Thursday, April 08, 2004

Genetic games

An interesting, well balanced article from the atlantic Online.

I just want to make some comments about some of the lines in the article.

How far should we go to refine humanity through science?

In the realm of health care sciences, we are well past just treating the outside symptoms, and have been treating the core biological problems for some time now (ex. drugs to alter the actual processes of the human body). We are on the verge of treating the genetic problems from which many of the disease that affect men come from. For example, if a person cannot get fat or cannot have high blood pressure, then many of America's problems will disappear.

He contends that our abilities, talents, and physical characteristics could come to be perceived as achievements rather than biological "gifts," and that we might no longer perceive our traits as blessings, but as obligations:

I would go so far as to say many would see it as their natural born right to receive a genetic booster shot as it were. Which could cause those lesser mortals to riot against the genetically endowed (and it is sad when beautiful people are bothered by ugly people).

..condemned the principles of eugenics [or breeding in this case] as dehumanizing...

In the traditional; sense of breeding, i would have to say this is very true. The middle products don't matter as much as the end product. For example, they recently have started releasing a new breed of the chestnut tree which is resistant to the blight which almost wiped them out a hundred years ago. The middle products were not important, but the end result was the goal.

Although with genetics this is a little difference because once the right combinations and enough knowledge is gathered, the desired result can be achieved in one generation.

In his view, the practice of eugenics was a moral duty—the fulfillment of our obligation to "eliminate our hereditary defectives" and to perfect the human race. Eugenics was an integral step toward refining the process of human evolution, Holmes argued, to be enacted where natural selection had proved unsuccessful

Natural selection is not so much unsuccessful, but it may reward the ones which are not truly better.
Just to give a human example which i am sure all of my readers are familiar with.

If a smart beautiful couple get together. They will most likely have one or two children, and there is good chance they will be of good genetic stock.

Now if two ugly, dumb people get together, they will most likely have 4 or 5 children. Which some of these could be beautiful and smart (just like the above couple could have ugly dumb kids), but it is not likely.

So in four or five generations of ugly, dumb people reproducing, you could have many more ugly, dumb people than smart beautiful people. Natural selection has rewarded the group of people which have reproduced in the most efficient manner, not the better group.

Smith believed that scientific theories of genetic inheritance could never account for the diversity that characterizes the human species. The unique abilities, personality traits, and fingerprints of every individual human being, he argued, were a testament to the complexity of heredity—a phenomenon defying simple calculation:

Very powerful computers could help out this problem a lot. Soon we will hit the limit on how fast computers can get, but research is being done to surpass this limit and extend our computational abilities.

I support giving my children every advantage they can possibly have in this world. If it means higher intellect or cleaning up their genetic heritage (baldness, cancer, or high cholesterol. Take your pick), i want that option. Of course, i would want some one else to try it first. Major tinkering with the god given genetic code is a bad idea, but just cleaning it up a little bit won't hurt at all.


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