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Science

Genetically Modified Humans Born 294

Posted by michael
from the dawn-of-homo-superior dept.
sh64109 writes: "According to this article that just popped up on the BBC, some children were born recently with modified genes. The modification was made to mitochondrial (not nuclear) DNA so only the girls (if there were any) will be able to pass this on. The purpose of the mod was to correct an infertility problem."
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Genetically Modified Humans Born

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  • The purpose of the mod was to correct an infertility problem."

    I wonder if I can "meta-mod" these babies. I think they have been modded up too much :P

    =-=-=-=-=

  • by weave (48069) on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:53AM (#244901) Journal
    From the article...

    "Genetic fingerprint tests on two one-year-old children confirm that they contain a small quantity of additional genes not inherited from either parent."

    The truth (tm):

    Baby is genetically tested. Genes exist that don't match either parent. Wife, afraid of admitting that she was fucking the plumber, tries to explain it "Our child was genetically manipulated by them scientists."

  • by the Man in Black (102634) <jasonrashaadNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:53AM (#244902) Homepage
    ...to CORRECT an infertility problem. On an overpopulated planet. Great.

    Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps there's a REASON some people are infertile?

    I might sound overly harsh, but if this continues, we'll have lots and lots of perfectly healthy, long-lived, incredibly weak and fragile human beings walking this planet.

    Let the flames begin.
  • From the nice quote box on the BBC Page [bbc.co.uk]

    [This] is the first case of human germline genetic modification resulting in normal healthy children
    St Barnabas Institute for Reproductive Medicine researchers

    Does that imply there has been genetic modification resulting in not so healthy children? Just wondering...

  • by Alien54 (180860) on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:56AM (#244905) Journal
    The children were born following a technique called ooplasmic transfer. This involves taking some of the contents of the donor cell and injecting it into the egg cell of a woman with infertility problems.

    So I guess this means that gene splicing, etc was NOT involved. And what they did was to add mitochonria from one person into the cells of another.

    Sort of similar to replacing whole chromosomes, though that could be the next step.

    Sort of like hacking code by replacing whole sections of code. This should be safe, as far as the children goes.

    But the can of worms it opens...

    I do not mind it by itself, it is just that I do not know of any agency that I would feel comfortable in trusting with this sort of thing.

    That, ultimately, is the problem. Who do you trust?

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • by Enonu (129798) on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:56AM (#244906)
    The purpose of the mod was to correct an infertility problem.

    I wonder how long until all the quake mod geeks become human mod geeks.

    "Our new auto-aim mod for the standard U.S. soldier causes instant and accurate targeting of the enemy ..."

  • This scares me. While on paper I like the idea of rectifying genetic diseases and abnormalities, who is to control this?

    Will skin color be considered a "defect?" How about height? In the future how will those who's parents were not wealthy enough to modify their babies have a fair chance in the world?

    Watch the second ending to GATTACA on the DVD version. There is a very real possibility of this technology being abused beyond anyone's imagination. It is quite possible that this slope is just too slippery to continue down.

  • by daemonenwind (178848) on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:57AM (#244908)
    Not only can the girls transfer the gene, but if they kiss you they'll steal all your superpowers and suck the caffiene right out of your system.

    Darn mutants! Turn 'em all in!!! [mutantwatch.com]

  • You want fries with that?

    Dancin McSanta
  • by SirWhoopass (108232) on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:57AM (#244910)
    Not to go on some Katz-like rant or anything, but...

    Can you imagine how much a kid would get picked on in school once the other children learned they were genetically modified? Or even the reaction from adults?

    I'm not arguing about this particlar experiment. I have no expertise in genetics. From what I understand, this didn't seem to be some huge step (it's not like they were alterted for more IQ).

    I'm just saying in a world that hasn't even overcome racism or religious intolerance [startribune.com], these kids could have a hard time.

  • We normally inherit genes from our biological parents, the term GM is used when the child has genes that don't come from either parent.
  • by fhwang (90412) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:02AM (#244918) Homepage
    I don't really know what I think about the ethics of this kind of modification, but in the long term I'd be concerned about diversity of the species.

    Imagine a Gattaca-like future 100 years from now, when everybody's DNA is vigorously scrubbed free of defective genes. Maybe people have different skin, hair, or eye color, just for fashion's sake, but internally we all look pretty much the same. Wouldn't this drastically increase the risk of some killer pathogen taking advantage of such a uniform field of hosts?

    Nature is sloppy, but it tends to be highly resilient. Human efforts, on the other hand, tend to be much more focused, but also highly brittle.

  • by Drone-X (148724) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:03AM (#244921)
    Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps there's a REASON some people are infertile?
    I've been told it's because of polution, plastic, hot bathes and other stuff. I don't believe it's because we leave on an overpopulated plant.

    Stopping infirtile people from having children isn't going to solve anything. If we'd have to be serious about this problem then we should have more general birth control like they have in China. But of course we shouldn't do that in Europe and the US because of the aging population... and because terminating old people is less accepted than abortion.

    I might sound overly harsh, but if this continues, we'll have lots and lots of perfectly healthy, long-lived, incredibly weak and fragile human beings walking this planet.
    We could of course genetically modify them so they wouldn't be weak and fragile.
  • by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:05AM (#244922) Homepage Journal
    Welcome to the next level (in medicine). This is great news for those who have issues that might be fixed on the genetic level. It's all good and fine to argue about what is "normal" hair color, does something have a soul, etc., but if I could avoid taking insulin shots several times a day safely, I would do it in a heartbeat. If I could save my daughter from probably the same fate, I would weigh the risks - but consider it.

    That was one of the reasons I went into BioChem as an undergrad.... help change the world. I became a code monkey to feed my family, but my heart is still there.

  • Last time I checked, the population of the earth was growing out of control, thanks to medical treatments, etc.. But I really do think we should be focusing on ways to fit more people or earth, or populate the moon or mars or at least something before we work on ways to keep people living longer and having more children.. I'm sure this would be flamebait but hey, its the honest truth.. if we don't figure out something soon it'll be like China all over the world, with everyone sleeping in drawers and showering in the kitchen.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:14AM (#244932)
    > I wonder how long until all the quake mod geeks become human mod geeks.

    Added to my Things To Do List:

    Break into the local infertility clinic, grab all the eggs I can get my hands on, and hack the mitochondrial DNA to encode the string "ALL YOUR BASE PAIR ARE BELONG TO US", encoded in ASCII with "G"s as 1s, and "T"s as 0s, then return the eggs to storage.

    (Why yes, I do have a long-term plan to confuse the shit out of any anthropologists 2 million years from now ;-)

  • If cloning were done by dividing an original cell into two, then yes, it would be fairly safe.

    Cloning is usually done by taking cells from a living creature, however, and placing them into a newly-emptied egg cell. This is dangerous like you wouldn't believe, because the DNA of the clone is prematurely aged. The telomeres at the ends of strings are much shorter, and eventually the DNA degenerates and cannot be copied. Cloned animals (including the famous Dolly, IIRC) often exhibit serious problems after only a few years of life.

    As for the reduction of diversity, this is only the case for mass cloning. If the population is cloned entirely, thus doubling its size, there is no problem with loss of genetic diversity.
  • by supabeast! (84658) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:16AM (#244935)
    "The purpose of the mod was to correct an infertility problem."

    The mod itself was performed by Kyle of HardOCP.com using a dremel tool, artic silver heatsink compound, and ten 180mm high output fans. When asked why he was modding babies, Kyle replied "Modding computer cases was too easy. Now that I have modded babies, I plan to overclock them and see if they can play Quake ]|[ faster than unmodified babies."

    Thomas Pabst of TomsHardware.com stated that "... the modded babies are imperfect, and will need further revisions before we can accurately ascertain performance enhancements."
  • by Ubi_NL (313657) <joris@@@ideeel...nl> on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:16AM (#244936) Journal
    The modification was made to mitochondrial (not nuclear) DNA so only the girls (if there were any) will be able to pass this on.

    This is incorrect. Recent (5-10 years ago) it has been shown that mitochondria do migrate from father to child.
    How? A sperm cell is basically a protein capsule with DNA in it, and a tail on the back end. However, around this tail there's an enormeous amount of mitochondria present, which create energy for the tail to function.
    When an eg is fertilised, the sperm cell head fuses with the egg cell. In a number of occasions this fusion also includes part of the tail, and with the tail these mitochondria.
    Even if the amount of mitochondria present is very small compared to those provided by the mother, they can get the upperhand if they are 'fitter' (e.g. multiply faster)
    Therefore, genetically modified boys (because the mother can get a boy) can pass on the modified genes. Although in this case no genes were modified, but just recombined.

  • by Fuzzums (250400)
    Maybe it's a bit offtopic, but when i read this the next thought came up. What happened to adoption? I still think adopting a child and give him parents is a better solution than adjust the patents and give them children. This will just create more hungry mouths to feed.

    Maybe there sould a ethical law that for every child you give life to you should also adopt a child in the 3rd world. Just to geve them a chance also.

    ---
  • > Can you imagine how much a kid would get picked on in school once the other children learned they were genetically modified?

    About the same as the first "test-tube babies". Razzing for a few years, then the bullies move on to razzing people for other things as the technology becomes commonplace.

    > I'm just saying in a world that hasn't even overcome racism or religious intolerance, these kids could have a hard time.

    Given that these mods are much smaller than the ones that code for race, or the cultural conditioning that codes religion, the kids aren't at any disadvantage.

    If we're talking about more interesting mods (say, infrared vision), the correct response is "Yeah? With my hax0red eyes, I can see straight through that bra, and it's padded, Brenda. Want me to tell all the girls in the locker room? By the way, tell your boyfriend to take the sock out of his pants, it's not fooling anyone but you."

  • So is humanity 1.1b compatible with 1.0? So far they're stable, but they haven't had a lot of uptime thus far to brag about.
  • Recently, the US government passed regulations saying that genetic experiments will not be conducted on humans. This is most certainly a back door taken advantage of, because technically, the ova is not a human being until it is fertilized by spermatozoa.

    I find myself subtly worried about this. On the one hand, it's a good thing if this means an easier, safer, and beter way to improve fertility. This is what medical science is supposed to be doing. On the other hand... it seems a bit early, doesn't it, to start actively messing with genetics?

    Now, technically, this wasn't geneering, it was simple injection of mitochondia into ova. (Were they fertilized or unfertilized? I think I missed that in the article if they mentioned it.) This is a good thing! But we really don't know everything that mitochondia EM in a cell. While it's not genetic engineering, it's cellular engineering so early in development that it might have unforseen effects. These kids have mitochondrial DNA that belongs to neither their parents. While I don't think it's unethical, I have to wonder if this really is a path we want to start down at our level of knowledge.

    And what the HELL is this "US Government Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee?" When the heck did our government cobble together this? It sounds like the seeds for some sort of genetic regulatory agency. Okay, maybe I'm paranoid, but I don't like it when my governm,ent starts making esoteric and little-known agencies that start issuing legistlation or making any srt of decisions that impact me. The Federalist Society and Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Affairs are already plugged into our events too much. Or maybe I've just been playing Deus Ex too much.

    ---
    Chief Technician, Helpdesk at the End of the World

  • > Imagine a Gattaca-like future 100 years from now, when everybody's DNA is vigorously scrubbed free of defective genes. Maybe people have different skin, hair, or eye color, just for fashion's sake, but internally we all look pretty much the same. Wouldn't this drastically increase the risk of some killer pathogen taking advantage of such a uniform field of hosts?

    Perhaps.

    But with developments in gene therapy (see the recent developments in stem cell research), we could also fix the problem in situ by introducing genes for resistance.

    I'd say that by the time we start productizing this technology, we'll have a large reservoir of "raw" DNA in the form of frozen eggs, sperm, and embryos. If things get bad, we can always introduce the raw strains. Indeed, if things get bad, the market will demand the reintroduction of raw strains.

  • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:22AM (#244947) Homepage Journal
    Wow, is it just me, or is this article really down on genetic engineering?
    Not only that, but most of the criticisms appeared (to me) to be utterly clueless. There are a number of known mitochondrial diseases, and there's no real difference between transplanting a mitochondrion to fix that and transplanting a kidney to fix kidney failure. If anything, there are fewer issues; we don't have to pay for any drugs to keep the patient from rejecting the mitochondria, and we know that there's no ill effect on the recipient's health (because the donor was living well with the same mitochondria).

    It looks to me like the people quoted in this article were trying to score points with the Catholic church; maybe the authors were too.
    --
    spam spam spam spam spam spam
    No one expects the Spammish Repetition!

  • Knowing the current trends in IP law, I'm very surprized that the scientists didn't modify the babies so that they would be *unable* to reproduce. Unauthorized reproduction would be a violation of their IP rights, after all.

  • by sharkey (16670)
    The baby only has one ass! He's useless to me, I'll have to kill it.

    --
  • by Bonker (243350) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:33AM (#244959)
    Hmm... Nope. I don't see it in the old testament anywhere. There's no evidence that it's unethical. Even despite the fact that these kiddos now have a better (Unfair) chance of having their own kiddos one day, I don't see how it is in any way unethical.

    Now 'Stupid' is another matter altogether. Think about it for a second. Haven't the vast majority of gene scientists come forth to agree with the fact that the complexity of the human genome lies not in the number of genes that exist, but in the way they interact?

    Who's to say that having an extra set of Mitochondrial DNA won't snafu those interactions somehow? Yeah, it's nice to think "Hey, that's where the problem is, so why don't we replace those parts", but where the hell is the animal testing to see what happens when baby mice and rhesus monkeys have too many Mitochondria? I see no references to the research in the (very sensational) BBC article.

    Also, there's the fact of 'Natural Selection' to consider. Something is wrong with those genes if they're not being passed on. Now these kids have a set of 'bad' Mitochondrial DNA along with their 'good' M-DNA. That gets passed on to their kids, and so on. What other problems are lurking in that 'bad' DNA along with infertility? A tendancy toward cancer? Schizophrenic or psychotic behavior? Yeah, it's harsh to say that you can't reproduce because you got damaged genes, but hey, You're genes are damaged! Are you really sure you want to give those to your kids anyway?

    There are a *lot* of really good options for people who want kids but can't have them. It is more difficult to adopt than it is to just have a child, but there are millions of homeless children all around the world.

    Rather than making it easier for people with bad genes to have children, why don't we concentrate on streamlining the adoption process and make it easier for people to adopt children from underprivaleged nations around the world? Let's have social justice before we start muckign around in the old gene-code there, pals.
  • Can you imagine how much a kid would get picked on in school once the other children learned they were genetically modified? Or even the reaction from adults?
    You're talking about a test-tube baby here, not some kind of freak. There's nothing abnormal about them; if anything, they are more normal (because of the lack of the mitochondrial disease) than their mothers. Unless you go probing around in their mDNA you are going to have no idea that they are the slightest bit different. I doubt that anyone's going to tell those kids that they inherited anything out of the ordinary, and I'll bet that those parents who live in areas with narrow-minded bigots who'd single them out for something like that are smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
    --
    spam spam spam spam spam spam
    No one expects the Spammish Repetition!
  • by myc (105406) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:34AM (#244961)
    fucking the plumber wouldn't change mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only maternally.
  • Will skin color be considered a "defect?" How about height?

    Yes. Bow before your new masters, the transparently-skinned pancake people!

  • I think this is a really important as well as scientifically responsible experement.

    The fact is, one day we are going to have to come head to head with massive genetic manipulation. Eventually, people with genetic diseases will not accept that their children must be born with the same disease despite the technology to prevent it being available. Whether this is a Good Thing in the long run for the human race as a whole is unclear, and will likely not factor into the debate at all.

    In any case, one day this will happen. Slight tinkering with mitochandrial DNA by transplanting whole healthy mitochondria is a relatively low-risk way to gain experience and knowledge about genetic engineering, since it doesn't involve gene splicing or removal of any of the original parents DNA.
  • or populate the moon or mars or at least something

    I used to agree 100% with you. Get out into space, get more breathing room. Unfortunately somone pointed out, that based on the number of people being born every hour on Earth X amount of people would need to leave for an alternate planet/colony. Net effect is impossible, so the only way to reduce the overpopulation on Earth is by attrition/war.

    Oh... BTW... I'm still all for space exploration but more for the resources/tourism/exploration itself than as a method of reducing overpopulation.
  • by nanojath (265940) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:39AM (#244969) Homepage Journal
    A little clarification might help here:

    This has nothing to do with human DNA as in the genome, the double helix we all think of. This is our main source of genetic information and defines the majority of our genetic characteristics.

    Mitochondria are organelles (subcellular organisms) which are necessary for our cells to produce energy. Without them we would die. Mitochondria are stand-alone units in our cells. Our cells' DNA cannot produce mitochodria. When we are conceived, there are mitochondria in our mother's egg cell. When the zygote divides, the mitochondria divide too. All the billions of mitochondria in our cells are descended from those which come from our mothers eggs.

    Because of the mitochodria's relatively autonomous existence and reproduction, many scientists believe they are actually a seperate life form (something similar to a bacteria, for example) which "moved in" to our cells, creating a symbiotic relationship and resulting in the basis for cellular life on earth.

    It appears to me that what these scientists have done is take genetically unaltered, presumably healthy mitochondria out of an individual's cell and implanted them into the egg cell of a mother who's mitochondria are presumably defective. This is not, to my mind, genetic modification, although the resulting children do have some genetic material in their cells that their mothers don't have.

    What's causing the ruckus is these are the first children born with modified "germ" cells (i.e. sperm or egg). The changes should change every cell in the body - if succesful they will all contain the healthy donor mitochondria. Ethically I don't see the issue - You can put another person's heart in someone's chest, but not an organelle in an egg? Mitochondria are probably alien to our cells anyway, so to me the ethics of this is a pretty grey area. Anyway, it's a long long way from Gattaca in anything but abstract conception.

  • Exactly the problem!

    Our choice will be large scale genetic engineering vs. a large scale die off.

    Unfortunately, I think the latter would be more beneficial.

  • I believe the Gene-ie is officially out of the bottle.

    (apologies to David Weber from whom I first learned the term Gene-ie for a genetically engineered human)
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  • Funny you should compare genetic manipulation to coding. It's all ok until someone writes buggy code, and then we have people who pass out because they smelled canned peaches. Or there is some bug that makes them have an unnatural fear that someone will steal all of their ideas and technology, so they become unreasonable psychopaths who hate freedom. (hmmm.. sound familiar?) Our genetic code might not be the most secure stuff, but it fairly stable. (can you keep any of your servers, windows or *nix's, up for 70 years?) What i am trying to say is that humans don't know nearly enough about genetics to be able to safely do this sort of thing with 100 percent reliability. I just hope that they can keep from trying to "fix" other "flaws" before they know enough to keep from collapsing the codebase by accidentally creating some sort of genetic virus or something.
    ----------------------
  • I want to build my own roads. Or, more correctly, I want building roads to be handled by the market. I don't really have any plans of going out and learning to pour asphalt or anything myself. If we were in early soviet Russia, and having this argument, would you tell me "all you libertarians who want to grow your own food, raise your hands"? Or maybe in modern northern europe, you could say "all you libertarians who want to pay for supporting the church out of your own pocket, raise your hands"?

    Imagine, next thing I may be advocating private provision of health care, or of education. Both of which, I might add, are provided much better by the market than by government.

    Remember, this is a government by, for, and of the people. The government has no needs. People have needs that are difficult to meet through means other than by government. Don't confuse the means (government) with the end (a free, productive society).
  • Why do so many environmentalists hate people so much? I guess people like Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc, had the right idea then. they got rid of lots of people.

  • by swingkid (3585) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:55AM (#244993)
    So will succeeding generations now come with changelogs instead of birth certificates?
  • Maybe a lesbian plumber??? Maybe she's not the real mother and is trying to hide it??

    ~Ignorance is bliss, and I'm ever so happy.
  • why? you probably wouldn't even notice it. have you travelled across the u.s. and seen how empty it is? sure, some parts of the country and the rest of the world are somewhat crowded - but vast areas of land are virtually empty.

    Well, I live in the second-least crowded state - Nevada - with two people per square mile - so I think I'm qualified to give some input on this.

    In Las Vegas, the population exceeded the capacity of the land to support it long ago - it pipes in a majority of its water from California, at a gigantic cost to everyone.

    In Reno, we manage to get by through our sound policies of raping the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe, watering our lawns only 1-2 times a week, and, every ten years, being formally denied showers for a couple weeks. I hear there used to be fish in that river. But, when I was 17, and on the cross-country team, I ran right across it. My socks got wet; my pants did not.

    In Fallon, Nevada, there isn't easy access to natural sources of water, so most citizens drill shallow wells to get at the ever-lowering water table. These wells tend to be loaded with concetrations of arsenic as high as 1,000 ppb. The result? One of the largest and most alarming leukemia clusters in the U.S.

    Certainly the earth can support a larger population than six billion people if resources were distributed correctly - but don't try telling me that you could alleviate L.A.'s overcrowding problem by 50% by moving half of them to Winnemucca (Recent town billboard: "Winnemucca! Now with paved roads!"). Nevada would be dry in a week - and we'd have to make do with gin.
  • The LAST thing we need is genetically engineered mutants who are MORE likely to reproduce.

    This got modded as insightful? This is flamebait trolling, nothing more or less. Do you, Mr. Coward, Anonymous esq. believe that we should use genetic modification to make certain people infertile? Maybe you'd put yourself forward first, and remove yourself from the gene pool. You do know that there is already enough food produced per day to feed the worlds population, don't you?

    And your use of the word mutants is disgraceful. These are people. You are obviously the type of person who naturally pronunces the word "negro" with two g's.

    I would like to put MHO opinion in here. The advent of genetics is wonderful. First, genetic disorders that would have made these peoples lives less full have been corrected. They can now lead normal lives.
    We have also seen blind dogs having their sight restored, and other amazing feats. The hope that this brings millions of people (excepting the anonymous troll who posted this from under their bridge) is wonderful. Congratulations to the people who made this possible.

    Well, there goes some Karma...I might as well finish it altogether!
    Whoever modded this up, if you seriously read this and found it insightful, I feel sorry for you. This is possibly one of the most classic examples of trolling I have seen for a bit, even surfing at +1. Xenophobia like this (and that's what it is) is not welcome.
  • No, the worst patents can do is prevent them from becoming teenage parents, which most would say is a good effect. Patents are 20 years from filing right now. Assuming you file on the day you implant the egg, that means the patent expires around the kid's sophomore year of college.
  • by Chiasmus_ (171285) <ayatollah_hyperbole.yahoo@com> on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:59AM (#245003) Journal
    ...to CORRECT an infertility problem. On an overpopulated planet. Great. Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps there's a REASON some people are infertile?

    What we need, really, is fewer infertile women and far, far more lesbians.

    This win-win situation will alleviate population growth concerns while at the same time lowering the cost of porn. As hard drive capacity increases, the need to maintain the porn-to-capacity cost ratio becomes more and more pressing.
  • This'll probably get modded down, but....

    You can imagine what the Team Fortress gene-mod would be. You're either blue or red, you very much think 'in the box' and you like to stereotype everyone. Oh, and you get very possessive of your things.

    The Action gene-mod. John Woo is your god, and Michelle Yeoh is his prophetess. Why do things halfway? You can drink soda from akimbo cans! You can dive through life with great vigour!

    Counterstrike gene-mod. Too bad the world is all either for you or against you... unless they set the friendlyfire chromosome to ON, then it gets interesting.

    Aliens TC gene-mod. Axed by 20th Century Fox. All your telomeres are belong to us. Besides, human body and acid blood just didn't go well together. Unless you're Sigourney Weaver.

    DXMP gene-mod. You start thinking that, not only is everyone out to get you, but they, like you, have the ability to hide a sniper rifle, GEP gun, and a brace of LAMs in nothing more than a black leather trench coat. The US Genetic Regulatory Agency gets particularly nervous about this mod....

    ---
    Chief Technician, Helpdesk at the End of the World

  • by the real jeezus (246969) on Friday May 04, 2001 @12:03PM (#245008)
    Well folks, I hate to tell you this, but we NEED to do genetic engineering. Slowly but surely the human genetic code is going down the drains, we are introducing and keeping so many genetic imperfections that they are bound to start causing real problems soon. For instance, how many people do you know that need glasses? Or have asthma? Or are just genetically disposed to being over(or under)weight?

    All the things you mention are most likely products of lifestyle. Sitting in front of a CRT for several hours every day from cradle to grave seems to precipitate the need for glasses. Asthma is probably from respiratory irritants that we haven't adapted to. Most obese people eat the wrong foods and don't exercise. It is true that scientists have found a certain gene in a majority of obese people tested for the gene, but the causation is surely the diet. The GM proponents always try to distract the audience by blaming humanity's problems on its genes.

    Inserting old, incomplete genetic material into eggs looks good on the surface, but how many lifetimes will it take to accurately decide whether the GM kids are alright? No matter what, it is too early to say that GMing is 100% safe or that it will even give the recipient a higher quality of life.



    Ewige Blumenkraft!
  • That's insightful??

    So, gee, it's a *good* thing that what used to be beautiful forest with some of the best singletrack on the east coast of the United States was just clearcut????

    Too many people, 'needing' too many things, building too many fucking golf courses and driving too many miles in cars while throwing away tons of trash a day, encouraging it by eating at places like McDonalds.

    We're fucking it all up people.

  • Not enough oxygen? Where do you live, Mars?

    You obviously have some kind of really twisted hatred of people, and spend way too much time reading wacko environmentalist propoganda. I just hope someone like you never gets any kind of power. We don't need another Stalin or Hitler or Pol Pot.

    As far as I'm concerned, this planet ain't worth a plugged nickel without people to benefit from it, and while I certainly don't condone the actions of those who destroy the environment, and am certainly not totally blameless myself by virtue of being a U.S. citizen, I'm also not some Earth-worshipping hippie who considers humanity a cancer on the planet. The fact that a human being is alive is reason enough for him or her to exist.

    p.s. I'm not implying all environmentalists are wackos, but GemFire, you have certainly bought into their logic-free rhetoric.
  • sorry to bother, but I've been seeing this sentence "all your whatever are belong to us". Where does that sentence come from I wonder. Thanks for saying ;-)
  • So are Nevada's water problems the fault of people in general or because some people are stupid enough to grow a lawn in the desert?

    To paraphrase Sam Kinison: Move to where the water is!

    Rick

  • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday May 04, 2001 @12:07PM (#245015)
    Our agricultural methods have already led to the desertification of the worlds richest lands, namely the fertile crescent that was the birthplace of our civilization. The once fertile Tigris and Euphratis valley is now desert, primarilly because the land was farmed until the soil simply died and was consumed by an ever-growing dustbowl.

    Similar agricultural catastrophe is believed to have played a signifigant role in the downfall of the ancient Mayan civilization, and has plagued other agricultural regions as well.

    Already in the world's so-called bread-basket (the American mid-west) we have lost well over half of the topsoil that was here just a century ago. Wind and water erosion, coupled with agricultural procedures which are not sustainable, are literally killing the land.

    Is there a way to perform agriculture without killing the land? Yes. Is there a way of doing so and feeding even half of the people currently residing on the planet? No, not even if every square inch of arable land were converted, with the sole purpose of creating food for humans (read: no more parks, no more building above ground, no more wildlife refuges, no more wildlife).

    Worse, it would do no good. You could use every square inch of the planet to produce food for humans, and have the most effecient distribution system possible, and there would still be widespread starvation. Why? Because populations always grow to meet their supply of food, whether that population consists of rats in a cage or humans in the wild is immaterial. "Meeting the supply of food" in a biological sense doesn't mean everyone is well fed, it means that the poluation is as large as the food supply will permit, which generally means that a significant portion of that population is living on the edge of starvation.

    Population pressures aren't just a question of getting what was grown today into someone's mouth, or about elbow room to build a house, it is a question of sustainability. Daniel Quinne has written some excellent works on this very subject (and its ramifications). "Ishmael" and "The Story of B" in particular are quite insighteful and thought provoking.
  • by seant (167231) on Friday May 04, 2001 @12:14PM (#245020)
    If I understand the article correctly, DNA is NOT being inserted into mitochondria. The children are not "genetically modified" in the traditional sense. The mitochondria from mother 1 had a defect, so mitochondria from mother 2 was injected into the haploid egg or single cell diploid embryo. The term for this is cybrid (CYtoplasmic hyBRID). This is a technique that's been used before when working with cell lines that have had their mitochondria killed off through exposure to ethedium bromide for ~3 months (rho0 cells). You kill off the mito, then repopulate the cell with mitochondria you want. In this case, it sounds like the children have a mixed population of mitochondria. This would mean that females could still pass the defect to their offspring.
  • by slowtech (12134) on Friday May 04, 2001 @12:20PM (#245023)
    Tell me, forkboy, by what mechanism does overpopulation - in itself - produce infertility?

    How exactly does "natural selection" say we are breeding too much?

    Just curious ...

  • This scares me. While on paper I like the idea of rectifying genetic diseases and abnormalities, who is to control this?

    I like to be the prophet of doom as much as the next guy, but let's not overdo here. Take a look at natural selection -- it assures that only the fittest members of the species survive. From the view of evolution this is an ingenious process, however if you view this from the point of view of human values, it's outright immoral. Our society has incorporated the values that killing off weaker members of our tribe is wrong, albeit this is counter-intuitive to the whole idea of natural selection. The point is -- even if there appears some sort of "control" over genetic manipulation, it can't ever become any more "immoral" than the process of natural selection. Human morals and evolution of species have very separate and sometimes mirror-opposite value scales.

    I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with genetic manipulation (apart from the fact that right now it's more like me breaking out a hex-editor and trying to hand-edit the binary for Windows and hoping it will work). However, the driving factor should be the universal agreement that genetically manipulated humans have no extra rights over the humans done "good old-fashined way, right here in Zion".

    There is a turn-of-the-century (20'th century) Russian novel written by Mikhail Bulgakov about a neurosurgeon and his attempts at human brain translplantation. The novel deals with so much more than that, but in it Professor Preobrazhenski utters this: "Is it worth the effort to try and re-create a genius, if any woman on earth is capable of producing one at any given time?" As a special education teacher, specializing in working with gifted and talented children I can tell you this -- the toughest challenge is in identifying a gifted student, not in his/her upbringing.

    In other words, and to put it into a context of genetic engineering -- wasting great effort on genetically manipulating a genome into producing a "superbaby" is flawed. Spontaneous genetic manipulation occurs every time a baby is conceived, except that here we have an advantage of sheer numbers: out of millions of babies born every year, a good number will be geniuses. Our concern should be providing good education opportunities in order for their genetic predispositions to actually develop. Nature is great, but nurture is still crucial in the making of a "genius". An Einstein born into a white-trash trailer or into a family living in a ghetto is highly unlikely to succeed, whatever "Good Will Hunting" would want us to believe.

    So, I say "bring on genetic manipulation", as long as it's done responsibly (too many ways for it to go very wrong and produce monsters). This is a necessary step for humankind and the only way for us to actually learn something about ourselves. If it ends up killing us as species -- well, it's the natural selection at work, stupid.

  • Because of the mitochodria's relatively autonomous existence and reproduction, many scientists believe they are actually a seperate life form (something similar to a bacteria, for example) which "moved in" to our cells, creating a symbiotic relationship and resulting in the basis for cellular life on earth.

    That's really a stretch - prokaryotes, which don't have mitochondria, are the basis of life on earth- they were here before us eukaryotes, they're still here and we're terribly in debt to them, and they're basically the most powerful lifeform on the planet. We'd be screwed without them, they wouldn't blink if we weren't here. (Yes, I do realize that prokaryotes don't have eyes and can't literally blink..)

  • You're absolutely right. By the "needs of government", I meant the needs of those organziations who can better provide _certain_ services than individuals or even the free market. Defense is one. Ensuring an adequate basic infrastructure is another. Maintaining law and order (as opposed to micromanaging our lives) is another.

    However, the government's reach, even in the U.S., routinely far exceeds what it can do most effectively.

  • Try? There is no try. There is only do.
  • because mitochondrial dna is only passed from mother to offspring, in the late eighties some scientists were able to reconstruct a "mitochondrial eve."

    i'm not talking about one original human mother, i'm talking about a mitochondrial genome that existed eons ago that we all share as our common heritage. they plotted a slow constant rate of mitochondrial mutation versus cytoplasm taken from people from all over the globe to arrive at this. you backtrack from all the different mitochondrial dna versions that exist today and reconstruct the common mitochondrial ancestor. sort of like triangulation: you can actually calculate how long ago this common ancestral mitochondria lived and what it's genome was like.

    the point is that you can do a sort of "genetic archaeology" with mitochondrial dna because unlike our regular chromosomal dna, which is always being swapped and reshuffled like a giant deck of cards sexually and via transposons and all sorts of wacky chemical promiscuity... mitochondrial dna is relatively stagnant, change-wise. that's because:

    1) it's only passed down from one parent, the mother (no recombination)

    2) it has a very tiny amount of genes, many orders of magnitude smaller than a single chromosome

    3) it is the cell's fuel supply and is extremely vital to survival... so tinkering with it is very dangerous and most mutations would immediately result in dead offspring and never get passed on.

    so what?

    well it's kinda "neato" to think that in 1,000 years a future "genetic archaeologist" can probably trace the mitchondrial tweak mentioned in this article to all of these children's offspring down the generations... a different kind of mitochondrial eve here, if you will, with a different kind of original sin: tinkering with the human genome...

    i'm no religious freak, but the parallel is somewhat profound if you please ;-)
  • I browsed through but didn't see one thing that I think should be addressed that I thought would be really neat, well, counting on the way you feel about certain things at least. Take Lesbian Couple, both totally fertile, but wanting children. take one who wants to carry child, carry out this process with the significant others cells. Perhaps even fertilizing the cell with sperm from the significant others family for a donor. As the article states, children with two mothers.And the realisation of a wish that I know many of my female friends have. Pretty damn neat.
    -Amber
  • Worse, it would do no good. You could use every square inch of the planet to produce food for humans, and have the most effecient distribution system possible, and there would still be widespread starvation. Why? Because populations always grow to meet their supply of food, whether that population consists of rats in a cage or humans in the wild is immaterial.
    Sigh - the above post falls right into the malthustrian trap.

    If we knew for a fact that every single sqare inch of dirt was going to become unsuitable for farming in 20 years, you'd likely predict total starvation. I, on the other hand, would predict some world hunger, radical changing of diets, but that the human species would go on.

    Why would I predict that? This one is REAL easy - hydroponic farming. It is done to some limited extent today, and easily within 20 years it will be possible for high yields of staple products. Humanity has finally outgrown the malthustrian limitations. 20 years would be, in fact, plenty of time for the development of _space based_ food-growing tech if the incentive was great enough.

    We currently are only using the dirt because it's the cheapest method of growing food. Hydroponics, et. all work, but they're horribly expensive by comparison. For all intents and purposes, the food supply is now UNLIMITED, given enough lead time.

    Also, the food supply is not the sole limiting factor of species populations (contrasting with bio and calc 101, where they're teaching you exponential functions). There are also limits based upon predator populations, living space, and possibly some self-regulating behavior (lemmings jump off of cliffs, for example - it could be that destructive violence is a population-limiting behavior).

    Finally, to bring this somewhat back on topic, the argument that we shouldn't help infertile couples is a scary one. That simple argument is equivalent to 'we shouldn't make cars because they pollute & take resources better spent feeding the poor', 'we shouldn't burn oil because it pollutes', and 'we shouldn't own houses when some people have to live in tenements & on the streets'. If you drive a car, use a light bulb every now and then, and have more square footage to yourself than the average college dorm bedroom, act before you speak.

    PS: Population growth increases with the initial introduction of medical technology to decrease death rates and decreases with wealth. Rich countries have naturally decreasing populations, the U.S. included with nearly all of Western Europe. I don't see any massive starvation there, so the growth to carrying capacity argument might be flawed.

  • We are using more energy today than actually arrives from the sun.
    Sorry guy, you lose, play again.

    World fossil energy consumption for 1995 was in the neighborhood of 340 quads (1 quad = 10^12 BTU). 1 BTU = 1054.4 joules, so call it 3.58*10^17 J. The Sun delivers about 1360 watts of power per square meter of surface, or about 1.18*10^8 J/m^2/day. The Earth presents a disk roughly 3200 km in radius, for an area of about 3.22*10^13 square meters. 1.18*10^8 J/m^2 * 3.22*10^13 m^2 = 3.80*10^19 J/day.

    Conclusion: The Earth receives more energy from the sun every fourteen minutes than humanity uses (from fossil sources) in a year. (Nowhere near that amount is stored in fossil form, but that's not what you said.)

    You should qualify your statements and check your numbers. You should also note that your claims assume current technology; if someone starts farming green algae to produce hydrogen and feeds that to a Haber-process plant to make ammonia, bingo, you've got non-fossil nitrogen fertilizer!
    --
    spam spam spam spam spam spam
    No one expects the Spammish Repetition!

  • We humans already breed like fucking rats -- as long as there are huge rotting piles of dead, unwanted babies lying around, infertility ought to be considered a blessing.

    There is no environmental problem that couldn't be solved by reducing our population to reasonable levels.

  • Well said!. Not to mention the other problems with natural growth cycles. Most animal populations without natural predators grow to meet their food supply. In the absense of a predator they often briefly go beyond their limits and then without enough food to go around the population crashes. With animals this cycle can continue for a while, growth, then crash, again and again. Hopefully humans are smart enough to override their biological urges and reduce the population to a sustainable level.

    That means ignoring biological urges to have kids, ignoring the Catholic church, and not working so hard to keep everybody alive, and instead working to improve the quality of life for everybody.

  • I would add that there I doubt there is much of a correlation to being infertile based on physical traits either (other than the being infertile part). I.E. - a very physically fit person can be infertile just as a lazy obese person can be infertile.
  • Funny you should compare genetic manipulation to coding.

    I can imagine the bug reports. But how do you learn to code into something like that?

    "the system was allright, but the Data processing subsystem had a tendency to crash after sex." "It's as designed - mark as will not fix"

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • These critics will be looked on as niave luddites at best (racist at worst) in a few decades. How will these children feel about being called "wrong in principle"?

    On the other hand, will there be a "godhatesclones.com"* in 20 years?


    I kept thinking the same thing to myself. I was somewhat young at the time, but I seem to recall that 20-25 years ago there was a very similar outcry against in vitro fertilisation and other fertility techniques. Nowdays they are pretty standard practice. I can't imagine that things won't be the same way 20-25 years from now, only we'll be talking about genetic manipulation.

    The thing to remember is that this will happen, no matter what you do to stop it. You're better off allowing it so that it can be monitored and regulated, otherwise you'll end up with a genetic engineering lab that keeps a "land of misfit toddlers" for when the experiments go wrong and nobody wants to claim the result.

    I mean, certain things are inevitable. And if it's inevitable that it is going to happen, then I think that it needs to be approached responsibly rather than with semi-hysterical castigation.
  • I was making a point that the post I was responding to did the same thing. I then proceeded to state what I believe the issues really are.

  • So you'd advocate such a superior, inhuman being?
    What next? Telepathy? You can bet that us normals would be quickly replaced in the evolution by the unnatural telepaths.


    Sure, why not. If evolution is gonna do it, then we don't really have much choice now, do we?

    Maybe we could find a way to genetically eliminate trolls... ;)
  • So without knowing if it would do any good, someone went ahead and did it. I have always lived by the saying to "look before you leap." I wish others did the same.

    While I agree that "look before you leap" is a good motto, there's only so far you can look before you have to leap or go home. I find it interesting that all of the anti-modding scientists were claiming that there was no evidence to support this "as a possible valuable treatment for infertility" when it obviously wouldn't have been attempted if there wasn't at least some evidence that it might work. Since it wasn't government funded, that means that it was done by private enterprise (read: business). I don't know about you, but I can't imagine that any company would willingly open themselves up to that kind of a beating on "moral" and financial ground unless they were highly confident of success.

    Beyond that, define "possible valuable treatment." What is valuable to one person may not be valuable to another. Is it considered valuable when there are currently more economical and reliable ways to to achieve a similar effect (in vitro fertilization)? Probably not. Is it valuable if it is a proof-of-concept of a technique that will in all likelyhood become as affordable as in vitro is today, but will permanently correct the problem in future generations rather simply working around it for this generation? I would think so.

    Keep in mind that the man who made that statement works for a government that has outlawed this kind of experimentation. It's his job the toe the line in the press...
  • Last time I checked, the population of the earth was growing out of control, thanks to medical treatments, etc.. But I really do think we should be focusing on ways to fit more people or earth, or populate the moon or mars or at least something before we work on ways to keep people living longer and having more children.

    It's not fitting them in here on earth that's the problem, there's plenty of room for that. The problem is what to do with them when they get here. Starvation, unemployment, poverty...those are the problems that get lumped into the topic of "overpopulation". Fortuantely, it won't be an issue for anyone wealthy enough to afford to have this procedure...
  • by virg_mattes (230616) on Friday May 04, 2001 @01:27PM (#245070)
    > I guess you are right in a way, though. There's no
    > population problem, just too many humans.


    Well, here's a different spin for you. Too many humans for what? If there were really too many humans, we'd start dying off for lack of resources to live.

    > Replace some with Siberian Tigers, Giant Pandas, etc
    > and so on - and don't forget to replace a few greedy
    > Brazilians with some foliage for the Amazon Rainforest
    > (where a lot of Earth's oxygen is converted.)


    What is it that makes these beings intrinsically better than the humans you'd replace with them? Why tigers as opposed to carrier pigeons or flies or mushrooms? If diversity is your goal, I have to ask why you only chose endangered mammals and forest in a particular area.

    > Even the suggestion that Earth can maintain a lot more
    > population is an insult to anybody even mildly interested
    > in the state of the environment. Humans are the WORST thing
    > to ever happen to this planet and I'm including the asteroid
    > that killed the dinosaurs and the effects of the ice age.


    Actually, it's only an insult to those even mildly interested in the current state of the environment. As per your statement about humans being the worst thing that ever happened to the Earth, why is it that the state of the environment before humans came around is a "better" state than the state we're in now? If biodiversity is the most important factor in your equation, then by a huge margin the asteroid (some scientists think it was a comet) that wiped out the dinosaurs by fundamentally changing the Earth's environment is the winner, since it eliminated many more different species than the paltry efforts of humans to date. But again, why is the particular state of biodiversity we have today any better or worse than then, or Precambria, or any other time, for that matter?

    I have discovered that in large measure those that say that humans beings are "destroying the Earth" are more accurately stating that we're slowly altering the environment toward rendering it unsuitable for higher mammalian life. This isn't destruction of the Earth by a long shot. The Earth will go on in this state, and most life forms will adapt to the new environment, just like what happened to the Earth during every Ice Age. It would truly suck for humans and other higher mammals, but the Earth has been there before and will be there again.

    Please don't interpret this to mean that I think that humans should therefore rape the planet until it won't support us any more. As a human myself, I'd really like to see the Earth continue in a state compatible with the continuation of my species. My post is simply to make you think about why you consider any species as intrinsically more important than any other, and to remind you that the Earth won't take personally the damage we do to the environmental state, but we as humans should. Let's make sure we're angry about the right thing here.

    Virg
  • I think you have a really harsh view on things to be honest- yes whilst infertility is of course part of nature, why if you are happy to stop disease, another part of nature, are you not happy to cure infertility? I'm not sure where I stand on genetic manipulation, but should it take place I do feel very strongly that it's unfair to discriminate on these grounds.

    I don't think there is any difference in curing disease as to curing infertility. By curing disease you are also unnaturally increasing the population, and the average age of the population. I certainly do not think it is right to distinguish between disease and infertility.

    It is also human nature to want to have children, and to want to reproduce- where would we be if this were not the case? Many people in solid relationships have problems with infertility, and it is unfair to say that they should not have the chance to have children because it's nature's way of limitting our population, when you suggest that diseases, for example downs syndrome, could be cured thus increasing our population.

    I cannot agree that you can distinguish between infertility and disease- both are intended to keep our population under control. One is not more "natural" than the other, and so if genetic manipulation is to take place in order to overcome such problems, infertility should be treated alongside other genetic diseases equally.

  • Mitochondria?
    Don't you mean, Midichlorians? The tiny single-celled organisms living in our bodies that channel the force and give a jedi his power?

    (Scientists don't believe that Mitochondria "moved into" OUR cells, they believe they moved into the cells of other single-celled organisms billions of years ago, since nearly all living things share them, and they're currently THE critical chain in the chemical cycle that converts chemical energy into actual heat and work in all living things).
  • The notion that infertility is a product of natural selection is completely absurd. "Natural selection" is simply the process by which individuals with favorable combinations of genes have greater chances of reproducing and passing those genes on to their offspring. Thus, nature selects against infertile individuals by definition.
  • We, apparently alone among all species on Earth, have the potential to consciously direct our own evolution. This opens up places to us in evolutionary space that would never be open to a "naturally" evolved organism. Whereas natural evolution can only ever go uphill monotonically - each generation has to be better than the last for its genes to survive, with never a drop in fitness - we will have the ability to make leaps upward, across local minima. We will be able to look at a survival problem that might be insurmountable in a million years of darwinian evolution, and solve it in one generation. To turn our backs on this gift and let our species languish would, in my opinion, be the unethical behaviour.

    Are we there yet? No. Not even close. This is only the beginning. Will things be wierd? Yes. Horribly, wonderfully wierd. But hopefully not catastrophically wierd.

    As H.G. Wells said in "Things to Come" (1936). Our choices are "All the Universe, or nothing. Which shall it be?"

    ---

  • There's also the argument that though some humans are infertile "by nature" (and a totally separate argument that some infertile people are infertile due to side effects of industrialization; chemicals, stress, frigidity. . .)

    Even if some humans are infertile "by nature", does that mean that we should not use science to reproduce them? Yes, with present technology, it does somewhat limit all of their progeny to technologically assisted reproduction, but we're only violating the rules of nature here. We've been doing that for thousands of years now. Why not continue? If that infertile person technologically bears a child that invents the faster-than-light drive, or even a child who grows up and works flipping burgers at McDonalds, they become an integral and necessary part of our society.

    Overpopulation is a separate problem, and needs to be dealt with separately, either by expanding our territory (again, with the faster-than-light drive-), or culling the population (counterproductive to technological reproduction, I know). In culling, do we do this randomly? Or do we cull with an operational plan - cull the weak? cull the poor? cull the infertile? cull the tasty? (soylent green). All of those raise separate questions, and are quite different than the topic of technologically assisted reproduction, and the reasons why it may be a good thing.

    At some point, humanity is going to have to start answering these questions. That may be several mass starvations down the road.
  • Ummm.

    Infertility is not CAUSED by overpopulation. Infertiity is caused by genetic variations during the process of reproduction.

    The greater the population, the more often you will see Infertility.

    Look at it this way: If 1 percent of people in a population are infertile, and there are 100 people in the population there will be one infertile person. If there are 1000 people in the population, there will be 10 infertile people.

    The fact that the number of infertile people rose with the population does not mean that infertility is caused by a rise in population.

    People are not infertile because they are bad. They are not infertile beacuse God hates them. They are not infertile becase of overpopulation.

    They are infertile because a small number of the many possible life producing combinations of sperm and egg are infertile.

    It is the fault of no one that some people get dealt a bad hand of genes. If we can use gene therapy to improve the quality of the lives of the infertile, then we should do it.

    Here's an intersting fact about the population of the planet (I read it on the internet - it must be true). If you take every person on the Earth. Every Living soul. Give each family a house with a small yard. You could pack them all into the state of Texas. I'm not saying that this is a good idea, just that you could do it.

    P.S. It really doesn't help your arguemnt to claim that people that support your eugenicistic opinions have Common Sence and Intuition, and those that do not are meerly selfish people incapable of seeing the 'Big Picture'. In fact, it just makes you look arrogant.

  • Phew. Fortunately it was not _nuclear_ DNA.

    --
  • yeah, the whole Golf Course thing is whacked. THAT has got to stop. Golf produces nothing. Except maybe a few stupid movies. (now, Caddyshack was pretty funny though. . .)
  • My in-laws live in Phoenix, where it is against the law to have a lawn.

    Rocks, cacti, that's about it.

    Also, there is an ordinance against streetlights, so it's really fucking dark out at night, which is bad if you're driving or walking, but good if you're sitting out in your back yard looking at the night sky.

    All the building that's going on out there is just fucking crazy, when you think about the fact that they live in a desert. But then again, they do try to do some things right.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Generally, an infertile women wouldn't produce any offspring thereby preventing here infertility from being passed on to the next generation. That should solve the problem. Now they're tinkering with what nature intended and altering the outcome.

    It hasn't been survival of the fittest for humans for the longest time. Those who would've died from diseases have been kept alive by medicine to propagate their "weaker" genetic code. Pretty soon, the human race will be so screwed up that we will only reproduce through genetic manipulation, because everyone has become infertile.

    That's probably the only reason for ever doing this in the first place. Haven't any of you read. The average sperm count of this generations males have reduce in number compared to the sperm count of generations past. One day we will need all the help we can get to reproduce even a single offspring. Talk about population control... nature is starting to do it for us.
  • Imagine a Gattaca-like future 100 years from now, when everybody's DNA is vigorously scrubbed free of defective genes. Maybe people have different skin, hair, or eye color, just for fashion's sake, but internally we all look pretty much the same. Wouldn't this drastically increase the risk of some killer pathogen taking advantage of such a uniform field of hosts?

    Yes, probably, if it was done commercially.

    Because if done commercially, it would likely be short-term and mainly cosmetic interests that were addressed. For the money, of course. If it costs extra to toss in some random genetic variability, for the purpose of protection of the entire species, who the fuck is going to pay an extra 5 grand for that?

    As a result, yes, this could quite likely happen.

    However, if it's done non-commercially (like, if some strange totalitarian regime takes over the whole planet, and mandates that this be done for whatever ideological reason) - it could be that the government scientists working on the project will go; hey, waitaminnit, this could be dangerous, hey boss, can we throw in a little random variability into the gene pool here, because to not do so would be dangerous for us all - and as long as it isn't something like, the emporer believes himself to be genetically superior, and therefore all humanity must posess a copy of his genes, then the leader would hopefully listen to his scientists and have it done right.

    By the way, who's gonna vote for me for emporer of the world.

  • ignoring the Catholic church

    Well, I don't know a whole lot of people that give a rat's arse concerning the Catholic church's stance on contraceptives, etc. Even a lot of the Catholics give those teachings the shaft.
  • There was an article in Scientific American not too long ago that associates the start of the rise of human population with the development of fermented beverages.

    fermented beverages gave humanity a safe supply of something to drink that didn't contain parasites, and vastly improved individuals chances of survival to successful reproduction.

    So it's not medical treatments. It's booze.
  • > You're talking about a test-tube baby here, not some kind of freak.

    I think I was the one who brought up test-tube babies. IIRC, the first ones were picked on as some kinds of freaks, whether in the form of bullying at school or by having their faces plastered on Time Magazine as some sort of medical marvels.

    A few years later, test-tube babies (IVF) were regarded (rightfully) as perfectly normal sproggen.

    I predict the same thing for this case - the first GM humans will be regarded as medical marvels. 10 years from now, we'll think it's kinda neat. 20 years from now, we'll know someone who had one. 30 years from now, it'll be commonplace.

  • Then you've obviously never had to spend a lot of time under the care of the medical system. As a Canadian whose been in the medical system constantly since I was 12, let me flat out tell you that it's horrible. I could write page after page about the fights I've had with doctors and hospitals over certain tests that are "too expensive", certain treatments refused due to cost, etc. Now, I can afford to do all this privately, but now the lovely federal government is doing its best to hold back health care funding to any province that doesn't, in effect, ban private clinics.

    I'm not against a government provided health care system, but for god's sake, don't force those of us who CAN afford better to use the damn thing. I'm tired of waiting 6-9 months to see neuro.

    Matt
  • by Jim McCoy (3961) on Friday May 04, 2001 @03:28PM (#245096) Homepage
    >Presently United States accounts for 25 % of
    >world's carbon dioxide emissions while having
    >only less than 5 percent of the population.

    And while producing more than 33% of the world's GDP. We emit more pollutants because we produce most of the world's economically valuable products. Perhaps you should start by trying to make the remaining 95% of the world's population a little more efficient and productive rather than bitching about the people who are doing most of the work in producing your Birkenstocks and iMacs...
  • The US is arguably the most religious and culturally conservative among the developed countries. People actually go to church and believe in the bible, something other societies have long abandoned. But yet, nobody tops the US when it comes to exotic techniques of altering life. Modifying the germ line, research on human embryos, human cloning, rent-a-womb arrangements are all legal here and illegal virtually anywhere else. Wouldn't one assume that culturally conservative societies proceed much more cautiously? Can anybody explain this contradiction?

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  • No, viruses don't move and don't convert energy; also they are much smaller.

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  • There's always adoption for infertile parents, I mean you can save someone's EXISTING life in some cases, I'm not sure those genetic babies will not grow without any long-term problems or being more fragile in the long run. Erm.. fragile... "err honey, I've drop the kids (tm)" :)

  • Well, mheckaman, we in the U.S. have a junior senator from New York who already tried to inflict a similar system on us once and is no doubt chomping at the bit to do so again. I'd love her to hear your story.

    Rick

  • Jim, I wonder how many of these pseudo-Luddite enviromentalist posers are actually willing to live without air conditioning? i wonder how many of these folks adopt this I hate all humans" mentality because it goes so well with their black trenchcoats.

    I'm with you, dude. U.S.A, U.S.A.!

  • Ooooo! I'm so scared. We're going to run of fossil fuels. I know it's true because technology would never advance. There have been no signicant advances in technology in the last 100 years, why would there be any in the future.

    Repent! The end is near.

  • On the other hand, there's evidence that mice degrade any paternal mitochondria that enter the egg. I don't think that this has been studied to any great extent in humans yet (it's quite a bit harder to get hold of large numbers of naturally fertalised human eggs in order to perform experiments on them, oddly enough), but there is reason to suspect that inheriting mitochondria from sperm is less likely than you might expect.
  • On an overpopulated planet.

    What planet would that be? Certainly not ours, which is easily capable of sustaining a much larger population than currently exists.

    People aren't starving because food can't be, or isn't being, grown for them; they're starving because of where they are in relation to the food.

    The planet isn't overpopulated, some regions of it are. And there's no genetic modification to decrease infertility going on in those locations.

    Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps there's a REASON some people are infertile?

    Yes; did it ever occur to you that those reasons can be fixed? It occurred to these doctors.

    I might sound overly harsh, but if this continues, we'll have lots and lots of perfectly healthy, long-lived, incredibly weak and fragile human beings walking this planet.

    The same argument could be, and has been, made about every medical advance from organ transplantation to doctors washing their hands before treating patients.

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  • This is an excellent and important point, but it is based on the premise that Mother Nature knows better than we do what's right and wrong.

    Which is demonstrably false. Mother Nature knows nothing. Selection has no higher plan other than the favouring of genes that make you more likely to live long enough to breed and to be able to breed successfully enough that your genes are spread to future generations, based on whatever the environmental conditions are at the time. Which is fine in a situation where the conditions in your ecosystem stay reasonably static over time, but works rather less well in a situation where the favoured conditions vary between pretty much every generation. Like the situation that we've been in for the past few hundred years, for example. We're able to predict the future better than nature is (we stand some chance of being right. Nature "assumes" that conditions are going to stay the same as they currently are, which is pretty much the least likely outcome), so imposing our own selection pressure on the genes at an earlier stage is more likely to lead to "well suited" individuals than just letting nature get on with it.

    This doesn't mean that I'm in favour of genetically modified humans. The social considerations are pretty fascinating and damned difficult, and when we screw up it's likely to be pretty graphic.
  • Why do so many environmentalists hate people so much?

    They think if all the people are killed off, they can buy their land really cheap.

    Unfortunately, they don't realize the property values have to drop in order for this to happen. Once that gets out, it'll all blow over.

    That, or they'll all die out, while the genetically-engineered supermen continue to evolve.

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  • Natural selection says we're breeding to friggin much

    Natural selection says nothing of the sort. Natural selection works to create organisms that will produce children that will produce more children than any of their competitors. It's pretty trivial to demonstrate this.

    We have two genes, a and b. We have two organisms, X and Y. (I'm going to assume assexual reproduction here. The principle is much the same in sexually reproducing organisms, it would just take a bit longer). a is a gene that results in the parent having 4 children. b is a gene that results in the parent having 8 children. X carries a. Y carries b.

    At generation 0, we have 1 a and 1 b.
    At generation 1, we have 4 a and 8 b.
    At generation 2, we have 16 a and 64 b.
    At generation 3, we have 64 a and 256 b.

    As can clearly be seen, b will spread throughout the population much faster than a. Now assume that starvation hits the population. No more than 512 organisms can live in the population at once. Assuming organisms carrying a and b are otherwise of similar fitness and hence the same proportion of each type dies per generation, we get:

    At generation 4, we have 102 a and 410 b
    At generation 5, we have 57 a and 455 b
    At generation 6, we have 30 a and 482 b

    Even in starvation, the gene giving fewer children is selected against. A mutation that controls the size of the population of a species is of absolutely no use whatsoever because of a single fundamental flaw - if you don't have children, you won't pass on that mutation. If you're going to try to use natural selection as an argument for anything, at least try to learn something about it first.

Debug is human, de-fix divine.

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