Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Important truths" At 23, when his bosses tell him not work on DNA, he ignores them.  He discovers ...

"Important truths"

At 23, when his bosses tell him not work on DNA, he ignores them.  He discovers the double helix and wins the Nobel Prize.

When he writes a book about his life, his friends say it's too candid. But he ignores them and publishes it anyway. It's a best seller and he becomes a millionaire.

When he begins his biggest venture, the scientific establishment tells him it's not practical. But he persuades the US Congress to give him $3 billion dollars.  And now the human genome has been mapped.

But today, he has a vision of the future that many find disturbing. And some people wonder if his judgement has finally gone off the rails.

"Most people don't want to hear important truths. And so for the most part I don't try to annoy people.  But some occasions you just feel someone has to get up and say what you think.  And that offends people."

–James Watson

After reading Erwin Schrödinger's book What Is Life? in 1946, Watson changed his professional ambitions from the study of ornithology to genetics.

In chapter VI Schrödinger states: matter, while not eluding the "laws of physics" as established up to date, is likely to involve "other laws of physics" hitherto unknown, which however, once they have been revealed, will form just as integral a part of science as the former.

Do we want to make some insects go extinct?  If so, how do we make these selections and how slippery is this slope?  It seems to me that even our apprehension, our technologies and fears of change are themselves part of evolution.  This is a process we have no choice but to go through.

This entire subject circles back on a singular issue:  how we define mental illness, how we deal with those identified as mentally ill, and what freedoms we grant them.

Were you hypothetically capable of selecting out whatever evolutionary sequences exist in your genes, and to replace them with non-cancer causing sequences, you'd technically be a different person.  How you do then feel when parents decide that they want to pass on cancer causing genes to their children?  How do your children feel when they encounter a potential mate that either has decided to filter or not filter their genes as a result of religion or other cultural reasons, and that this becomes a limiting factor?

If you could decide whether your child would have a heart attack at the age of 26, or to abort that child and try to have a child that you knew would stand a greater chance of living much longer due to absences of known disease, what do you do?

Mothers already have gained the ultimate power the determine the future of our species by determining whether to make Down Syndrome extinct or not.  When the human genome is fully understood, the power of the Mother will become even more powerful.

There is also a strange argument when someone is offended by having a DNA sequence that might pass on traits to their children that their children may not wish to have had.  In the case of manic depression, the argument goes that you might have less (or different) creative people in the world, like Hemingway, etc.  But this strikes me as a very unusual argument because the idea that you'd limit faulty sequences for the benefit of the species might deprive the species of creativity.  This is not an individual loss but another group affect.  In the end, the whole is still trading in.

The argument I would propose is the idea of limiting a gene that had a high probability of being a serial killer.  There would be no single affect of changing such a gene over tens of thousands of years.  This might affect aggressiveness in general and lead to changes in sexual behavior.

In the end, selection is selection.  It's unavoidable and we already do it.  What we don't yet fully realize, Watson included, is that even with all this technology and insight, we are still not making our own selections, they're being made for us by our environment.  You cannot give a new organism the intelligence to self-determine without predispositions that immediately invalidate any notion of self-determination.

#DNA #Monsanto  

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