules through our own brilliant intellect and if we can do that to bring a breakthrough in medicinal science to perhaps relieve a person of a debilitating disease (in this case perhaps some sort of embryonic mutation) through the mechanical understanding gained through such research done on the ‘chimera’ monkeys, then is that a step forward to a new civilisation whereby suffering from disease is eliminated? This is a purely biomedical way of thinking of this. But in terms of moral hurdles there is a need for a morally capable panel to adhere stringent rules on what can and can’t be done, as the pessimism that perhaps fills your mind comes from the misuse of advancements in our knowledge by the maverick and misguided individuals (that also spontaneously arise in our population). These are only my thoughts and I reiterate the use of perhaps

 

VB: I agree that there is a natural law inherent in the way in which we relate to other creatures. We are quite simply further up the food chain. But I think this is balanced by our brilliant intellect which provides for empathy and the ability to take on multiple points of view. Weighing this kind of proportionality is key, especially considering the extent to which, in the past and at present, we have steamed along with technological advancement and only realised follies and errors when it has been too late. I suppose this is my greatest worry as our curiosity is such a strong, dual-edged blade. That said the potential advancements really do excite me. One just hopes that we weed out the misguided before they get to a stage of great influence.

In brief conclusion, it is always nigh on impossible to consider whether one is merely fearful of change or rightfully wary of danger in the present. Hindsight makes many fools look like geniuses and man geniuses look like fools. This issue, with our every advancement will grow increasingly convoluted. It’s further complicated by the spectre of religion. Science and our interaction with will always be a tricky topic as long as we continue to populate the earth.

 

What are your thoughts and opinions on the above breakthrough and the broader questions?

 

Victor

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