View Poll Results: Should we genetically alter the human race?

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  • We should correct genetic disorders and create smarter, stronger humans.

    8 42.11%
  • We should correct genetic disorders, but not try to create better humans.

    7 36.84%
  • We should not alter human genetic makeup at all.

    4 21.05%

Genetic manipulation of humans?

This is a discussion on Genetic manipulation of humans? within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; Here's something I've been thinking about for some time, and would like to hear what people believe-- the human cloning ...

  1. #1
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    Genetic manipulation of humans?

    Here's something I've been thinking about for some time, and would like to hear what people believe-- the human cloning thread made me think of this again.

    One serious problem, which humanity has brought upon itself, is that we have removed ourselves from the natural cycle of selection, and thus we become a dysgenic population -- the quality of our gene pool, if you will, is dropping.

    One example, one that we can already see quite clearly the effects of, is that we have removed the strong selection pressure for good eyesight. In nature, an animal which has poor eyesight is usually killed quicker than one with better eyesight, so on the whole, there is a relatively strong pressure to eliminate alleles (an allele = a possible form of a gene) which cause poor eyesight.

    For millenia, humans have lived in communities, and, although those with lesser eyesight were not always treated as well as those with, the reproductive success of those with poor eyesight was not nearly as reduced as it would be in a natural environment. So, the selection which normally "purifies" the gene pool, by reducing the ability of undesirable alleles to reach future generations, has been removed.

    In turn, there are a huge number of humans at the present who have myopia or other vision impairments. Nowadays, with corrective lenses, selection for good eyesight pretty much goes away altogether -- if individuals with the genes which cause myopia, et al, are not less successful at reproduction than those without, the allele(s) which cause myopia will not naturally be removed from the population.

    This can also be applied to any other characteristics which we have removed the natural selection upon.

    Given that we have significantly altered our species' natural ability to weed out "defective" alleles, do you think we should use our technology to replace this "purifying" behavior? By this, once we develop the ability to selectively genetically alter a living being (which will probably happen in our lifetimes), should we use this ability to correct defective alleles (like those which cause myopia) and reduce the prevalence of these alleles in the population?

    If we should do this, should we also use this ability to improve the human race in general? I.e. make ourselves smarter, stronger, faster, etc.?
    Last edited by The V.; 11-28-2001 at 12:27 PM.

  2. #2
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    The natural selection will always be here with us. Our development, no matter where it goes, is just as natural as everything else. You still havn't realized that you're just trapped in a dark dying world.

    I'm not against it, I don't support it. Because:

    30% of you will die of cancer.

    50% of mankind is starving.

    People are raped, murdered, abused, commits suicide. There are wars, small ones in our daily lives, and big ones we can't experience for ourselves.

    People continue to live because they can't see their life for what it is.

  3. #3
    Peace
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    One serious problem, which humanity has brought upon itself, is that we have removed ourselves from the natural cycle of selection, and thus we become a dysgenic population -- the quality of our gene pool, if you will, is dropping.
    This is a problem I have pondered over for hours with friends. The fact of the matter is, humans protect their weak and dying. In no other species (that I am aware of) do the strong keep the weak alive to allow their weaker genes to continue to the next generation.

    Now I'm not suggesting that we shoot all our old, sick, handicapped, weak, and less intelligent people. The fact that we value all human life (some of us more than others it seems) is one of the things that has allowed us to get to the state that we are currently in. We band together.

    Other animals adapt to their surroundings over time. Humans have yet to do so. We adapt our surroundings to ourselves. It's another thing that makes us different.

    Some people say that cloning is unnatural. Or genetic engineering. But what is natural? Some animals use sticks and rocks in their hunt for food. e.g. Otters. So is that unatural? No. But it could be argued that sticks are found in nature... So we ask; Is a farmer using a machine to sow his fields unatural? No. Its just a more advanced rock. Built from things that naturally occur (or built from things built from things that naturally occur). My point is this: Who is to say what is natural and what is not? Some quickly lose sight of the fact that we too, are animals. And different animals have different tools, defences, and methods, to ensure their survival. Throughout our history our inventivness has been our method, and it has proven very effective.

    If a young goldfish is placed in a large bowl it will grow large. Take another goldfish of the same age and type, and place it in a small bowl. It will not grow past a certain size. Whos to say cloning (for instance) isnt our method of dealing with a smaller bowl?
    "There's always another way"
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  4. #4
    31173 h4x0r gnu-ehacks's Avatar
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    Series, I have a question. Do you believe that people who commit suicide are smart or stupid?
    What will people say if they hear that I'm a Jesus freak?
    What will people do if they find that it's true?
    I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak, there is no disguising the truth!

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  5. #5
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    I'll just say this:

    C'mon, we're evolving, so let's keep on evolving!!! I go with #1

    Oskilian

  6. #6
    A Banana Yoshi's Avatar
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    ...we ar getting taller and taller, not smaller and smaller.
    Sure, our brain is bigger than of our ancestors, but we used just 1/10 of it!. What is the point of building better human? What do you mean by "better"?
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  7. #7
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    We are taller, not because we've genetically changed, but because we are no longer stunted by malnutrition; more HGH (human growth hormone) is released when adequate food is ingested. This makes sense -- growth is a very costly thing, in terms of energy, both to grow, and to maintain the larger frame. If the food supply is scarce, the organism will have reduced growth.

    There is also no evidence that we're smarter than we were 2,000 or more years ago. We have more technology, and more education, but it's likely that if you could take a baby from 3,000 years ago into the present, and raise them here, that they would be as mentally capable, on average, as anyone else.

    By bettering, I mean that we could use the technology for a number of purposes to deliberately improve the function of the body. It's conceivable that we could improve many aspects of the human. For example, maybe it would be possible to alter genes involved in cardiovascular endothelial cells (the inner layer of the cells of the blood vessels) to prevent cholesterol accumulation, and decrease the risk of heart attacks. Alterations to the immune system could theoretically stop people from developing immune disorders, like juvenile onset diabetes, MS, allergies, etc.

    Alterations to the shape of the human spine could reduce lower-back problems. Many get back problems because our spines are slightly off from optimal for bipedal creatures, which is good evidence that we evolved from quadrupeds. Now, evolution helped us along, but we aren't perfect -- being as most reproduction, historically, took place when our ancestors were 12-20 years old, we've developed a spine that will do very well -- for about 40 years, but after this time, people get spinal problems, simply as a result of the shape of our spines. Natural selection doesn't help to eliminate undesirable traits that don't alter reproductive success.

    It would also be possible to give people "better genes" -- there are many genes that help to influence intelligence -- so you could, in theory, give a person a better chance of being a genius by altering their genetic makeup in the early embyronic stages.
    Last edited by The V.; 11-29-2001 at 12:38 AM.

  8. #8
    Linguistic Engineer... doubleanti's Avatar
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    that was a really good post series... i couldn't have said it better...

    hmm... speaking of natural selection and environmental differentiation over time... i believe my biology instructor pointed out that women, around about 20 or so, gain 15 pounds for childbirth purposes... and that in the past [millenium ago...] they lost it since their activity deemed it so... but that changed now... and that incoming college freshmen women get a 'freshmen-15'... she [my biology instructor] fortunately never got it... but perhaps we shouldn't hold back because our tweaking with human genetics is part and parcel of our evolutionary process and the masterplan of the future...

    all the world's a stage...
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  9. #9
    Registered User rick barclay's Avatar
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    Your theory sounds good on paper v, but I see one flaw in it.
    You're basing your cause and effect on a 100 percent success
    rate, and if that were possible, then we'd all say yea, go ahead
    with it. But total efficiency in genetic manipulation or technology
    or whatever you want to call it is in my humble opinion totally
    impossible. And once you have an incident where the guy with
    the scissors or the test tube says Oops! Stuff happens, then the
    world will be down on you like a pack of hungry flies. Your ideas
    will be considered and discarded as just so much Orwellianism.

    rick barclay
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    This is America calling!

  10. #10
    Registered User Camilo's Avatar
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    perhaps what we are doing is changing the method of the natural selection, who says that the one with a 'defective gene' also has the most valuable one and with reproduction he will 'purify' it and in the process the 'defective' is fixed?


    Camilo
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  11. #11
    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    Firstly, I am not quite sure what Camilo is saying here, but it is possible he is saying the same as me, if so, please excuse the plagiarism!

    My point is that we got to where we are today by accumulating many small genetic modifications, and allowing the natural selection process to promote reproduction of those modifications that were effective survival strategies.

    If a potentially advancing modification was detected in some form of screening, would it be recognised as advancing, or would it be edited out as an error?

    I wonder if by following a "genetic error correction" policy, we might be resigning homo sapiens to an evolutionary dead end?
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

  12. #12
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    Humans are notorious for using new technology to their own ends. Genetic manipulation will be no different. Its goal will not be to better mankind's future, but its present. War is an obvious example. In WWII, Hitler began a program for genetic engineering given the technology of his time. Thousands of people were breed and raised by the state for the sole purpose of better cannon fodder. They were brain washed, and slaves.

    I don't think any government today would/is not use this for a better, easier to control soldier. The private sector can come up with just as bad of scenarios in the name of science and profit. Billionaires raising clones of themselves and periodically slaughtering them to harvest organs that need to be of adult age.. perhaps entire bodies would be used and the brain discarded. If nothing else, a transfer of minds, even if through indoctrination and controlled experiences in their upbringing. The best thing going for the poor really, is that the rich eventually die and their children squander. What happens when the cruelest rich are the ones that live thousands of years? How much do they accumulate?

    I know it sounds like sci/fi, but then again, so would cloning and genetic manipulation twenty years ago.

    Basically, I don't trust humans to control human genetics. If it isn't as dramatic as the stuff I've said, it will still be a form of discrimination. How many people that really made a good difference in the world would not have been if they were tinkered with? What would racisim do? Mixed with terrorism and gentic tinkering viruses? Big can of worms if you asked me.
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  13. #13
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    Originally posted by rick barclay
    Your theory sounds good on paper v, but I see one flaw in it.
    You're basing your cause and effect on a 100 percent success
    rate, and if that were possible, then we'd all say yea, go ahead
    with it. But total efficiency in genetic manipulation or technology
    or whatever you want to call it is in my humble opinion totally
    impossible. And once you have an incident where the guy with
    the scissors or the test tube says Oops! Stuff happens, then the
    world will be down on you like a pack of hungry flies. Your ideas
    will be considered and discarded as just so much Orwellianism.

    rick barclay
    Of course you couldn't have 100% success in manipulating genes. You don't have 100% success in ANY kind of medical therapy -- does this mean therapy itself is not done?

    To address adian's concern -- there is no INTELLIGENCE behind genetic purification by natural selection. Individuals with poorer alleles tend to reproduce less, on average, so the alleles become less common.

    So long as new modifications didn't decrease the ability of the individual to reproduce, there's no reason natural selection would select against it.

    Plus, the whole reason we'd do this is because NATURAL SELECTION ISN'T HAPPENING in humans. Blind people can live productive lives, and reproduce, instead of the case in all other species (which use vision) in which being blind is practically an instant death. People with sickle cell anemia, people with hemophilia, people with genetic predispositions from cancer are living long *and reproducing*, wheras in the wild, their reproductive chances would be significantly below average.

    If natural selection still existed for these genes, there would be no need to replace it technologically. But for the past few thousand years, we have been eliminating more and more of the natural ability of the gene pool to weed out undesirable traits. Undesirable traits, like poor or no vision, predisposition to cancer, and various genetic defects are no longer being reduced in the population.

    Because defects are no longer being reduced, and because there is always a slow introduction of genetic defects via mutation, the overall proportion of defective alleles to non-defective alleles will rise, and the gene pool will become more and more polluted.

    As to what constitutes a defect: It's often quit obvious. If your hemoglobin molecules can't bind oxygen, or fail to bind adequate oxygen, it's a defect, not a feature. If several key DNA repair mechanisms no longer function (i.e. genetic predisposition to cancer) it's a defect. If the eye is malformed such that the muscles cannot properly deform the lens to an appropriate amount to focus light on the retina, it's a defect. If your lung tissue is unable to produce surfactant (necessary to reduce the amount of work it takes to breathe) it's a defect.

  14. #14
    Registered User rick barclay's Avatar
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    >Of course you couldn't have 100% success in manipulating genes. You don't have 100% success in ANY kind of medical therapy -- does this mean therapy itself is not done? <

    Ah, but we're not talking just any medical therapy here, my friend. We're talking cloning, genetics, and all it's associated
    pitfalls. And the fact that you know a 100% success rate
    cannot be maintained should also warn you of the consequences
    that any failure of a Thalidomidic nature will be followed by a post-
    thalidomidic response from the public and the media. We're not
    talking prozac or cures for baldness here. The moral issues are
    being discussed and debated world-wide, and it would not
    surprise me in the least to see in the future some violent responses to stem cell research and cloning, same as we have seen in regard to birth control.

    rick barclay
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    This is America calling!

  15. #15
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    Thalidomide was a very bad case of lack of sufficient testing to ensure safety. It is quite safe for any man, or any non-pregnant woman to take, and in fact, it is proving to be a very good drug to give cancer and HIV patients.

    In any event, sooner or later, our species will need to address the issue of gene pollution. Either we need to resort to artificial selection (i.e. eugenics), which is incredibly unethical, or we need to modify genes.

    Sooner or later, it won't become an option, it will become a necessity. The more defects we cure or treat, the more these defects will occur. And it will never get better unless there is some form of selection towards purifying the gene pool. Selection by differential reproductive success has been significantly reduced, in some cases almost to the point of being entirely absent. This leaves selection by controlled reproduction (i.e. everyone being told how many children they can have, and with whom) which has proven to be an adequate replacement for natural selection in animal breeding. Humans, however, may not like this much.

    Artificial selection by genetic manipulation seems the only practical way to solve the problem. If the status quo is maintained, the gene pool will degrade, which could ultimately destroy the species as a whole.

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