Gene Machine

New genetic discoveries take place nearly every day. Take today, for example. Today, it was announced that scientists have discovered a gene linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, “unlocked” the complete genetic code of skin and lung cancers, AND isolated seven genes that increase human susceptibility to leprosy. It seems that amazing advancements like these are happening at an unprecedented rate. I suppose that, considering the composition of the human genome — approximately 23,000 protein-coding genes — there’s certainly no shortage of material for genetic scientists to research.

The more science begins to understand human genetic makeup, the closer we become (or, at least, so we are told) to diagnosing, treating, and, with hope, eradicating the debilitating and life-threatening diseases that afflict significant numbers of the human population. For anyone who has a terminal illness, or knows someone who’s succumbed to one, advancements like these cannot happen quickly enough.

At the same time, with the buildup of genetic knowledge arises endless ethical questions. An ongoing debate rages between enthusiasts heralding an age of human perfectability, and potentially, an opportunity to transcend the current bounds of human mortality, and their opposers, who fear the havoc human beings could wreak with the power to manipulate and, possibly, create human life in such ‘unnatural’ ways.

It seems unlikely that scientific progress in the area of genetics will simply stop because of an ethical clash. Furthermore, it’s likely that science has already achieved much more than the general public knows; we’re tempted to wonder what’s really going on behind the closed doors of the laboratories of the world.

The fact that human skepticism exists surrounding new genetic technologies leads me to believe (or, perhaps, hope) that they will not result in the nightmarish possibilities we’re apt to envision, such as three-eyed babies or a ‘superior’ race of cyborgesque humans. At the same time, considering the ways we already augment our bodies, social ideals of human appearance and achievement are presently ripe for the breeding of cultural projects of human perfection and manipulation.