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Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

  1. Dec 17, 2007 #1
    Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2007 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    I see a new, major area for Bioethics looming in front of us. Considering the fact that a signficant percentage of the US population is afraid of genetically modified foods, so called "frankenfoods", I wonder what they will think of "frankengerms".

    Or a "frankenfido"?
     
  4. Dec 17, 2007 #3

    Evo

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    Oh yeah, this is something we really need.
     
  5. Dec 17, 2007 #4

    chroot

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    Actually, I'd say it really is something we need. Consider the time and expense and ethical problems researchers currently face when breeding knock-out mice for experiments. Now consider all of those problems essentially gone, in one stroke.

    This new technology is just the lesser of two evils if you're the sort that believes no mouse should ever die in the pursuit of knowledge, but it's the lesser of two evils by several orders of magnitude.

    This technology contains within it the capacity to effect great evil -- as did all technologies that came before it.

    - Warren
     
  6. Dec 17, 2007 #5
    I heard Craig Venter talking about this on tv. He hopes we can make organisms that can produce fuels or energy for us, or that can break down toxins, or produce medicines, etc. Sure, the public will complain, but this really does have great promises if they can get the first few steps working alright.

    Plus, come on, this is really cool.
     
  7. Dec 17, 2007 #6

    Evo

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    I'm more worried about "mistakes" that will escape the lab and destroy life as we know it. But then that might not be a bad thing either. :wink:
     
  8. Dec 17, 2007 #7

    chroot

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    You mean like.... the infamous monkey with four asses?

    - Warren
     
  9. Dec 17, 2007 #8
    Agreed. The problem, as always, is how will this technology be used — to cure diseases? to solve the problem of pollution (microbes that can digest toxic wastes, for example)? to solve world hunger? or will it be used by dictators to further oppress their people? or "terrorists" to murder millions? — maybe hasbro will get their hands on it and mass market really interesting pets. who knows.

    Technology is truly still in its baby stage... I think that as we advance more and more into (potentially) scary (and, let's face it: sometimes downright freaky) territories, it becomes more and more important to develop a set of carefully thought out universal rules, and a well implemented governing body to avoid potential disasters brought on by the misuse of new discoveries.

    Because— and I'm sure I'm not the only one —I don't trust that the current system we have now will be able to hold for ever without somebody, somewhere, "pressing the wrong button" (unintentionally or deliberately).
     
  10. Dec 18, 2007 #9

    Probably "All of the Above" will be used. Furthermore, there is nothing we can do about it. Legislating new technology that we may be afraid of (mostly due to inventive science fiction writers) is pointless. No matter what you do, somewhere in the world, it will be legal. All new technologies are abused or misused in some way, but the potential good far outweighs the possible downfalls...IMO.
     
  11. Dec 18, 2007 #10
    not always: what about modern weaponry?— that we've become accustomed to the fact that it's now commonplace to destroy an entire city and kill thousands with the push of a button doesn't mean that the invention of the devises that make this possible has been for the better.
     
  12. Dec 19, 2007 #11
    Well, in the case of modern weaponry, that IS the purpose of the invention...to do harm and destroy things. Yet, we invent them anyway.

    If some wacko somewhere is going to invent a custom "bug" or disease using synthetic biology to wipe out humanity, the best defense is to be well versed in this technology as well to come up with a defense. Not to pass some meaningless law that will do nothing except handcuff those that would like to do positive and helpful things with this new technology.
     
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