Science Sunday: Trusty Genes
Much like our own world, the world of Chronsylvania is full of strange natural phenomena. Every week we'll highlight an article that explores the odd, and very real, scientific properties of our universe. We'll also leave you with a writing/drawing prompt based on the article to get your creative juices flowing.
Several months ago, a scientist from China revealed to the world that he had modified the genes of several human embryos, resulting in the birth of the world's first genetically modified human beings. In light of these events, 18 leading geneticists from across the world recently published a paper in the scientific journal Nature calling for a global moratorium on human genetic editing.
The paper claims that genetic modification can be used to bring positive changes to the world. For example, the Chinese scientist mentioned above was attempting to modify the DNA of the embryos to make them resistant to HIV. Still, in their paper, the genetic scientists present a clear and unified front that we simply do not have enough data on gene editing to know the long-term effects of this pracice, both on individuals and on the human race at large.
Our culture is filled with stories, both factual and fictional, of well-intended science gone wrong. An atomic weapon meant to end a war is used to set off an apocalyptic Nuclear Winter. A deep sea excavation upsets a long-sleeping and horrifically large monster that reigns destruction upon coastal cities. A vaccination for cancer mutates into a virus that transforms people into zombies and becomes a global epidemic.
Stories such as these exist on the frontier of human knowledge. They explore how we respond when we are confronted with the limits of what we understand and the damage we can cause when we tamper with natural powers we don't fully comprehend.
In light of such a clearly present collective and cultural fear, the easy thing would be to claim the work of human genetic modification is too dangerous, to shut down such research. However, in their paper, the 18 genetic experts did not call on a complete and total ban on human genetic editing from now until the end of time. Instead, they stated the need for a global framework of regulations to protect individuals from the unforeseen consequences of well-intended genetic modifications. Once that framework is in place, and it may take decades to gather enough data upon the long-term effects of genetic editing, the genetecists believe the work should continue because it does have the potential to improve our lives.
At this point, we simply do not know enough. Recognizing that fact is the first step in moving forward.
Creative Prompt: Write or draw about a time when you did not know enough. What did you know? What did you think you knew? What did you learn?
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