Monday, April 15, 2013

Neo-Evolution and Genetic Engineering

     This week, I listened to Harvey Fineberg’s TED talk about neo-evolution. He opens the talk by asking the audience “How would you like to be better than you are?”. He asks them to consider if they would like to have better memory, be more fit, beautiful, creative or talented. This leads him to raise the topic of evolution. He explains that the basic machinery of human cells has essentially remained the same through out time. He then introduces the Human Genome Project. This international project has made it their goal to sequence DNA and map human genes. The information gathered from this project has given scientists the ability to change the outcome of genetics; thus having a direct hand in evolution. This ability to manipulate the outcome of one’s offspring will allow humans to select the traits and genes that they will pass to their children. It was at this point in the TED talk that I began to ask myself many questions. What if we had the chance to decide how our children would turn out? Could we decide what specific traits of the mother and father the child would inherit? That leads me to wonder what the desirable traits and qualities are in a human and who decides what those qualities are? When passing our genes on to the next generation, do we want to hold the responsibility of influencing or deciding the outcome our offsprings genes?

     This genetic engineering could easily be viewed as a form of eugenics; a means of improving the “genetic composition of a population”. This has been a very challenging notion for me to ponder. There are endless changes that could be made to improve the life quality of many people by manipulating genes to eliminate diseases and cancers. But with this ability to improve lives comes responsibility of manipulating genes! There is something to be said for the toss up of traits that we could inherit from our ancestors. This is the beginning of a new form of evolution--one that has a major human influence on it. What if we manipulate genes so much that we effectively change society as a whole? Would that change be for the better? I am left with countless questions that I’m sure I will constantly be reevaluating throughout my life. 

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