how BIOTECHNOLOGY is transforming WHAT we believe and how we LIVE.To most people, it doesn't make much sense to compare religion and technology. Each seems to pertain to pertain to
verb relate to, concern, refer to, regard, be part of, belong to, apply to, bear on, befit, be relevant to, be appropriate to, appertain to its own separate sphere. And whenever a connection is noticed, it usually amounts to a recognition that religion uses technology to more effectively propagate its ideas.
Few will deny, however--when pondering these two separately--that each has shown itself capable of affecting the way people think and act. Religion, by its very nature, is intent on the inculcation in·cul·cate
tr.v. in·cul·cat·ed, in·cul·cat·ing, in·cul·cates
1. To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill: inculcating sound principles. of specific systems of belief and behavior. But technology--while rarely created with conscious philosophical, psychological, or sociological aims--manages nonetheless to critically impact these areas. A glance at a few recent technological developments and the revolution in values and life-styles each has generated will suffice to make the point.
In the early 1960s, the birth control pill birth control pill
See oral contraceptive.
birth control pill Oral contraceptive, see there became widely available. This brought increased attention to and acceptance of contraception and family planning family planning
Use of measures designed to regulate the number and spacing of children within a family, largely to curb population growth and ensure each family’s access to limited resources. , giving women more control over their bodies. It also reduced the risk of pregnancy for those wishing to enjoy sex outside marriage. Soon afterward, we saw family size in the developed nations shrink, sexual freedom expand, and the women's rights The effort to secure equal rights for women and to remove gender discrimination from laws, institutions, and behavioral patterns.
The women's rights movement began in the nineteenth century with the demand by some women reformers for the right to vote, known as suffrage, and movement rise to social prominence. Today, all over the world, values about sex, the family, population growth control, and gender roles are changing or are already dramatically different from what they were prior to that tumultuous decade.
Subsequent to the introduction of the pill, there have been other reproductive technologies: safer abortion procedures, ultrasonography ultrasonography /ul·tra·so·nog·ra·phy/ (-so-nog´rah-fe) the imaging of deep structures of the body by recording the echoes of pulses of ultrasonic waves directed into the tissues and reflected by tissue planes where there is a change in , amniocentesis amniocentesis (ăm'nēō'sĕntē`sĭs), diagnostic procedure in which a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus is removed from the uterus by means of a fine needle inserted through the abdomen of the pregnant woman (see , sperm and egg banks, in vitro fertilization in vitro fertilization (vē`trō, vĭ`trō), technique for conception of a human embryo outside the mother's body. Several ova, or eggs, are removed from the mother's body and placed in special laboratory culture dishes (Petri dishes); , surrogate parenting surrogate parenting Artificial reproduction, see there , fertility drugs, and, soon, advance selection of the gender of one's offspring. Such developments continue to force a host of additional moral and legal issues upon us--requiring further changes or modifications in our ethical standards, social norms, and laws.
Looking at the broader category of medical technology, we can see that an even greater number of unanticipated moral dilemmas have come up--some of which affect areas so foundational that professionals can disagree on when a person comes into existence and when a person actually dies. Does "human personhood per·son·hood
The state or condition of being a person, especially having those qualities that confer distinct individuality: "finding her own personhood as a campus activist" " begin at conception, at the appearance of brain waves brain waves Neurology Oscillations/sec that correspond to various types of cerebral activity, as measured on an EEG. See Electroencephalogram. , at birth, or possibly at some time after? What we conclude affects our views concerning the freezing of embryos, the rights of such embryos, fetal adoption, a mother's prenatal care prenatal care,
n the health care provided the mother and fetus before childbirth. obligation, abortion, the atmosphere in the birthing room birthing room
An area of a hospital or outpatient medical facility equipped for labor, delivery, and recovery and designed as a homelike environment. , and selective nontreatment of severely disabled newborns. Does human life end with the death of the heart, the death of the brain, or the loss of "significant life"? What we determine affects our views on hospice, living wills, withdrawal of life support, suicide, and physician-assisted dying. Soon it may even force us to decide whether or not it is acceptable to use comatose co·ma·tose
1. Of, relating to, or affected with coma.
2. Marked by lethargy; torpid.
comatose (kō´m individuals as "living" organ banks.
On a different front, global satellite communication has made the world smaller and has increased public awareness of certain international developments. We can now watch a war or a democratic revolution as it happens, and from both sides. And we can see more directly how actions taken in one place affect the environment or politics in another. This can't help but to advance globalism glob·al·ism
A national geopolitical policy in which the entire world is regarded as the appropriate sphere for a state's influence.
Through the video cassette recorder video cassette recorder
a device for recording and playing back television programmes and films
video cassette recorder video n → Videorekorder m
and cable and satellite television, individual choice in information gathering has been enhanced. As a consequence, people find it easier to get their ethics, aesthetics, and politics from something other than the usual common sources. And in so doing, they come to have a greater vested interest Vested Interest
A financial or personal stake one entity has in an asset, security, or transaction.
For example, if you have a mortgage, your bank has a vested interest on the sale of your house.
See also: Right in the preservation of individual liberty, freedom of choice, and minority rights.
Computers expand the range of choice even further. The Internet makes individual information gathering, communication, and idea sharing much easier, even bringing the world to one's home or office. And through desktop publishing desktop publishing, system for producing printed materials that consists of a personal computer or computer workstation, a high-resolution printer (usually a laser printer), and a computer program that allows the user to select from a variety of type fonts and sizes, or the establishment of a presence on the World Wide Web, any computer owner can become an idea or information disseminator. Virtual communities on the Internet give further support to meeting the needs and upholding the rights of minorities.
Meanwhile, space travel, which has provided humanity with a consciousness-raising view of the Earth from the moon, will eventually do much more. Our species won't be limited only to this planet for its pursuits and interests. Colonies in space will--as have distant colonies throughout human history--bring into existence alternative societies and novel ideas, causing different visions of life's purpose to emerge and be shared.
Clearly, then, technology changes society and values. And it often does so in ways that confront old beliefs head on, bringing about significant societal anxiety. As Alvin Toffler Alvin Toffler (born October 3, 1928) is an American writer and futurist, known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communications revolution, corporate revolution and technological singularity. explains in his 1980 best seller The Third Wave:
It is precisely the collapse of the industrial era mind-structure, its growing irrelevance in the face of new technological, social, and political realities, that gives rise to today's facile search for old answers, and to the continual stream of pseudo-intellectual fads that pop up, flash, and consume themselves at high speed.
These, he argued, are the death spasms of an old order in the process of being supplanted by a new.
A few people in the future, as always, will stand by their traditional verities and life-styles, entrenched en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. in their spectra ways of living in their separate communities, much as the Amish do today. But the majority of us will think and live very differently tomorrow because of the technologies assimilated into our culture today. As Toffler says, "Powerful forces are streaming together to alter social character, to elicit certain traits, to suppress others, and in the process to transform us all."
Among the transformed will be institutions such as me church, which, in order to survive, will eventually need to accommodate these changes (its divines likely proclaiming that the new ideas "New Ideas" is the debut single by Scottish New Wave/Indie Rock act The Dykeenies. It was first released as a Double A-side with "Will It Happen Tonight?" on July 17, 2006. The band also recorded a video for the track. had really been those of the church all along). Indeed, the necessary debates among the faithful are already in progress.
Technology, then--along with the scientific discoveries that make it possible--not only affects the way people think and act, as religion does, but often forces religion itself to evolve. Back in 1877, Robert Ingersoll Robert Ingersoll may refer to:
Where once burned and blazed the bivouac fires of the army of progress, now glow the altars of the church. The religionists of our time are occupying about the same ground occupied by heretics and infidels of one hundred years ago. The church has advanced in spite, as it were, of itself. It has followed the army of progress protesting and denouncing, and had to keep within protesting and denouncing distance.
Today's technology also works rapidly. While at one time a vigorous new religion could transfigure a continent in a few centuries, a vigorous new technology can now do the same to the entire world in a matter of decades. Specifically, it took hundreds of years for ideas attributed to a man called Jesus (and others in his camp) to change the face of Europe. But the entire globe was altered in a mere twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. by the technological innovations of a man named Bill Gates (person) Bill Gates - William Henry Gates III, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, which he co-founded in 1975 with Paul Allen. In 1994 Gates is a billionaire, worth $9.35b and Microsoft is worth about $27b. (and others in his field).
Now, as we enter the twenty-first century, it is becoming clear that the next scientific development ready to metamorphose our ideas and lives is biotechnology. A simple review of developments already in place will make this plain.
As the history of the biotech revolution is now tracked, it is generally said to have gotten underway in 1971 when Ananda Ananda
(flourished 6th century BC, India) First cousin and disciple of the Buddha. A monk who served as the Buddha's personal attendant, he became known as the “beloved disciple.” It was Ananda who persuaded the Buddha to allow women to become nuns. Chakrabarty, a microbiologist from India, applied for a U.S. patent on a microorganism microorganism /mi·cro·or·gan·ism/ (-or´gah-nizm) a microscopic organism; those of medical interest include bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. he had genetically engineered genetically engineered adjective Recombinant, see there to eat ocean oil spills. When the patent office rejected his application on the grounds that living things aren't patentable, Chakrabarty appealed. In a close decision, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals Court of Customs and Patent Appeals n. a federal court established (1929) to hear appeals from decisions by the United States Patent Office and from the United States Customs Court. It sits in Washington, D. C. and is composed of five judges. (See: patent, Customs Court) supported his patent request, declaring that, although his microorganism has life, this is "without legal significance" because Chakrabarty's invention is "more akin to inanimate chemical compositions such as reactants, reagents, and catalysts, than to horses and honeybees or raspberries and roses."
In response, the patent office appealed, and the case was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its five-to-four decision in 1980, the High Court granted the patent, arguing that "the relevant distinction was not between living and inanimate things" but whether a "human-made invention" was or wasn't involved. This ruling provided the legal groundwork for all life-form patents since.
And it set off a business frenzy. Later that year Genentech, a genetic engineering firm without a single product on the market, went public, selling shares on Wall Street for $35 apiece. The value rose to $89 per share in the first twenty minutes of trading and Genentech ended the day $36 million richer.
Seven years later, the U.S. patent office issued a ruling that even animals are potentially patentable. A year after that, in 1988, the first mammal was patented: the "onco-mouse," genetically engineered with human genes to predispose pre·dis·pose
To make susceptible, as to a disease. it to developing cancer. It is sold as a research model for use in cancer studies. This was soon followed by "AIDS mouse," a research animal that expresses the virus in every cell of its body and passes the virus on to subsequent generations. Now, as Jeremy Rifkin notes in his 1998 book The Biotech Century, "Nearly two hundred genetically modified animals, including pigs, cows, and sheep, are awaiting patent approval in the U.S."
But let's go back a step. Chakrabarty's oil-eating microorganism is a relatively simple affair. The real scientific breakthrough occurred in 1973 when biologists Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer stitched together pieces of DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes. from two unrelated organisms. This launched the field of recombinant DNA recombinant DNA
Genetically engineered DNA prepared by transplanting or splicing one or more segments of DNA into the chromosomes of an organism from a different species. Such DNA becomes part of the host's genetic makeup and is replicated. surgery, also know as gene splicing splicing /splic·ing/ (spli´sing)
1. the attachment of individual DNA molecules to each other, as in the production of chimeric genes.
2. RNA s. . So far, this process is the most dramatic instrument in the growing biotech toolbox.
With these developments came an explosion of activity, the most dramatic of which was the creation of trans-species hybrids--two unrelated life forms genetically blended into chimeras, original species that can't breed or evolve naturally. In 1983, "super mice" were developed by Ralph Brinster of the University of Pennsylvania (body, education) University of Pennsylvania - The home of ENIAC and Machiavelli.
Address: Philadelphia, PA, USA. Veterinary School by inserting human growth hormone human growth hormone (HGH): see growth hormone. genes into mouse embryos. This whole new species of mouse grows twice as fast and almost twice as large as other mice, and the human growth hormone is passed naturally to its offspring. Generations have now come and gone and this unique animal is still thriving.
Early in 1984, British scientists fused embryo cells from a sheep and a goat, then implanted the novel embryo into a surrogate animal. A chimeric chi·mer·ic
1. Relating to a chimera.
2. Composed of parts of different origin. sheep-goat was born. And later, in 1986, the ultimate trans-species hybrid was created: a life form made from an animal and a plant. Believe it or not, the gene that produces light in the firefly was inserted into the genetic code of a tobacco plant, resulting in tobacco leaves that glow in the dark!
Another significant development was the first government-approved release into the open environment of a genetically engineered organism. This occurred in 1983 with the test release of a bacterium that, when sprayed on crops, prevents frost damage. The mining industry at this time also entered the biotech era. While extracting ores from rock has been a difficult task--involving miners, machines, and long periods of toil--that approach may be coming to an end. Tests have been conducted with bacteria that produce enzymes that eat away the impurities in certain low-grade ores, leaving the pure ore behind. This "bioleaching" could provide a cheap way to extract and process precious metals Precious Metals
Valuable metals such as gold, iridium, palladium, platinum, and silver.
Investing in precious metals can be done either by purchasing the physical asset, or by purchasing futures contracts for the particular metal. .
A medicine-related biotechnological development was that of xenotransplants--the transplanting of organs from one species into another. This came to the public's attention in 1984 with the case of Baby Faye, a fifteen-day-old infant who received a baboon baboon, any of the large, powerful, ground-living monkeys of the genus Papio, also called dog-faced monkeys. Five subspecies live in Africa, with one species extending into the Arabian peninsula. heart to replace her own. Though she died twenty days later, a thirty-five-year-old man received a baboon liver in 1992 and lived for two and a half months. The goal of all this is to create a large supply of genetically modified animal organs that won't be rejected by the human body, thus reducing the wait for and expense of human organs in transplant surgery.
On the international political scene, the biological arms race can be said to have come into its own in the fall of 1984. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger reported to Congress "new evidence that the Soviet Union has maintained its offensive biological warfare biological warfare, employment in war of microorganisms to injure or destroy people, animals, or crops; also called germ or bacteriological warfare. Limited attempts have been made in the past to spread disease among the enemy; e.g. programs and that it is exploring genetic engineering to expand its program's scope." In response, the United States launched an effort to close the "gene gap," greatly expanding the Pentagon's budget for "defensive" biological warfare research. In 1981 that budget had been a mere $15.1 million; by 1986 it was up to $90 million. And in that year, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a report stating that genetic engineering, particularly recombinant DNA gene splicing, was making biological warfare practical. Not only were genetic engineers cloning massive quantities of "traditional" pathogens but they were inventing new "designer agents." Just as "designer drugs designer drugs,
n.pl the synthetic organic compounds that are designed as analogs of illicit drugs and have the same narcotic or other dangerous effects. " were on the market, so were these new biowarfare weapons. They could be created quickly and cheaply, yet antidotes to each might take decades to develop.
In 1995, the Central Intelligence Agency reported its suspicions that seventeen countries besides the United States --Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Syria, Taiwan, and Vietnam--were researching or stockpiling germ warfare weapons. More recently, a February 1998 report in the Baltimore Sun discusses the April 2, 1979, accidental release of anthrax anthrax (ăn`thrăks), acute infectious disease of animals that can be secondarily transmitted to humans. It is caused by a bacterium (Bacillus anthracis from a Soviet laboratory in Sverdlovsk, Russia. The significant issue in this incident is that the airborne anthrax germs in question may have been specifically bred by the Soviet military to be resistant to antibiotics and specially engineered to attack adult males. Antibiotics failed to prevent the deaths of over 1,000 civilians, but three times as many men died as women and not a single child fatality occurred.
After the watershed innovations of the 1970s and 1980s, a plethora of new applications and secondary developments followed immediately. For example, the U.S. Human Genome Project, an effort to spell out the entire genetic code of Homo sapiens, began its first phase in 1990. Though the project initially progressed slowly, with a projected completion date of 2005, biologist Craig Venter began in 1991 to use a new process of his own that dramatically accelerated results. As a consequence, newly discovered human gene sequences are being posted on the Internet daily.
Looking ahead, philosopher of science Philip Kitcher has noted how health insurance companies will want to be able to set insurance rates--or deny insurance altogether--based on what genetic predispositions are discovered in the genetic codes of individual people. And this level of unacceptable discrimination, he optimistically suggests, could force a national health insurance plan to come into existence in the United States.
Meanwhile, Venter venter /ven·ter/ (ven´ter) pl. ven´tres [L.]
1. a fleshy contractile part of a muscle.
3. a hollowed part or cavity.
n. has been mapping other organisms. In May 1995 he surprised the scientific world with news that he had deciphered the first complete script of a living organism: the genome of the human pathogen Haemophilus influenzae Haemophilus in·flu·en·zae
A gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium of the genus Haemophilus, especially Haemophilus influenzae type b, that occurs in the human respiratory tract and causes acute respiratory infections, acute conjunctivitis, and . Since then, his lab has gone on to map the complete genomes of a number of other organisms. He projects that, in just a few years, we will know fifty to 100 genomes in nature.
In May 1992 Baby Cloe was born in London. Cystic fibrosis cystic fibrosis (sĭs`tĭk fībrō`sĭs), inherited disorder of the exocrine glands (see gland), affecting children and young people; median survival is 25 years in females and 30 years in males. ran in the family but the use of abortion for genetic selection had been bypassed through the use of pre-implantation genetic testing Genetic Testing Definition
A genetic test examines the genetic information contained inside a person's cells, called DNA, to determine if that person has or will develop a certain disease or could pass a disease to his or her offspring. . That is, several eggs had been removed from the mother's womb and fertilized fer·til·ize
v. fer·til·ized, fer·til·iz·ing, fer·til·iz·es
1. To cause the fertilization of (an ovum, for example).
2. in vitro in vitro /in vi·tro/ (in ve´tro) [L.] within a glass; observable in a test tube; in an artificial environment.
In an artificial environment outside a living organism. with her husband's sperm. The fertilized eggs were then allowed to develop through the eighth cell division. After that, they were tested for cystic fibrosis. Two of the embryos were without the disease so they were implanted in the mother. One developed and was born. Today pre-implantation genetic screening is used regarding a number of genetic diseases, including sickle-cell anemia sickle-cell anemia
Blood disorder (see hemoglobinopathy) seen mainly in persons of Sub-Saharan African ancestry and their descendants and in those from the Middle East, the Mediterranean area, and India. and Tay-Sachs.
Besides this neo-eugenic approach to genetic diseases, biotech cures that don't affect heredity heredity, transmission from generation to generation through the process of reproduction in plants and animals of factors which cause the offspring to resemble their parents. That like begets like has been a maxim since ancient times. have also been developed. One is the genetic engineering of a human growth hormone. Originally intended to help the thousands of U.S. children born with dwarfism dwarfism, condition in which an animal or plant is less than normal in size and lacks the capacity for normal growth. Dwarfism is deliberately produced and perpetuated in certain species (e.g., in breeding miniature dogs and cultivating dwarf plants). , it was patented in the 1980s. Today, however, its wider use among nonaffected children has resulted in $500 million in sales.
And this introduces an ethical concern. Family doctors and pediatricians are increasingly designating children as abnormal who fall in the bottom 3 percent of the height scale for their age group. This common shortness, being defined now as an "illness," results in the growth hormone growth hormone or somatotropin (sōmăt'ətrō`pən), glycoprotein hormone released by the anterior pituitary gland that is necessary for normal skeletal growth in humans (see protein). being more frequently prescribed. It also results in a change in our notions of "normal." Robin Marantz Henig Robin Marantz Henig is a freelance science writer and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. Her articles have also appeared in Scientific American, Seed, Discover and assorted women's magazines. , writing in the May 1998 Discover magazine, notes that this is "a common theme in medical history"--a treatment developed to resolve an abnormality is eventually used to enhance or standardize normality.
It was, in fact, this very question that induced the National Institutes of Health to bring researchers and ethicists together in September 1997 for the first Gene Therapy Policy Conference. This was followed two weeks later by an American Association for the Advancement of Science-sponsored colloquium col·lo·qui·um
n. pl. col·lo·qui·ums or col·lo·qui·a
1. An informal meeting for the exchange of views.
2. An academic seminar on a broad field of study, usually led by a different lecturer at each meeting. on gene alterations directed at the eggs, sperm, and zygotes--interventions that could, if developed, change an individual's heredity and hence the genetic endowment of future generations. Many speakers at these gatherings expressed concern that the use of such technology could result in a "biological reinforcement" of socioeconomic and class distinctions. After all, gene therapy would most often benefit those most able to pay for it. Furthermore, people seem to desire such choices. As Henig reports:
More than 40 percent of Americans, according to a March of Dimes survey, think it would be okay to use gene therapy to make their children either more attractive or more intelligent than they were otherwise destined to be. A Gallup poll of British parents found many of them also willing to consider such genetic "enhancement," and for some surprising and rather disconcerting reasons: 18 percent to change a child's aggression level or remove a predisposition to alcoholism, 10 percent to keep a child from becoming homosexual, and 5 percent to make a child more physically attractive.
As if to show how close such developments might be to reality, researchers at Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, in April 1997 created the first artificial human chromosome. This could eventually be instrumental in the customized design of genetic traits in embryos or even in sex cells before conception. Artificial chromosomes could then become genetic "cassettes" that would alter people's genetic inheritance, wiping out genetic diseases in family lines but also doing many other things.
Some suggest that this could have negative fallout regarding society's tolerance for disability. To see this, we need only look back at the year 1975, when Paul and Shirley Berman sued two New Jersey doctors for "wrongful life A type of Medical Malpractice claim brought on behalf of a child born with birth defects, alleging that the child would not have been born but for negligent advice to, or treatment of, the parents. ." The Bermans argued that their daughter, who was born with Down's syndrome, would have been aborted had their doctors advised the amniocentesis that would have detected the condition. They thus charged that the doctors had been negligent and had contributed to a "wrongful birth A Medical Malpractice claim brought by the parents of a child born with birth defects, alleging that negligent treatment or advice deprived them of the opportunity to avoid conception or terminate the pregnancy. ." Although the Bermans lost the substance of their suit, the New Jersey Supreme Court did award them "emotional damages" for their suffering. Since then, many states have recognized a child's right to bring "wrongful life" lawsuits on his or her own behalf.
Of course, while some people wish they were never born, an awful lot of people want never to die. That's why the announcement by scientists in California and Texas in March 1998 is so interesting. Through direct genetic manipulation of a human DNA molecule, these molecular biologists were able to extend cell growth and postpone cell death to a point nearly twice what is normal. With further research and development, this process could allow humans to almost double their lifespans--raising a host of cultural, economic, ethical, political, and religious problems. Not the least of these would be the need to dramatically slow the birthrate birth·rate or birth rate
The ratio of total live births to total population in a specified community or area over a specified period of time, often expressed as the number of live births per 1,000 of the population per year. . On a more mundane level, retirement plans and the Social Security system would have to be overhauled. (And with copyrights now extending to the lifetime of the author plus seventy years, this article might not enter the public domain until around 2150!)
If such neo-eugenic and Fountain of Youth Fountain of Youth
legendary fountain of eternal youth. [World Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 432]
See : Unattainability issues still have a ring of science fiction to them, this cannot be said for the entrenched place biotechnology has already established for itself in medicine. In 1995, over 280 new genetically engineered medicines were tested--a 20 percent increase over the previous year. Now millions of people use gene-spliced drugs and medications to treat AIDS, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease Kidney Disease Definition
Kidney disease is a general term for any damage that reduces the functioning of the kidney. Kidney disease is also called renal disease. , strokes, and the like. The new medicines have, in some cases, replaced the old. For instance, genetically engineered human insulin human insulin
A protein that has the normal structure of insulin produced by the human pancreas but that is prepared by recombinant DNA techniques and by semisynthetic processes. , used in treating diabetes, has all but replaced that derived directly from animals.
In May 1997, U.S. scientists isolated a gene that regulates muscle growth in mice. It was then learned that, with this gene removed, mice can grow stronger and develop bulging muscles, huge shoulders, and broad hips. The new breed of muscular rodent was dubbed "Mighty Mouse" and will soon be used to develop new treatments for muscle-related diseases such as muscular dystrophy muscular dystrophy (dĭs`trōfē), any of several inherited diseases characterized by progressive wasting of the skeletal muscles. There are five main forms of the disease. . (Of course, as soon as it is used for that, someone will develop an application to enhance the performance of healthy athletes.)
Currently at the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine veterinary medicine, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of animals. An early interest in animal diseases is found in ancient Greek writings on medicine. Veterinary medicine began to achieve the stature of a science with the organization of the first school in the in Massachusetts, pigs genetically altered with human genes are being bred in the hope of producing a universal organ donor organ donor Transplantation A person/cadaver that donates his/her organ(s) to a recipient for human beings--a donor that can be raised in large supply on special farms. This could also increase the supply and lower the cost of transplant organs. Of course, cross-species organ donation brings with it the risk of cross-species infection. This is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA FDA
Food and Drug Administration
n.pr See Food and Drug Administration.
n.pr the abbreviation for the Food and Drug Administration. ) has been drawing up guidelines.
On a parallel track is the creation of new bio-synthetics. Artificial skin is a prime example. Cultured and grown in laboratories, it is now used to treat burn victims. In 1996 a patient with severe burns over 60 percent of his body was treated in San Diego, California “San Diego” redirects here. For other uses, see San Diego (disambiguation).
San Diego is a coastal Southern California city located in the southwestern corner of the continental United States. As of 2006, the city has a population of 1,256,951. , with artificial skin. He was able to be released from the hospital only forty-seven days later.
The goal of those developing this latter technology is to make organs rather than transplant them. Research is now underway to fabricate heart valves Heart valves
Valves that regulate blood flow into and out of the heart chambers.
Mentioned in: Heart Failure , ears, noses, breasts, wombs, and other body parts. Robert Pool, in the May 1998 Discover, notes that Joseph Vacanti, chief of organ transplantation The transfer of organs such as the kidneys, heart, or liver from one body to another.
The transplantation of human organs has become a common medical procedure. Typical organs transplanted are the kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, cornea, skin, bones, and lungs. at Children's Hospital in Boston and a developer of synthetic organs, believes that someday "we will have cell banks with cells that have been genetically engineered to be invisible to the human immune system immune system
Cells, cell products, organs, and structures of the body involved in the detection and destruction of foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Immunity is based on the system's ability to launch a defense against such invaders. . To create a liver or kidney or heart, a tissue engineer would withdraw correct cells from the cell bank, seed them into an organ framework, and grow the organ."
But again, what starts out as a solution to a disability appearing at birth, during maturation, or after injury is quickly enlisted in the service of those able-bodied individuals who desire some healthful health·ful
1. Conducive to good health; salutary.
healthful·ness n. improvement or cosmetic enhancement. And to the extent that such technology becomes relatively cheap and widely available, people will cease to place a premium value on their "natural" attributes over those which have been acquired synthetically. Consider fashion modeling. Many still discuss whether this or that individual is "real" or "plastic." Over time, however, it's quite possible that such a distinction will cease to have any interest or even meaning.
Besides affecting what we are, biotechnology is affecting what we eat--so much so that in 1992, when the FDA announced that it wouldn't require the special labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods, there was an outcry from critics concerned about the possible transfer of allergens through the gene-splicing process. A 1996 study then proceeded to confirm that this had, in fact, already happened. So the FDA altered its position, requiring the labeling of all GM foods that use the genetic code of known allergenic Allergenic
A substance capable of causing an allergic reaction.
Mentioned in: Echinococcosis organisms.
Since then the FDA has approved numerous GM crops for sale in the United States--and they're being used. GM corn was grown in 1997 on over 3.5 million acres and soy on more than eight million acres. The majority of U.S. farmland could be converted to this type of agriculture in less than five years.
Such development, however, has caused opposition in Europe and Asia. For example, in recent months, a number of large European grocery chains have vowed to go "GM free," making long-term contracts with growers to provide GM-free produce. Meanwhile, in India, as activists set fire to suspected fields of GM crops, the Indian Supreme Court has upheld a ban on GM crop testing. Under all this pressure, a number of large multinational corporations--including Cadbury-Schweppes, Gerber, Nestle, and Unilever--have suddenly joined the GM-free consortium. The social controversy over "Frankenfood" is well underway.
Besides enhancing food quality and crop yields, another important aspect of agricultural biotechnology is the creation of pest- and virus-resistant--as well as herbicide-tolerant--plants. But natural plant plasticity poses a special danger here. Pollen from crops engineered to be resistant to weed killer have been known to fertilize related weeds, creating superweed hybrids that are also resistant to weed killer.
Crops are also being aided by the use of special defensive strategies against insects. A predator mite was the first genetically engineered insect to be released. It was let loose in Florida in 1996 in the hope it would eat other mites that damage crops. In California, a lethal gene lethal gene
A gene whose expression results in the death of the organism. has been inserted into the crop-damaging pink bollworm pink bollworm, destructive larva of a moth, Pectinophora gossypiella. Probably of Native American origin, it is a serious pest of cotton in the S United States, chiefly along the Mexican border. . The genetically altered caterpillars, when released into the general population, become moths and then mate. The resulting offspring are expected to experience a massive die-off, allowing cotton crops to grow in an environment more benign. Meanwhile, scientists continue to work on the creation of harmless disease-bearing insects.
Down on the farm these days, not only are the plants more productive but so are the animals. Australian scientists have engineered a breed of pigs that is 30 percent more efficient and can be brought to market seven weeks earlier than ordinary pigs. They have also made sheep that grow 30 percent faster and will soon make their wool grow faster as well. In the United States, a new breed of turkey hen has been created that lays more eggs because it no longer engages in "non-productive" mothering activity over them.
Besides being designed in the laboratory, useful plants and animals continue, as always, to be discovered or rediscovered in nature, the critical genes being extracted for various purposes. Toward this end, over 400,000 seeds from all over the world have been collected in the U.S. National Seed Storage Laboratory. This is literally a gene bank--as are many others the world over, some of which store rare microorganisms and animal embryos. In related work, there is the Human Genome Diversity Project--an effort to secure blood samples from the world's 5,000 linguistically distinct human populations in the hopes of isolating desirable genes that can be useful in future designer gene projects, especially in medicine.
Also for medical purposes, nonhuman animals are being used as living laboratories. This is called pharmaceutical farming or pharming pharming (fär`mĭng), the use of genetically altered livestock, such as cows, goats, pigs, and chickens, to produce medically useful products. . Whole herds and flocks can produce medicines and nutrients. For example, in April 1996 Grace was born, a transgenic goat with a gene that produces an anti-cancer drug now being tested. Then in February 1997 Rosie was born, a transgenic calf that produces milk containing the necessary nutrients for premature infants who cannot nurse. Now transgenic pigs produce human hemoglobin.
In order to be effective and guarantee quality control, pharming will require cloning the new ideal animal once it is perfected. That's where the February 1997 birth of Dolly comes in. Dolly was reported as the first cloned mammal, a sheep. Shortly after Dolly came Polly, a cloned sheep that features a customized human gene in its biological code. Then in January 1998 came Charlie, George, and Albert, three cloned calves produced at Advanced Cell Technology, a Massachusetts biotech firm. Since then, goats and mice have been cloned. Now the National Institutes of Health has funded two projects to done rhesus monkeys. The result of all this is that we will soon mass produce customized animals for a variety of purposes.
Such large-scale creation, use, and manipulation of the flora and fauna of Earth cannot help but have a profound effect on the way we regard all life forms not ourselves. More than ever before, we will be able to evolve whatever we want--or simply manufacture it directly. This is where we will see the most immediate and profound sociological, psychological, and ethical effects of cloning and other biotechnological developments.
Human cloning isn't likely to be the next big issue, then; such a clone, if fully developed, will probably be seen as an identical twin born later--a view unlikely to have much immediate impact on basic human rights. But the animal rights movement is in a wholly different situation. As nonhuman animals come to be regarded as mere bundles of genetic information to be switched, traded, and modified at will--the results therefrom being mass produced and harvested--they will lose much of their status as distinct species, each with a special integrity worth preserving and protecting. This will effectively "desacralize de·sa·cral·ize
tr.v. de·sa·cral·ized, de·sa·cral·iz·ing, de·sa·cral·iz·es
To divest of sacred or religious significance.
Verb 1. " animals in ways that will influence how people in the future will view them.
The environmental movement will also be affected by this as talk turns from preserving nature in some past "pristine" state to consciously creating exactly the sort of "nature" we want. (Most of the November/December 1993 Humanist was devoted to exploring just this concern.) Debate over the relative merits of preservation ecology, restoration ecology, and inventionist ecology will then become part of common public discourse.
As should be obvious at this point, it isn't farfetched to predict a host of transformations in the way we live and think emerging out of biotechnology. We are already at a time when parents have more and more control over the genetic makeup of their children, designer animals are being created for a variety of technological purposes, designer foods and medicines are being engineered for our physical and mental health, and synthetic human tissues are being developed for restorative as well as cosmetic purposes. We also face new forms of biological pollution, newly engineered pests, and the growing dangers of biochemical war and terrorism. Perhaps sooner than we expect, genetic screening will accompany intelligence testing. And biochemical (or nanotechnological) computers and toys may replace some of those now made of metal and plastic.
Regarding this latter prediction, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. In 1994, Dr. Leonard Adelman at the University of Southern California The U.S. News & World Report ranked USC 27th among all universities in the United States in its 2008 ranking of "America's Best Colleges", also designating it as one of the "most selective universities" for admitting 8,634 of the almost 34,000 who applied for freshman admission got a strain of DNA to solve a simple mathematical puzzle. Shortly thereafter, Richard Lipton at Princeton got DNA to perform more complex functions.
But before molecular and "meat" machines dominate the market, there will still be plenty made of plastic, even if petroleum were to become scarce. Chris Sommerville at the Carnegie Institution of Washington The introduction to this article may be too long. Please help improve the introduction by moving some material from it into the body of the article according to the suggestions at , D.C., saw to that in 1993 when he invented a special type of vegetation. Inserting a plastic-making gene into a mustard plant, he converted it into a living plastics factory. Monsanto hopes to have it on the market by 2003. Meanwhile, ICI (language) ICI - An extensible, interpretated language by Tim Long with syntax similar to C. ICI adds high-level garbage-collected associative data structures, exception handling, sets, regular expressions, and dynamic arrays. , a British firm, has engineered bacteria that can produce biodegradable plastics with varying degrees of elasticity and other characteristics.
Overall, we are becoming the remanufacturers of life and materials on Earth and, in time, will be able to spread our "New Genesis" to Venus and Mars, changing the atmosphere on those planets and terraforming the landscape to suit our own desires.
But this shows that even humanists may face a philosophical crisis in the next century.
In the past, people found meaning in nature by observing its cycles: the changes in seasons and the changing requirements that came with them. People found meaning in human life by meeting the needs of family and community. Later, humanist thinkers came to the conclusion that an increased understanding of human nature could provide an important basis for human values. By learning who we are and how we evolved, it would be possible to get a better idea of what is good for us and what we can reasonably expect from ourselves.
But now, with the capacity to massively change the external world of animals and plants to suit our desires, we relinquish another level of our ties to the land and external nature. With the capacity to reshape ourselves, our family genetic heritage, and our communities, we divorce ourselves from many of the familial duties and social connections that once formed the basis of our behavior. And with the capacity to determine the course of our evolution--not to mention the evolution of other species--we potentially lose some of the evolutionary rationale we may have had for our ethics.
Relevant to this latter point is Edward O. Wilson's 1998 book Consilience Con`sil´i`ence
n. 1. Act of concurring; coincidence; concurrence.
The consilience of inductions takes place when one class of facts coincides with an induction obtained from another different class.
- Whewell. , in which he argues for an empirical basis for ethics. Within our biology, Wilson sees a human nature that will provide a general basis to work from. This isn't any sort of absolute ethical truth, of course, but it is something a little more solid than social relativism or the shifting sands of consequential and situational ethics. This is also where he develops his view of the genetic basis for those ethical inclinations that Adam Smith termed moral sentiments.
We have, however, been creatively interacting with human nature throughout our prehistory prehistory, period of human evolution before writing was invented and records kept. The term was coined by Daniel Wilson in 1851. It is followed by protohistory, the period for which we have some records but must still rely largely on archaeological evidence to and history by the various selective ways that different cultures have bred, have practiced genocide on other cultures, and the like. How much this process has already modified our nature would be interesting to measure. In any case, it is clear that we have never shied away from exercising our influence--to whatever degree possible--on our genetic heritage, on our growth and development, and on our external environment. As a result, our ethical inclinations--rather than belonging exclusively to some relatively fixed system dating from the Old Stone Age--may be a partially ongoing product of our evolving values since humankind first emerged in Africa.
Whatever the case, with the biotech revolution we find ourselves in the ironic situation of becoming empowered to alter our genetics--and eventually these ethical inclinations--more swiftly and more dramatically than ever before, acquiring this power just as we are beginning to understand the genetic roots and original survival advantages of those same ethical inclinations. Thus we gain a capability to change that which we don't yet fully understand and run the risk of doing what we have mistakenly done in the past: upset the balance of nature, suffer the consequences, then scramble to fix our errors.
In this regard, we might well ask: will we go about this in the ways common to us, letting those people with the most power and money or those who control religious belief decide for all of us?
Clearly, the challenge of tomorrow is a momentous one. It is also an adventure into the unknown. We can embrace this adventure or fear it. Chances are, however, the future will belong to those who embrace it. For it is the embracers who most easily become the shapers.
Perhaps for this reason Humanist Manifesto II The second manifesto was written in 1973 by Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson, and was intended to update the previous one. It begins with a statement that the excesses of Nazism and world war had made the first seem "far too optimistic", and indicated a more hardheaded and realistic sets forth an optimistic view of technology, declaring:
Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.
But it still follows with a warning:
The future is, however, filled with dangers. In learning to apply the scientific method to nature and life, we have opened the door to ecological damage, overpopulation, dehumanizing institutions, totalitarian repression, and nuclear and biochemical disaster.
The matter warrants our concern and involvement. But if our involvement is to be productive, it needs to be informed. That requires keeping up to date on the revolutions in science and technology that surround us, particularly those in the field of biology. It means looking past the hype--whether of the "gee whiz" or the alarmist a·larm·ist
A person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe. variety. It means following the money trail to see where reside the concentrations of power that determine what technologies are used, how they are used, who benefits, and who loses. And it means recognizing that all these factors will directly affect ourselves and our progeny.
For they are doing so already.
Fred Edwords is editor of the Humanist and executive director of the American Humanist Association The American Humanist Association (AHA) is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. It is the original Humanist organization, and embraces secular, religious, and other manifestations of Humanist philosophy. . This article is based on lectures he has given at the 1998 AHA National Conference in San Diego, California, and the 1999 International Humanist and Ethical Union