Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wanting Wisdom

Heard on NPR today something about genetic counceling, testing for diseases and such. This for some reason bothers me quite a bit. I don't like all the doors our new technology is opening. If you've seen the movie Gattaca, you know what I'm talking about. If we humans acted responsibly, no worries, I'd welcome it all. But we don't. We act like assholes at the first opportunity, grabbing for power and wealth and control and ruining everything. You think having genetic knowledge won't play into that? Knowledge is power, after all.

What I was mainly thinking about, though, was the saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." We know so little so far. We act like we've unlocked the book of life, but we haven't. DNA is powerful, yes, and is a fascinating area of study; but we have such an oversimplified understanding of it. To me, DNA works as a whole, like a body: you can't say any one organ system is more important than another, they are all necessary. So to reduce all life to one molecule? Ridiculous!

Same with reducing disease to this gene or that; it's foolish and dangerous. As if just because you have this one segment of DNA, you're fated for a certain disease. It leaves out the "nurture" side of the "debate," though I'm sure it's great for pharmeceutical profits. Besides, if you go looking for problems, you'll find them. I'm sure we all have DNA riddled with errors, mutations, and potential for disease. But the system is self-correcting; many of those mutations never find expression. Thank you immune system-- patient, heal thyself!
Science cooks a city,
well done, of course
My fear is this: we've hardly opened the field of genetics, and already we're tinkering away with the foundation of life itself. Where has the virtue of wisdom gone? Like nuclear bombs; the moment we had them, we used them, incinerating hundreds of thousands of innocents. They didn't know, when they threw the switch, if the chain reaction would overtake and swallow the universe. And they fucking did it anyways.

You wonder why I fear our new technologies? They amplify our power far beyond our control, our restraint, our wisdom. We are the sorcerer's apprentice. But instead of a workshop, we're ruining the world.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Humanity tends always to look at the short-term benefits to the few (profit usually involved) and to neglect looking at the long-term and/or unintended consequences.