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Sunday, April 25, 2004

Well, guess this is the concluding post for me:

Something that has been bugging me about movies such as Gattaca and Jurassic Park is the significant bias against science (Genetic Engineering in this case) on the basis that "We don't know all about it" or "It's unnatural", which seems to reflect public sentiment on Genetic Engineering rather well. What strikes me about such sentiments is that while such reasoning is applied to new and emerging sciences it is patently absurd when applied to current technologies in use.

The Internet is unnatural, for example, yet I see no protests against its use on such grounds.

Computers are unnatural, yet I see no protests against their use on such grounds.

Televisions are unnatural, and while there are some who protest it's showing of violence to minors, it is not disparaged because it is unnatural.

Hitting more to home....

My eyeglasses which allow me to clearly resolve objects more than 10 feet away are unnatural, yet to protest against such glasses is absurd.

Modern medicine, nay, medicine in general is unnatural, yet the vast majority of people living today, including myself, would not be living were it not for the existance of such medicines. Are we now going to protest that what protects us from death, a natural conclusion to life?

Thus ends my rant, and thus concludes my activities on this blog.

Well, its been fun people... :)
Concluding, much of what the media says about genetic engineering is false. Much of it is over exagerated, however the fact remains that the technology is very powerful, and like all technology it can be used for good or evil or can be overly used.

The way I look at it, if there isn;t something that is really wrong with a person's genes (like a dibilitating genetic disease) then there is no reason to alter. Also, I dont; really see any problems with geneticaklly altered food. There aren;t even exact genes for every single trait, lets give this science a chance I say, instead of bashing it before we see the results.

Finally I'd like to thank my group for working so hard and putting up with me when I was off coding lemmings. Also thank you Chuck Tryon, you are the coolest english teacher that ever walked. This semester has been very interesting, I had the eugenics thing for the project and my final paper so I'd say I have learned a lot.
Throughout our project I think we had good dialogue and lots of cross-discussion. Genetics has a very broad range of applications and dialogue in lots of areas is easy to achieve. I liked to focus on how filmmakers and audiences see genetics and not so much on what genetic offers or IF we should adopt genetics. My personal opinion is that genetics and genetic engineering is and will be adopted in many areas that fall into the grey area of the sciences. But I could be wrong, if the uninformed public has their way maybe very little research will be allowed to be done. Look at how easily stem cell research's public funding was banned.

I appreciate all my fellow group members and I hope we have a chance to work in the future (I know Puyan will do some CS stuff with me at some point). Please accept my personal thanks for doing all of the work required and making this assignment enjoyable. I would also like to extend a good luck to Prof. Tryon in his search for tenure-track positions or if he decides to stay. Thanks everyone and bye bye blog.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Apparently most pop culture references to Genetic Engineering are negative. I can not recall any movies or television shows that focus on the benefits of cloning or any other type of genetic engineering. Gattaca showed how bland our lives will be if we are manufactured from the start and the discrimination the “others” will face. As Puyan says, the genetic elite’s perception that they are perfect is what leads to their downfall. Jurassic Park shows that what repercussions come along with only focusing on the glory of cloning. Or as Michael says, “The film paints a picture that the genetically created, in contrast to the divinely created, are monstrous and frightening.” Genetic engineering of food seems much more practical; on the other hand, there are many plain and simple benefits. It can be used to feed the millions starving and improve economies. Overall it seems that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to food engineering but the bad definitely outweighs the good when it comes to DNA engineering. Because society’s films relating to genetic engineering are all negative views, some people do fail to realize that the major positive consequence of it is the hopes to find cures for diseases or clone organs for transplantation. Genetic engineering is a very complex issue where it is difficult for one person to say whether he is for or against it. If limits are imposed on how far scientist can go, then hopefully society will only see the positive effects of genetic engineering, but they can not forget the potential negative effects.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

An issue on the mind of many environmental activists in the genetically enhanced food industry is the use of 'terminator' seeds. These are genetically enhanced seeds that die after one generation forcing the farmer to by seeds continually from the mega-conglomerate pharmaceutical companies. This shifts control of the food supply from farmers in a commodity market to these large multi-national corporations. Some of the more paranoid activists fear this sort of control will allow these corporations to control what is added to our food supply. This fear may be well founded since, in America at least, our government is driven to a large part by corporate money. If money is tied to politics and government allows this sort of genetically enhanced product to be forced unto the market, genetic engineering of food supplies may allow all the fears some of these activists have.

Well what are these activists doing and what can the individual consumer do? Activists destroy test fields for these so-called 'terminator' seeds. Many of them have been arrested and sued in England and the USA. Maybe their reaction is extreme and maybe we should focus on consumer-level boycotting. If consumers shift towards consuming organic, and genetically enhancement free, foods then these corporations may never have a chance to push these seeds unto the market. Not to mention organically produced foods are free from other chemicals like Bovine Growth Hormone. BGH has been increasingly found in humans in higher than normal doses and a link is begining to form between BGH and its counterpart Human Growth Hormone. If people are being affected by this one chemical in ways never anticipated maybe we should shift towards consuming natural food products. Many regard Rachel Carson's Silent Sprint as alarmist but maybe these connectiosn between her criticism of DDT and future criticisms of genetically enhanced food products.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The films Gattaca and Jurassic Park both portray genetic engineering in a bad light. In Gattaca we are on the side of the genetically imperfect and feel like the whole world that has been constructed is unfair and wrong. However, I won’t lie, I don’t feel like genetic engineering for people is right, but there are two sides to the argument. These scientists that are researching genes have good intentions, and I feel like the media needs to portray the good in genetic engineering along with the bad. These movies put fear of future endeavors with science in our minds and makes scientists look wrong for putting their time and effort into researching genetics. We can only hope that this preliminary tampering with the gene pool won’t create a world like Gattaca. We also have to understand that these films are imaginary, and dinosaurs will not walk the earth again. As long as the people keep a close eye on what kinds of genetic tampering is going on, our future will be fine.

I agree with Dr. Bohlin on the portrayal of science in Jurrasic Park. One part o9f the essay that really hit home was, "If Malcolm had limited his remarks to Jurassic Park only, I would have no complaint. But Malcolm extends the problem to science as a whole when he comments that scientific discovery is the rape of the natural world. Many youngsters will form the opinion that all scientists are to be distrusted. A meaningful point has been lost because it was wielded with the surgical precision of a baseball bat."

A fine point made as Jurrasic Park seems to bash all science, even Computer Science (grrr!) as the main bad guy was an evil computer nerd.

A lot of Ian Malcolm's quotes seem witty, but to take them seriously is outrageous and stupid. The movie makes money by scaring you away from science, with big bad monsters and evil geniuses, and scientics with no ethics. The funy thing is, I really doubt that a hack like "oh lets through in some frog dna and see what comes out" would really work, or ever be tried for that matter. I'd like to think that science is a lot more scientific than that. The movie's basis could have been taken by an obsurd series of what-ifs toped off with the typicaly crazy Hollywood notion that all science is bad.

True genetic engineering is very powerful, and our ethics should always be questioned, but I am not one to put movies over true science. These are the same Hollywood people that bring us Clueless and Janet Jackson's right boob, they aren't to be listened to. Another quotes from Bohlin I liked was, "But many of the links had no basis in reality and were badly reasoned speculations. The owl-like hoots of the poison-spitting dilophosaur jumped out as an example of pure fantasy. There is no way to guess or estimate the vocalization behavior from a fossilized skeleton."

More rant on my concluding post...

Monday, April 19, 2004

Cloning and manipulating DNA are not the only components of genetic engineering. Genetically engineered food is another. This, in my opinion, has greater benefits than the other two. Crops are made more often, bigger, and better than without engineering them. This is what makes the food supply greater in a world where so many people go to bed hungry because there is simply no food. Increased food production also benefits farmers, and further the economy. It basically helps to guarantee a food supply in a world that is becoming less and less agricultural and more industrial. I understand how there are negative consequences to engineering our food, such as its health and environmental risks. Enhancing our food does add more unnatural chemicals into our bodies as well as the environment. There is the small possibility that pests are building up a resistance to the pesticides used, or that we are wasting our bodies defense systems, but there have not been any extreme consequences because of this. In the case of enhancing our foods, the positive consequences definitely outweigh the negative consequences. As long as the food does not become lethal, I’d rather help feed a lot more starving children than be afraid to add a couple more chemicals in my body which can only be negligible compared to the many other chemicals entered by other ways.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Bohlin claims that scientists fail to ask ethical questions and everyone receives the image of the mad scientist intending to create monsters as they are evil in nature. I agree with Michael when he explains that scientists are overly portrayed as money and fame greedy. The movie does exaggerate the ways of scientists, especially because most research is extremely expensive and funded by the government and this means that many regulations are held on their research. This was only done, though, to get their message across, as all movies exaggerate emotions and personalities to help convey their messages. In response to Erin’s post, I agree that the general public sees a huge difference between cloning dinosaurs and cloning humans, this is why it is so controversial. Cloning dinosaurs does seem extremely dangerous in comparison to cloning humans; cloning one average human being generally should not lead to the death and destruction of many (assuming that the clone does not hold a lot of political power to do so). This does not mean, though, that the cloning of humans should be allowed. Jurassic Park, even though it is about dinosaurs, illustrates messages about cloning in general. It implies that cloning is crossing the line between nature and technology as man tries to play God, whether with dinosaurs or humans.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

In the Jurassic Park essay, Ray Bohlin mainly discusses the depiction of science throughout the film. He explains how Jurassic Park makes the scientists look evil and insane, and how the film warns of the dangers of cloning. However, I think that people understand the difference between genetically engineering dinosaurs to genetically engineering human genes. Making dinosaurs is totally unrealistic and pointless compared to the possible goods that manipulating human genes could bring. I honestly think that someone just wanted to make a movie about dinosaurs in modern time and the only way to have dinosaurs today would be to somehow clone them. I don’t agree, however, with how the media has created negative connotations towards scientific research on genetics. Even though I might not agree fully with a lot of the research that is done, I still feel as if there needs to be more sides shown in these films on genetics.

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