Saturday, November 22, 2008
The more that I read about the separation between genotype and phenotype, nature and nurture, genes and traits, the more skeptical I become of science’ ability to predict much about human characteristics through genetic testing. I recognize we have made strides in this field over the past few years, but we still operate under great uncertainty. I don’t know that this means we ought to stop operating, but we should definitely take genetic test results with a grain of salt (as Kitcher suggests in the chapter for today). This means talk of aborting embryos bearing genes which could result in certain diseases ought to cease as well as genetically altering people’s DNA to ‘fix’ their genetic makeup. At the same time, genetic testing can help families prepare for the possibility of bearing children with genetic disorders and hopefully better cope with the hands they are dealt. Since nature and nurture both play key roles in development, why not alter the nurturing environment and leave nature to run its course?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Nov 19 Kass – Ch 9 (L’Chaim and Its Limits); Kitcher Ch 10 (Playing God?); McGee Ch 3 (Playing God?)
I am sure I have touched on my views as regards immortality and playing God in the past, but as these were the topics of our three chapters for today, I will briefly run through my perspective. I am shaped by my religious perspective and therefore see cloning and in vitro fertilization as interfering in the reproductive process and therefore condone such technologies. I also do not agree with most genetic technologies because who am I to choose those who should live and those who should die? Furthermore, I have a fundamental problem with the extent of research we pour into prolonging life on earth because we all have to die someday. If we find cures to cancer and heart attack and who knows what else, we will only begin dying of other maladies. I think life is a gift and is thereby neither ours to create nor destroy. To say that the entire medical field is obsolete is an exaggeration though, because I see no harm in treating diseases or symptoms and helping the immune system a little (after all, the people who shared these technologies with humanity may have also been sharing their gifts), but I think we put far more emphasis in achieving extensive longevity here on earth than is necessary (not to mention, could be quite detrimental based on consumption patterns and overpopulation problems).
Monday, November 17, 2008
Kitcher’s talk of Darwin brings to mind questions about preserving bio-diversity. If we select for some genetic characteristics ideal for particular conditions, but the environmental factors experience a drastic shift, then is it not possible that all those with the previously ideal genes might no longer be the most fit for their new surroundings? This is no novel question; preservation of genetic biodiversity has been a topic of interest for years. Concerning genetically modified agricultural crops, for instance, if there is a sudden blight but all the seeds carry almost identical genetic material and are not resistant to the blight, then the entire crop will be lost. Yet, with biodiversity comes the hope that some individuals within a population are resistant, and those will live. I think there is too much of a temptation to start selecting for particular genetic characteristics in embryos unless we promote genetic diversity like we promote diversifying a stock portfolio – don’t put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.