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Genetics – “A Tiger by the Tail?"

Are we sophisticated enough to deal with this potential power? Can we integrate religious convictions with the evolving “mechanics of genetic control”? Have we given enough dedicated thought to where we want to go or will go with regard to the ethics, the legal concerns, and the morals that will be impacted by the potential, eventual control of the genetic apparatus?

The chances are good that the first word that might have come to mind when TNT (dynamite) was first formulated, or when atomic energy was first harnessed, or when subsequent highly volatile, explosive particle substances were devised was “control.” Just how and who and under what circumstances should or could TNT or atomic energy be controlled? Next might have been the word “abused.” Who would or could abuse these powers and when, where, or why might abuse take place? What probably followed, at that time, was, “How would / could we be living with such power?” All the predictable, rational, debates or considerations came into play probably related to the damage that can come from such power. Those substances presented possibilities of fast acting destruction and/or harm on a large scale, involving masses. By some measure, all that can pale in relation to the broad scope of control of the human genetic composition along with the technology to manipulate it. The effects will probably be slower, longer lasting, reaching a far broader spectrum of life, and not just in the present, but in the far future as well, and more impacting on our “way of life.”

Manipulating the “human genome” will no doubt “cross swords” with issues such as choice, abortion, right to life, labeling at birth, religious doctrine and possibly the practice of filling out applications for just about anything. In addition, compelling impacts could be in tailor making diets, food producing, producing and prescribing drugs, and the possibility of diagnosing disorders earlier in life.

We are doing, researching, and inventing so many wonderful things as our technology expands and improves. These are such exciting times. For example, such developments as: exquisitely sensitive artificial limbs (I.e. picking up a rice kernel; thought control of joint movement), brain mapping, organ replacement / transplantation, custom designed medications, faster production (of anything be it medical or non-medical), more efficient and faster acting dialysis, or approaching automatic / robotic living. These are some of the developments that are making for exciting times. But all of these achievements are dependent on “thinking” and “behaving” -- the behavior that translates into recognizing, making a decision, exhibiting courage, being rational in specific certain circumstances, and yet being creative and “coloring outside the lines” under other circumstances.

Since the successful completion of the Human Genome Project, and the research thinking it has stimulated, we’ve just begun to accept that behavior has some strong linkage to genetic predisposition. Even more profound is that we are finding just how complex these linkages are with the learning of the “polygenic” involvement.

As imposing as it may seem, many people in the world of “Genetics Research” feel that complete mapping of the Human Genome (the location of which and how many sites that actually account for one trait) is within our grasp. Couple this knowledge with the technical ability to synthesize and reconstruct nucleotide sequences, as well as the ability not only to deliver these controlled sequences, but to carefully select to which cell to make the delivery, we are on the threshold of having awesome power involving “tailor making life.” Not to sound so drastically or hysterically dramatic, the point is, are we preparing properly to manage any degree of control over the genetic potentials facing us?

Decision-making is becoming more complex and sensitive. “Hard Science” will not stop forging ahead. So, the question is, are the worlds of law, ethics, and education, a) coming together cooperatively, and b) keeping up with or keeping ahead of “Hard Science”……..

Or do we have a “Tiger by the Tail?”


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