|More bullshit courtesy the biotech cheerleaders called the Genetic “Literacy” Project.|
The Genetic Literacy Project
March 18, 2013
Is transhumanism—the possibility of enhancing human intellectual, physical and psychological capacities through biotechnology —a brave new world that we should welcome with open arms? Is it, as science writer Ron Bailey has contended, a “movement that epitomizes the most daring, courageous, imaginative, and idealistic aspirations of humanity”? Or is it one of the ‘world’s most dangerous ideas’, as conservatives such as Francis Fukuyama or über liberal organizations like the Council for Responsible Genetics and the Center for Genetics and Society would have it?
Dr. Frankenstein’s creation is the metaphor for transhumanism gone bad. The children’s book writer Curtis Jobling toyed with the theme in his 2001 children’s book, Frankenstein’s Cat, in which he imagined a kind of prequel to Mary Shelley’s masterpiece: the mad scientist’s first creation, a cat he named Nine—not because cats have “nine lives,” but because that’s how many cats it took to make him.
Now science writer Emily Anthes has moved from fiction to fact [Fact… oh, really?] with the publication of Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts. It’s an animated review of the many ways in which biotechnologists have altered some of the non-human cohabitants of our planet. But it’s far more than just a fascinating read about animal manipulation. As it touches the third rail of “manipulating Nature,” which seems to irritate non-religious liberals as much as evangelicals, its implications go far beyond controversies associated with animal biotechnology to the ethics of “positive eugenics” in humans.
Anthes’s Frankenstein’s Cat colorfully explores all the fascinating and in some cases gruesome ways humans are reshaping the animal kingdom. She discusses how genetic engineering could help rescue endangered species from extinction or create new animals—from sensor-wearing seals, cyborg beetles, a bionic bulldog and (get this, Mary Shelley) the world’s first cloned cat.
The modifications are linked to the possibility of doing genuine good for the world. Citing just one of her many examples, scientists at Cambridge University and Scotland’s Roslin Institute—the facility that created Dolly, the cloned sheep, in 1996—have developed chickens that can’t spread avian flu to others in their flock, opening up the possibility of developing flu resistant animals. “Given how hard it is to develop vaccines to combat the rapidly evolving flu virus, this genetic modification could end up saving the lives of many birds, and perhaps humans,” she writes.
The raging debate over the ethics of animal enhancement or transanimalism foreshadows the emerging public discussion over manipulating humans. It’s understandable if these new technologies stir concern. The idea of humanity entering into an advanced state of biological existence while leaving behind the rest of nature can be disconcerting, Anthes suggests. But she thoughtfully pleas for reasoned contemplation and discussion rather than knee jerk reactions.
“Humans are a force of nature—we are, in some senses, the force of nature—and we influence animals whether we intend to or not,” she writes. “So the real question, going forward, is not whether we should shape animals’ bodies and lives, but how we should do so—with what tools, under what circumstances, and to what end. Are the needs of other species truly best served by leaving them to fend for themselves in a world that we have come to dominate?”
Read more of this self-important trite here…