Genetics

Attack of the Genetic Sheep how not to over React to Scientific Advances



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People and institutions react with their emotions when confronted with changes that turn their world view on it's head. Irrational fear colors judgment and drives people to overreact to scientific advances. Look what the Roman Catholic Church did to Galileo. The only reason they didn't put him in prison for the rest of his life was because he was an old man. Yet, all he had done was support the idea that the earth revolved around the sun.

So how do we guard against irrational over-reaction to the advances of science? We do it with rational, scientific debate instead of hysteria, else we run the risk of paralysis. Instead of progress, modern Luddites smashing what we don't understand.

When people cry out that genetic manipulation is the sole province of God, that man has no business meddling with nature, they aren't thinking. Frankensheep? Perhaps, but rational, scientific debate can answer our questions and calm our fears.

This doesn't mean that all scientific advances are good. In fact, many times so called progress can lead to unforeseen consequences. Einstein's theories have led to unprecedented advances to our understanding of the universe, but to the invention and spread of terrible weapons as well. Do we throw out the good science does because of the potential for unwanted consequences?

No, science will move on regardless. We must do the best we can and use reason to help us make our choices - not irrational, unfounded fears.

Some fear genetic manipulation, but for the wrong reasons. Reasoned debate would suggest that genetic changes be thoroughly investigated before the results leave the laboratory to be set loose into the world, where the controlled conditions are gone forever and we're left with the consequences, whatever they might be.

What of genetically modified organism (GMO) seed crops? They have the potential to feed a hungry world with built in resistance against pests. That's a good thing isn't it? Feeding the masses and eliminating some of the pesticides from our environment?

But pollen blows on the wind and birds carry seeds over long distances. The cross pollination may not be deliberate, but it happens. Innocent farmers have their own crops "contaminated" with the GMO seed and are faced with demands from the patent holders to pay royalties.

Balance and reason are needed, not irrational over-reaction. We don't have reason to fear the attack of the genetic sheep, but have an obligation to be certain of what we are up to lest we lose control in the end.

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