This io9 article got an instant two letter answer from me, in a loud enough voice to disturb the librarian. I wasn’t actually in the library at the time, but she climbed the 1 in 3 hill to my house half a mile away just the say, “shhhhhhh”.
The answer was of course…
A thousand bloody times no.
But that makes for a very short blog post so let me explain my gut reaction.
First, at the risk of upsetting Godwin’s law, ever heard of eugenics and the Nazis. Yeah, look them up, they took turn of the last century science and used it in a viciously nasty way. Do you really want to go down that route again? Do you think that if we start eliminating certain genes from the gene pool (via designer babies, abortion, or god knows what…post partum gene therapy maybe?) and make the culling (because that is what it is) a legal requirement that it will end there?
You give governments that sort of power at your peril. They should not even be allowed to look at your genetic code…ever. Not with your consent or without. DNA evidence at a crime scene (which is not the same as fingerprints. Fingerprints merely identify someone. DNA is the code used to build someone’s entire physical form—a slight difference there) does not mean the government should be able to go digging around in that code to find out stuff about the criminal, or at least it shouldn’t (they use the lovely term ‘genetic profiling’ for using the DNA to build a picture of the criminal—here’s a hint, they decide to make Jaywalking a criminal offence that requires a genetic swab being taken and bingo: you is being profiled, bruv) but they do.
It should not be legal to do this. We know that they will do it anyway, they’re governments, they don’t give a damn about your privacy or your rights, but they should have to do it under the counter not out in plain sight and if they get busted you should be able to sue them for the—frankly—disgusting invasion of privacy.
Why? Because they’re governments. What other reason do you need? Pick up a history book, read it, any period you like. See what governments will do if given the chance.
Don’t give them the chance.
Okay, that’s one reason why I disturbed the librarian. Now onto the more philosophical reason.
Posit: we don’t bloody understand evolution fully and you buggers want to start playing around with the genetic code of the human race. What are you? Freaking crazy? (Hmmm…maybe philosophical was a bit of a stretch).
We have no idea what the genes that seem to point to a tendency towards psychopathic disorders are for, other than they seem to point to a tendency towards psychopathic disorders. So we go all snippy snippy on them and maybe we end up with an outcome we didn’t expect and that we can’t put right without genetically altering the entire human race. I’m not sure that is a particularly smart thing to do. It’s kinda like deliberately pumping tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere because you’d quite like to buy beachfront property in Alaska.
There is a law called “The Law of Unintended Consequences” because we live in a chaotic world. Start messing about with what makes us human (that’ll be the genes, and the expression of those genes, and the proteins that those genes produce, and the way those proteins fold, and methylation which leads on to epigenetics—which suggests that what your ancestors did in life affects how your genes are expressed. Grandmama lived through a famine, you have a propensity to put on weight. A good starting point for why we shouldn’t be futzing around with the human genome. And there are a whole host of other factors that I didn’t mention) and we don’t know where it will end up.
Start messing around with the human brain and there’s no way of knowing (at all) where we will end up. The human brain is the most complex organ in the world. We’re not really sure how it works. We’re not sure if the brain/mind duality exists or if the mind arises out of the brain through understandable process, we don’t even know, or are even close to understanding, how consciousness works. Evidence of this is shown by scientific papers using being awake as a synonym for consciousness, which technically in a writing sense it is, but it is not a synonym for mind.
I’m not against genetic medicine, but I think we should draw a line at germline medicine until we have more idea of how the germline actually works (and yes, eliminating psychopaths from the population will most definitely affect the germline).
It is not: plug this into there and that happens. It is: change this one thing in an individual and then let him/her loose to mix with all these other six billion individuals and then let their children mix with their children, and then let those children… It’s turtles all the way down and all of them can snap your bollocks off.
So, in conclusion, any chance of not screwing around with things you don’t understand just because you think you are doing it for the greater good?
Any chance at all?
Didn’t think so.
But there will be soma, right?
PK’s Caveats: Caveat 1: I may not know what I’m blathering about. Caveat 2: There are no rules about writing, there are just things you can get terribly wrong. Caveat 3: If people apply the words never or always to storytelling techniques, ignore them.
First posted to ‘of Altered States’: http://www.ofalteredstates.com/blog/