Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pandora's Genetic Box

Below is something I wrote for my Biology 1101 class after watching a movie featuring James Watson and his opinions on genetic engineering. These are my thoughts and opinions, along with some poorly cited parts of the movie. Please feel free to give your opinions on the subject below, but any disrespectful comments will result in the user being banned from the site. I appreciate varying opinions and would love to hear them, if you don't please be respectful anyways.

"Pandora’s Genetic Box

            Pandora’s Box follows around one of genetics most credible people: James Watson, and asks him the important questions of where today’s technological advances should be taking us. His very controversial answer is to the maximum of genetic alteration. Watson believes that we should use our growing knowledge of the building blocks of humans to alter genes and genetically control our evolution. If your child has an unfavorable genetic disease or illness Watson believes parents should have the right to abort that child. Watson believes people are ignoring the important truths of genetic science because they are afraid of change.

            Personally I can believe a lot of what Watson said although I do not agree with most of it. I can see how someone who is a pure evolutionist can say what he was saying. I think in order to have an educated opinion a person has to be able to see the facts of both sides before they can make a rational decision. While all of the things Watson mentioned, like changing DNA in an embryo in order to avoid abortion, may be said with the best intentions I do not think it is a path humans are ready to venture down if we ever should.

            The ability to alter things genetically is a road that is paved with nothing but good intentions. Watson says those who oppose who simply do not understand what they are trying to do. But it is too uncontrollable to pursue. Take the example of birth controls that are offered for women. Through numerous testing the drug was made safe for women and it was sent into the public through ads on television. Now ten years after the new drug was released you see ads asking if you had experienced several diseases or birth defects as a result of the drug that is no longer allowed to be offered and if you would like to be a part of the class action law suit. Who is to say the same thing will not happen with genetic enhancements but it will be too late and too severe to remedy. In the film Mario Capecchi even mentions going as far as adding an extra chromosome to humans. I cannot fathom something that would be a bigger mistake than messing with human chromosomes. Something that has been working and evolving on its own all these years does not need to be altered because humans believe they have the ability to. Until we can understand literally every aspect of the human DNA and the human brain and body to see if there is anything that can go wrong, it does not need to be attempted. How can people say that they know how to do it and that the effects will be positive if there is still so much about biology and life they do not understand? I am just a young woman in a first year college biology course, so I am not even trying to pretend to be knowledgeable on the subject, but it seems to me that sometimes people who do not know it all sometimes have the best view points because they are completely unbiased.

            As far as genetically altering plants, like what is done at the Monsanto Corporation, I believe this is also testing risky waters. We have no idea what the long term results of putting unnatural genes into our systems will be. Several hundred years from now we may be able to trace a new terminal illness to those with grandparents who ate or worked with genetically altered foods. However, I can see how the short term results are almost undeniable. The ability to end world malnutrition is at our fingertips.

            I cannot help but think the money is being spent in the wrong way. Millions of dollars are going into the research to be able to add an intelligence gene to children and while I think that is amazing, what if half those funds went to nourishing and education the children of today? What if instead of focusing on how to be able to genetically make it easy for a child to learn we focused on feeding children and helping families have the time to teach children. There is a reason the wealthy are always more intelligent than the lower class: because the lower class has to focus on what they will be able to eat that night and are only given access to poor education and the wealthy are given food that is meant for the body to process and taught at a level to be able to go to an ivy league school.

            In my opinion the world is in trouble no matter which way we go, and I can only hope people start asking the right questions again before it is too late."