Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Final Pt. 1 An ellaboration on the implications and ethics of Designer babies.

We discussed earlier in the semester the ethics of being able to pick and choose the DNA your baby will have before it is even a zygote. Just like Glenn Mcgee said in Case 19, the young are fascinated by the possibilities it presents, at least I very much am.
While the vast public would likely see this and begin debating about choosing the eye color, height, skin tone, ect. of their child. Either making them in some image or ensuring they bare common/desired family traits, I however see an issue of a far more grand nature here. One we did in fact touch on.
The ability and desire to change human physiology.
Why stop at hair color, when we could change our dietary limitations. As Dr. Oliver suggested, why not change our digestive system to include the ability to break down cellulose and allow us easier access to vegetarian lifestyles. Again, why stop there, why not take a page from this newly discovered gem (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16124-solarpowered-sea-slug-harnesses-stolen-plant-genes.html) and just start bluring the line between plant and animal by giving us the ability to photosynthesize and reduce our intake needs dramatically.
We could theoretically continue this path and reduce our eco-footprint and constant input needs to near (if not) zero. This would allow us to possibly save this world we currently call home, and drastically improve our abilities to find, reach, and inhabit new planets.
In our capacity to improve our own biological efficiency, not only do I think it is ethically acceptable, rather I think we are morally obligated to at least try. We have done a pretty good job messing up our home, to the point we may have already sealed the planets fate as one day becoming uninhabitable.  If there is a hope that we could make a dramatic enough change that we may be able to repair the damage we have done, we ought to try and do so.
Of course I would also suggest a few other changes while we are seeking efficiency and survivability, a better ability to deal with radiation would be nice (allowing for easier space travel) as well as a bit of Starfish-esk regeneration so that non-vital injuries are less of a nuisance.

I also would like to suggest that we may be biologically obligated to try and improve ourselves through our own tampering. It is not hard to imagine that if we achieved changing ourselves so dramatically using these techniques that we may have to reclassify ourselves, as Homo sapiens may no longer be appropriate/applicable.  If so, and if such changes increase our ability to survive, then we will have (more or less) artificially evolved. Being that one of the simplest "purposes" of life is to survive and create more life, at least from a purely biological standpoint, should we not strive for that? To ensure our own survival by making ourselves more efficient, or at least giving ourselves more genetic diversity, as would be the bare minimum outcome of allowing such engineering of DNA to occur.
I will admit, with me the ability to change ourselves would be a slippery slope...more like a slide.   If we could, why not? I bet it would be one heck of a ride, and hopefully not too many bumps.



  1. The thing is, we'd not be the only ones along for the ride (if we're talking germ-line engineering). But somatic engineering that stops at your own skin? I say have at it.

    And as for re-tooling the digestive system: I went to see "42" last night (terrific film) and ate at Cheeseburger Charlie's before it started. Opted for the Black Bean Burger, and enjoyed it. My point: we already have the ability to alter our dietary regimen without large-scale tampering. Let's try that first.

  2. both of those things are true. Using bacteria or viruses for the engineering could have long last and possibly severe consequences, but maybe if the technichiques used to produce the first artificial lifeforms (the simple bacteria) advance enough, maybe we can just cut and past the material we already have, still might have some implications but should be less than the bacteria/virus altering methods.

    I did laugh at the genius simplicity of the second one, but My idea was to make viable a very easy transition to an all vegetarian diet (although the idea of human-esk lifeforms that need absolute minimal input is really cool.) Although I have heard that black bean burgers are quite delicious, its very difficult to maintain proper nutrition and complete dietary health from an all vegetarian diet because there are some things we need that are just hard to come by in the vegetables we can digest. For now we solve that with vitamin supplements, but a day where the "difficulty" of switching dietary lifestyles is no excuse and one could simply just start eating vegetables and acquire the nutrients they need with little research would be grand. In either case some things make just have to be acquired separately, such as iron, zinc, and B-12 can be hard to come by sometimes without the proper plant matter at hand. So even with some changes we may need a little help sometimes.
    But choosing the bean burger is definitely a good first step either way.