Gattaca Venit

The title means “Gattaca Arrived.” In this scene of the 1997 SyFi film Gattaca, Vincent Freeman’s parents are planning a second child, as their first (Vincent) was unfortunately conceived “naturally” and “passionately.” The geneticist-consultant shows them four candidate embryos:

Geneticist: You have specified hazel eyes, dark hair and fair skin. I’ve taken the liberty of eradicating any potentially prejudicial conditions. Premature baldness, myopia… alcoholism and addictive susceptibility… propensity for violence, obesity, etc.

Marie Freeman: We didn’t want… Diseases, yes, but– [looks at Antonio]

Antonio Freeman: We were just wondering if it’s good to leave a few things to chance?

Geneticist: We want to give your child the best possible start. Believe me, we have enough imperfection built-in already. Your child doesn’t need any more additional burdens. Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply the best of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result.

Less than two decades after the film’s release it is no longer cinematic fiction. Editing our human DNA safely and wisely is here and will soon be available to the public. What this means is beyond profound and will change life as we know it forever! Please watch this 16-min TED video presentation from one of the co-founders of the CRISPR-CAS9 gene-editor, Dr. Jennifer Doudna.

Some of the questions Dr. Doudna raises and those presented to her at the end of her presentation were very good, very paramount questions for her, the scientific-medical community, and people in general, legislatures in particular, to seriously consider. This has created two nascent scientific-philosophical fields:  bioethics and genethics.

The therapeutic uses for this medical technology are unquestionable when it comes to relief of human suffering and early mortality from diseases. One of its uses I personally find fascinating and optimistic about is that of combating addiction, heretical or acquired. The U.S.’s addiction-crisis of the brain’s reward-dopamine abuse is absolutely a treatable illness and disorder! This neurogenetic editing-rehab would have a major impact on our species and societies. For a poignant assessment of this current mental health epidemic and its solutions, click here. At the other end of the addiction spectrum there is one form of treatment which has proven a failure:  abstinence. In fact, abstinence has shown for the last 70+ years to exacerbate recovery for almost all addicts.

But rewiring and editing neurological and genetic strands does raise some sub-questions. For example, when is giving charity or open-love or generosity an addiction (clinical co-dependency), and when is it healthy and not an addiction? For hundreds and thousands of years of human history, nowhere, no one group, organization, belief-system, or society has ever had a workable and successful answer — until modern medicine and science.

Then there are some non-therapeutic questions too. For example, here are some I picked out from the National Human Genome Research Institute’s website posted August 2017:

Regarding Properly Informed Consent

  • How can an informed choice/decision be offered to an unborn embryo of the edit(s) or to its descendants?
  • What exactly should define Properly Informed Consent?

Regarding Justice and Equity

  • How can the impoverished and disadvantaged (the world’s 80% – 90% population) people be assured that genome editing is available for all, not just the wealthy causing disparities throughout healthcare?
  • How will our species avoid germline editing that creates classes of individuals defined by the quality of their (purchased?) engineered genomes?

However these issues and questions play out, like it or not, gene-editing is here to stay. Whether the U.S. and other democratic nations are at the forefront of this Venit/Arrived technology, other questionable groups, societies, and nations, depending on their “resources,” will get a hold of it eventually, or do everything within their power to stop it or corrupt it. Which brings me to another profound question.

Don’t we have a moral, humane imperative and responsibility to ease and/or stop all suffering?

For me, the answer is Of course we do! It’s a no-brainer. But I am also very happy to report that this positive course of action implies another wonderful reality!

Since a supposed “God” fucked all this up in the first place — or allowed Satan to do so, whichever — in that light we can start doing the work that the mentally retarded, lazy, “God” with no foresight whatsoever has refused to do for well over 300,000 to 500,000 years! Let’s at least keep moving forward helping our reality in practical beneficial ways!

If you’d like to know more remarkable news about gene-editing, watch this 12-min TED video “Gene-editing Can Now Change An Entire Species.”

The positive benefits of utilizing gene-drives and DNA-repairing editors are endless and must be increasingly understood and discussed. At minimum, THAT is indeed what we are responsible for doing. Staying with status quo or what I’ve often described to the religious as stagnate-in-antiquation is a sure-fire way to accelerate extinction.

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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35 thoughts on “Gattaca Venit

  1. Great post and promising technology

    In my opinion we need to tackle the issues raised especially those under “Regarding Justice and Equity” in order to maximize the benefits genome editing has to offer

    Liked by 2 people

    • Apologies for the delay in replying — out of town from Friday evening until this evening.

      Agreed! One of the points I really liked from Dr. Doudna in her TEDvideo was scientists get VERY involved in that social-legislative discourse. She admits that scientists are typically NOT so social, engaging, when it comes to this sort of “responsibility” toward humanity.

      Thanks Jonathan for your feedback! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Is this like, or unlike breeding new traits into naturally evolved species and affecting or changing unforeseen outcomes. Such as the Russian arctic fox experiment. They bred for temperament, but after only ten years had a completely different animal. I am a little skeptical about using this without seeing long term animal studies which ethically is bothersome too. Fascinating and frightening discovery. Wow!! Can’t wait ’til they can add a fourth testicle though!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Apologies for the delay in replying — out of town from Friday evening until this evening.

      I concur Jim. The ethical, social, and legal issues on this “arrived” technology/science are unbelievably paramount. According to Dr. Doudna in her video, the CAS9 gene-editor works exceptionally and precisely. She even mentioned that ‘constructing’ it was no easy feat that some screwball high-schooler could make — you must know exactly what your doing. Bwahahahaha… fourth testicle!? Don’t we have WAY MORE juiced-up testosterone on the planet already? 😉 😛

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree genetic research must be done carefully, with all ethical considerations addressed. However, I feel many “concerns” really reflect our fears of “playing God” or undermining our “specialness”…. After all, the implication in genetic research is, if we share the same blue print as the rest of life, and it can be manipulated like anyone else’s, then where is our special “human essence” if you will? Genetics raises philosophical questions about the nature of one’s identity in deep ways for many. However, this in my opinion should NOT hinder the good genetic research can do for science and society. Deleting genes for diseases and conditions sprung from genetic mutations for instance. Detecting abnormalities in utero, breeding better animals, plants and such for our use, and maybe one day, better traits in humans! No more genetic diseases, horrendous birth defects, extra chromosomes that shouldn’t be there, no missing ones, etc… Just because the technologies can be abused, doesn’t mean it should be forbidden! Just because genetics was used to justify genocide or unethical sterilizations and injustices in the past, doesn’t mean it is inevitably the automatic outcome now!!! The “Eugenics” of the past is NOT our future in genetic research! Let’s not get chained down by a rocky start from history, preventing advances in human health and quality of life through manipulation of genes! Eugenics was wrong to be used to kill, persecute and discriminate against people as “unfit” and “unworthy” based on genes, but is it wrong now to use genetics to prevent genetic diseases, conditions, harmful mutations such as cancer, birth defects, etc??? That said, we are FAR from the idealistic vision genetics can offer, but why not try and get there? Much of the hesitancy about advancing genetic research is our want to be “extra special” and not be reduced to “mere biology” (a.k.a., REALITY) and out fears from past history that honestly, should stay in the past, and not hinder the present! P.S., why the Latin title??? I love Latin, so it caught my attention! 🙂
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 2 people

    • As recently as the 1970s, they were sterilizing people with mental disabilities, Native Americans, and poor people in Virginia and Vermont. I knew a man whose family emigrated from Italy in the 1950s to Erie, Penn. After he was born, they sterilized his mother without her consent or informing her. They didn’t know why she couldn’t have any more children, until the 1980s when she had uterine cancer. That is when they found out what happened. He uncovered the records and they did because his parents were Italian and poor.

      Liked by 4 people

    • LOR, you wrote, “Just because the technologies can be abused, doesn’t mean it should be forbidden!” — and I tend to agree … for the most part. Definitely it shouldn’t be forbidden (altho’ it’s pretty much a “given” that the religious society will do their best to cease and desist), but I think most would concur it MUST be done under tightly controlled conditions.

      Humanity has shown its propensity for acquiring wealth … by any means necessary. While we might like to think true and dedicated scientists would put the benefits to society ahead of greed, history has demonstrated the fallacy of this premise.

      Nonetheless, I do support any advancements that can add to our health and happiness. As you indicated in another comment, there are too many other facets of life for us to be able to completely eliminate human suffering as a whole.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Apologies for the delay in replying — out of town from Friday evening until this evening.

      Just because the technologies can be abused, doesn’t mean it should be forbidden! Just because genetics was used to justify genocide or unethical sterilizations and injustices in the past, doesn’t mean it is inevitably the automatic outcome now!!!

      Couldn’t agree more LoR. “Fear” and blind-faith dictate way too much of our modern society as is yet, on the flip-side, our basic primate natures of unprincipled greed, authority, etc, can certainly turn good things into atrocious things. I see all the good out weighing the potential bad. Humanity has dealt with this dilemma many times and come out on top. For example, during Oct. 1962 humanity had no idea just how hairline close we (USA and Soviet Union) came to all out nuclear war during the Cuban Missle Crisis. Cooler heads (thankfully!) prevailed. I think this new science/medicine has similarities to Oct. 1962 as far as global impact.

      P.S., why the Latin title???

      Oh that? To snare your attention! 😉 hehehe

      Liked by 2 people

  4. On a side note, I don’t believe it is our obligation to eliminate all human suffering, as we will NEVER eliminate literally all human suffering! The best we can do is minimize it to the best of our ability… To try to eliminate all of it is a completely unrealistic goal we will never attain.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’d imagine that unintended consequences will most definitely reveal themselves, months, years, decades later that we could’ve never anticipated. But that’s essentially life on Earth here anyway. It’s been that way for millions and millions of years and look how we Homo sapiens made it… so far. LOL

      Liked by 2 people

  5. If these developments ultimately allow some of us to “play god”, then I fear those with the necessary financial muscle, be it governments, corporations or individuals, will eventually high-jack the technology & use it to promote their own ulterior motives/agendas. Big money has always influenced the “direction” of most research & today’s big money is being concentrated into fewer & fewer hands. The temptation to interfere/control will probably prove irresistible.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Apologies for the delay in replying — out of town from Friday evening until this evening.

      As Robert mentioned in his comment Ken, our primate genetics/tendencies that go back hundreds of thousands of years will remain present for many future generations. But a simple, well-known tried-n-true financial investment principle I think applies here too…

      Diversify, diversify, diversify! Do NOT put all your assets into 1 or 2 baskets. Diversification is one of the best hedges against total loss/bankruptcy.” On genetics levels, on social levels, and of course in financial investment risks, when TOO MUCH value, power is placed into or given to ONE or a handful of evil MEN (sometimes women?), way WAY too many things could go wrong without that safety hedge.

      Thank you Ken for your comment Sir.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Hi Professor. Both good points but as you rightly say too much power in too few hands is a recipe for potential disaster. Eugenics& all the connotations associated with it have always been hovering in the background awaiting a scientific breakthrough to speed up the process. We now seem to be developing tools that could potentially facilitate a revival of interest in eugenics.

        As with nuclear energy, these developments have both a good side & a bad side. The good side will obviously be exploited by medical science/big pharmacy. The bad side will probably prove irresistible to military interests/government interests looking for “better soldiers” and “more compliant” citizens [Orwell’s 1984?]. The rich & powerful will also be very interested in “designer baby” applications and greater longevity and thus be prepared to pour private money into private research. Or am I just being a little paranoid again?

        Liked by 2 people

        • I don’t think it is “paranoia” Ken, not at all. I call it being responsible vs recklessness, having forethought, and having the greater good for the greatest number in mind… not self-interests, ego, and Machiavellian agendas. All very good questions. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Just last week I was doing a piece on the gene editing labs at USP. I was actually surprised at just how far along Brazil is. Amazing potential, but these next critical steps are going to be riddled with ethical dilemmas.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Apologies for the delay in replying — out of town from Friday evening until this evening.

      Couldn’t agree more John! How did that piece go at USP and gene-editing??? What did you learn other than Brazil being further along than anticipated???

      Liked by 1 person

      • Went well. Was shown in Miami last monday morning. What did I learn? Just how easy it actually is. There is thought going on about what it’ll actually mean for a society filled with people living to, say, 120. Do they retire at 100? Why would kids go to uni at 18/19 when they could prolong the fun times and get the same results going when they’re 40. Lots of questions, not many answers.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Lots of questions, not many answers.

          Yes, I’d imagine that the Chinese and Vikings, then later Christopher Columbus had the same reactions when discovering N. America. We won’t really know for sure until we get there and it’s all happening, huh?

          Liked by 3 people

  7. Great post Professor. My main concern has already been expressed by others here which is the way that such technology will benefit those who already have means, increasing the existing divide between the haves and have nots. I don’t see this technology as inherently bad if it was available to all, but this doesn’t seem likely to me.

    Gattaca is one of my favorite movies. The best moment for me was when the brother, in frustration asks Ethan Hawke how he beat him and Jerome says “You wanted to know how I did it. That’s how I did it, Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back.” It still gives me chills thinking about it. Courage is the fact you can’t genetically select for. The problem is that Jerome was still an outstanding individual. Most people will just end up being Ernest Borgnine at best, and that’s a problem.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed Swarn. I do not see the medical technology as inherently dangerous either. Like with all past major advances and breakthroughs, there will always be degrees of risk and reward, seen and unforeseen. But it’s the progress and learning that must continue for the greater good and the greatest number.

      That is a great scene you mentioned. I’m not sure I could pick just one scene as my favorite; the entire movie is fantastic! But perhaps one of several is just how inspired and worshiped the 12-fingered Maestro and his music was loved by so many for his very special gift to humanity! ❤

      Most people will just end up being Ernest Borgnine at best, and that’s a problem.

      Ugh. What a deeply poignant fact that is. 😦 Thank you so much for commenting Swarn! Your thoughts and feelings always bring enhancement to the discussions. Happy you are back around the WordPress blogosphere too! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Philip. I assume you are referring to “Aiming for the Kingdom of Heaven,” Lana’s blog-post(s)? Yes, I just visited there again and she has removed (censored) 2-3 posts that I and Jim commented on. That knee-jerk reaction is very disappointing as you and Jim had a great discussion going on. Sorry for that. 😦

      If you were not aware, Lana is now on her 3rd or 4th religion and seems to have a very traumatic background that probably explains the erratic behavior and… well, immature coping skills for the real world and any contentions. I haven’t tried to comment on her blog today, but I could be banned by now. That wouldn’t surprise me.

      Not sure where to continue our and yours and Jim’s convo, but I wish this hadn’t happened. It wasn’t necessary on Lana’s part. 😔

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Phillip. Were you able to find reference on the Augustine material we discussed? Let me know if you do. I gave you a follow too, in case you write about it. Looking forward to discussing it with you. Warm regards-

      Liked by 1 person

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