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Biotech Earth Science

Solving Climate Change By Bioengineering Humans? 363

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-lazy-enough-to-work dept.
derekmead writes "Forget CFLs, hybrid cars, and organic jeans. Buying our way out of climate change — even if it's green consumption — won't get us far. A new paper (PDF), published in Ethics, Policy, and the Environment by NYU bioethics professor S. Matthew Liao, poses an answer: engineer humans to use less. The general plan laid out by Liao is straightforward, ranging from using pharmacological behavior modification to create an aversion to meat in people, to using gene therapy to create smaller, less resource-intensive children. The philosophical and ethical questions, on the other hand, are absurdly complicated. The Atlantic also has a great interview with Liao, in which he talks about gene therapy and making humans hate the taste of meat."
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Solving Climate Change By Bioengineering Humans?

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  • Going way too far (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:13PM (#39331627)

    It's one thing to use genetic engineering to fight disease and obvious medical problems. But using something with such dangerous potential to advance a social agenda which society can't even agree on is going way too far. It's dangerous enough to screw with Mother Nature even when the objective is crystal clear. Screwing with something as dangerous as genetic engineering and altering humans en masse is insane for an objective this murky (not to mention the fact that it would violate every university's or hospital's ethics policies in about a million ways).

    First, do no harm--even if you think it's for a good cause.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by onepoint (301486)

      You have said everything correctly. I just hope more ears will listen...
      What you wrote reminds me why we have freedom of speech " I might not like what you said, but I will defend your right to say it"
      I would hope that others see why I link your words to it...

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:24PM (#39331811)

      The Green Leopard Plague
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Leopard_Plague [wikipedia.org]
      By Walter Jon Williams

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Considering all the problems that simply engineering Foods have caused (they generate their own pesticide; which either we or our animals eat), I'm not ready to start messing with human beings. It would get screwed-up.

      If the concern is too many people on this planet soiling our own nest, then a better solution is to try to reduce the population (like China is attempting with its 1 child per couple policy) (or through Mother Nature starving us like she does with other species).

      • Re:Going way too far (Score:5, Informative)

        by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:06PM (#39333719)

        (they generate their own pesticide

        You say that as if its a bad thing. You do realize that statement describes ALL plants, right? Ever wonder why insects don't just eat everything green, or why plants go through all the trouble of producing secondary metabolites? Pesticides (among other defense mechanisms of course). The misconception that making plants which produce additional pesticides is somehow bad really grates my nerves, especially in this case where we know darned well how that pesticide works and what it effects..if the lepidoptera somehow magically vanished before we discovered the cry proteins (the pesticides inserted into GE crops) we'd never have been able to figure out they even were pesticides. Its also irksome that breeding for insect resistant varieties which may produce additional naturally occurring insecticidal secondary metabolites is fine and dandy, but when genetic engineering is involved, then they're not insect resistant, they 'make their own pesticides,' which compared to 'insect resistant' sounds nice and scary. And of course no one cares about the pesticides that these crops don't need sprayed on them anymore.

        This is why high school biology classes really should spend more time on plant physiology.

    • I think the definition of ethics is being stretched way too far. First we have that Australian ethics journal publishing a paper on After Birth Abortion, and now this. Shouldn't a journal on ethics at least know the definition of the word, and consider it before allowing such a paper to be published?

      • ethics by itself means nothing,
        you have to qualify it with a school of thoughts
        you have Kantian ethics, Cartesian ethics, Schopenhauerian ethic, Catholic ethic, nihilistic ethic, Episcopalian ethic, Islamic ethic and so on ... and that is why there is no unqualified article on ethics there : http://plato.stanford.edu/search/searcher.py?query=Ethic [stanford.edu]
        Your definition appears to be Virtue ethics, but I could be wrong..

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      To be fair, selective pressures will cause genetic modifications (or more accurately, the proliferation of the most appropriately adapted modifications) on their own, with or without our assistance. The difference is in whether we want to do it intelligently, or randomly. Random mutations can work, especially if we don't particularly care who, or indeed what, ultimately dominates, but intelligent genetic engineering, like most other decisions that we don't leave to chance, is probably the better answer.

      As

      • by Pino Grigio (2232472) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:44PM (#39332085)
        Random mutations might be random, but the resulting gene frequencies in a population are far from random. This is the mistake a lot of people make when it comes to Evolution by Natural Selection.

        No, I totally disagree that "intelligent" genetic engineering is even possible. There are unknown unknowns (unforeseen consequences). On the subject of the OP, this is simply another kind of eugenics. If ideas like this came from a right-wing whack-job, you'd all be screaming Nazi.
    • by Artraze (600366) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:35PM (#39331971)

      And this is, in a nutshell, why I _loathe_ "Climate Change".

      We could be talking about cars, or coal power, or plastic, or disposable goods, or you know just about anything else that produces green house gases or is a waste of resources?

      But no...
      No, let's just rewrite the human genome so that people don't really want meat quite as much because........
      global warming?

      Captain Planet must be kicking himself for teaching us to reuse and recycle when he could have been telling us to radically alter our biochemistry so we eat less meat.

      • Re:Going way too far (Score:5, Informative)

        by sycodon (149926) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:16PM (#39332455)

        Surely someone must have written a book on how to take over the world in 3 easy steps...

        1. Convince everyone that something terrible is happening and it's their fault.
        2. Once people have bought into the idea that there is a crisis and we are all going to die, then reveal the "solution" (Final or otherwise).
        3. Control! (Profit is a side benefit).

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:50PM (#39334557)

          Surely someone must have written a book on how to take over the world in 3 easy steps...

          1. Convince everyone that something terrible is happening and it's their fault.

          Original sin. Adam and eve are cast from the Garden of Eden, and we're all paying for it

          2. Once people have bought into the idea that there is a crisis and we are all going to die, then reveal the "solution" (Final or otherwise).

          Accept the lord Jesus as your personal Savior

          3. Control! (Profit is a side benefit).

          Let's all tithe!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KeensMustard (655606)

        And this is, in a nutshell, why I _loathe_ "Climate Change".

        This?

        Really?

        Rather than, say, the mass displacement of whole populations, an unprecedented refugee crisis, extreme weather events, mass extinction and loss of biodiversity?

        That's some twisted logic right there, that in the face of the enormity of the problem, your primary concern is some guys speculation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Screwing with something as dangerous as genetic engineering and altering humans en masse is insane for an objective this murky

      But..but, driving more fuel efficient cars is hard ! Giving up my 5000 lb Lincoln Navigator and my wife's "couple of Cadillacs" is hard ! Oh, and figuring out a way for oil companies to make money off of alternative fuels is really super hard ! You want to be the one to look David Koch in the eyes and tell him that we need to find alternatives to oil? No, I didn't think so.

      Clear

      • by tlambert (566799) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:33PM (#39333359)

        Yet the 1991 Honda CRX/HF still gets 72 MPG

        You know, if you don't run it on crappy California reformulated gas. If you run crappy California gas, it only gets 64 MPG. Which puts it in the same ballpark as the 1991 Geo Metro convertible, which gets 64 MPG on non-crappy California reformulated gas.

        Gotta keep that Chevron refinery monopoly going, they did so well by us with MTBE. Never mind that all vehicles since 1981 have Oxygen sensors, so Oxygenation of fuels does squat for pollution, unless you are driving a 1969 Ford Thunderbird or some other vehicle more than 31 years old.

        PS: the US auto industry specifically came up with transverse crash testing to disallow the CRX/HF being imported into the US. Basically, they had to figure out a crash test they could pass that CRX/HF couldn't in order to kill it. Never mind that being simultaneously T-boned from two directions is unlikely as hell.

        -- Terry

    • "agenda which society can't even agree on"

      I am not to sure about this statement. I think the differing opinions are simply:
      "If we do not do something soon then the human species will face extinction in the immediate future, so lets get on it"
      "Sure, the situation is quickly becoming untenable but I will probably be dead by the time it gets really bad so why should I do anything about it?"
      "The situation is too complicated and would inconvenience me too much, we should wait and hope some kind-of super technolo

      • Not even the worst alarmists propose that humans will face extinction. Floods, hurricanes, mass starvation (well, more so), collapse of a few governments, at worst the loss of costal settlements. But not extinction. People will adapt... or at least those that survive will.
      • Slanted much?

        Let's see.... Three solutions presented as the only three, the first calling for quick application of ...something... and the last two stated in such a manner that implies anyone disagreeing with opinion number one is doing so only from a point of extreme apathy or self-interest.

        Yep, slanted much.
    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:03PM (#39332315)

      Oh, but if you knew who the conspirators were, you'd know they have no problem controlling mother nature. And this time, they've gone too far—tipped their "hand", as it were. Herbivores with dwarfism? Could it be any plainer? Next they'll want to put hair all over our bodies to "reduce our climate-control and clothing needs" and give us four legs "to encourage walking instead of driving".

      Yes, that's right—I'm on to you, Pony Illuminati! I know your secrets! While I'm sure I'll "disappear" soon, no doubt turned to stone by your advanced science and freakish magic, know that ten more will take my place... And your plans for friendship and harmony will never succeed as long as there is but one selfish asshole to keep up my fight!

      (ed. note: I would like to apologize for the above post. A valiant attempt was made to formulate a serious response to this article; in the end, however, it proved utterly impossible.)

  • Oh hey look (Score:5, Funny)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:16PM (#39331655)

    ranging from using pharmacological behavior modification to create an aversion to meat in people, to using gene therapy to create smaller, less resource-intensive children.

    Pretty sure I've read this book before. Now, if I could only remember what it was called. Hmmm...

    Well, no time to waste, lets go create our bold refreshed earth, now with vegetarian midgets!

    • Re:Oh hey look (Score:5, Insightful)

      by onepoint (301486) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:26PM (#39331841) Homepage Journal

      maybe you are thinking of Mein Kampf? no mater which way I read it, having modified kids, and my taste forcibly changed via medication seem rather nazi-ish

      • Re:Oh hey look (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:32PM (#39331927)

        Y'know, I'd call you on a Godwin's Law violation. If not for the fact that the actual proposition in this case seriously, really IS the EXACT reasoning and justifications used by the REAL Nazi Germany, only using "vegetarian midgets" as the master race instead of Aryans.

        There's really no way around mentioning Nazis in this case. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the person who published the article is just trolling, that's how absurd this suggestion is.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        Even before Nazism, Brave New World theorized doing almost exactly what Liao seems to be proposing: behavioral modification to force people towards "desirable" behavior, and (essentially) bioengineering children, to create a more ordered society (so not 100% the same as Liao on that point, but the concept is pretty much identical).

    • by Bieeanda (961632) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:29PM (#39331883)
      No, no, you need to read between the lines: he's suggesting that we eat the Irish.
    • No no no. They can't eat vegetables either, since that'll produce methane gas.

      Remember, don't toot or you'll pollute!
  • People will like to eat whatever they grew up eating, no genetic engineering necessary.

    • And parents will feed kids whatever they grew up eating as well..
      ITS THE CIIIRCLE OF LIIIIIIIFE

      Seriously though how do you break the cycle without legislation or "Let's Move!" type enforcement?

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        You might want to actually to scarfing down some really alien part of some other country's cuisine some time. You may find that this stuff is not just "personal preference" or just being "spoiled Americans". You may find that you are actually adapted to the diet of what ever place your great-grandparents came from.

        • by vlm (69642)

          You may find that you are actually adapted to the diet of what ever place your great-grandparents came from.

          Try giving cow milk to a non-northern european. Not a nice thing to do to them.

      • by Githaron (2462596)
        You don't. If you want to change what you eat, make a conscience effort to do so. Don't expect the guy next-door to change just because you think it is better.
    • by onepoint (301486)

      True to a small point, the problem is when they try the food from a different place... Also, have you ever given up salt for an extended amount of time? You'll be amazed how much it seems like candy after the first time you try it again ( was off salt for a 3 month personal test and tried very hard to have a low salt diet, sad to say I gave up, but what I learned is that i did not need as much salt for some of my dishes )

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Wow.

        I had the opposite effect. I can no longer stand Salt or Sugar in my food, unless it's the low-salt/sugar option. Just this past Christmas my mother gave me some cake and she said, "Isn't that icing tasty?" Um. No. Yuck. (It was so sweet I had to scrape it off.)

        • by onepoint (301486)

          the sugar issue is very true, it almost becomes painful to taste. as for the salt, it's become interesting since I find different salt's have different effects on my taste buds, Kosher salt is sweet, very large flaky is sweet, table salt is bitter and too strong for me.

      • by cfulton (543949) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:45PM (#39332091)

        Also, have you ever given up salt for an extended amount of time? You'll be amazed how much it seems like candy after the first time you try it again ( was off salt for a 3 month personal test

        You cannot give up salt. You will die with no salt in your diet. Yes that is correct you will die if you don't eat enough salt. While too much salt can be detrimental, this crazy idea that salt is bad for you is just that "Crazy". I'm sure it tasted like candy because your body needed that salt. Salt helps maintain the fluid in our blood cells and is used to transmit information in our nerves and muscles. It is also used in the uptake of certain nutrients from our small intestines. Eat your salt.

        • by onepoint (301486)

          you are right, salt is required, I just reduced the adding of it, does not mean that the celery, carrots and other items I ate did not have sodium, it's just that I tried to avoid it from being an additive.

  • Miranda.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      Oh, great. They'll genetically create Reavers while the rest of us get turned into passive vegetarian targets. Sounds to me more like the dicotomy between the Morlocks and the Eloi. We're so screwed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:20PM (#39331733)

    Okay, completely setting aside the staggering ethical issues...

    Let's say we all turn into hobbit-sized vegetarians and reduce our footprint. It doesn't fricking matter. Unless we do something about our fertility, our population will still keep growing and we will still eat the rainforests, it will just take a little longer for us to do it. And that's the thing: there really is only one variable that actually matters in the long run. With the right-sized population, we can all be 12-foot-tall gorillas that only eat the prime part of the cow and discard the rest.

    Not that there aren't also ethical considerations on that side too, but jesus, it just irks me when so much effort is put into managing these little inconsequential variables that, in the long term, don't change a damn thing about our global impact.

    • by kqs (1038910)

      Population growth is slowing, and the earth is likely to achieve zero (human) population growth this century. So while I cannot call this a solved problem, it doesn't seem like a critical one to worry about.

    • Funny, but in most wealthy countries, and even in countries with politically stable and affluent (read: "not worried about starvation") populations, the birth rates are either holding steady or dropping (not counting growth due to immigration).

      Now obviously you can't solve the world's population growth via making everyone wealthy, or even by making sure that no one ever starves again. On the other hand, you can try to foster politically stable, peaceful societies as a good first start.

      As for the rest, let's

    • by vlm (69642)

      Let's say we all turn into hobbit-sized vegetarians and reduce our footprint. It doesn't fricking matter. Unless we do something about our fertility, our population will still keep growing and we will still eat the rainforests, it will just take a little longer for us to do it. And that's the thing: there really is only one variable that actually matters in the long run. With the right-sized population, we can all be 12-foot-tall gorillas that only eat the prime part of the cow and discard the rest.

      The other thing you missed is that once we're overpopulated hobbit sized vegetarians, its possible we won't be big and strong enough to take step 3, whatever it turns out to be.

      Same argument with global warming... OK so we delayed the inevitable by X years. After X years the inevitable arrives, and we can't deal with it because we're a depopulated paleolithic 3rd world culture instead of an industrial culture. Why do something that dumb?

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      Let's say we all turn into hobbit-sized vegetarians and reduce our footprint.

      If we turn into hobbits wouldn't our footprint be larger? Or at least the same size but our bodies smaller?

    • by TopSpin (753)

      do something about our fertility

      Among the 'cultures' that deliver the largest population growth are two characteristics that preclude 'doing something.' First, they're not wealthy, so they hold no interest at all for statists. Second, they are notoriously indifferent to the anxieties of Western intellectuals. Right up until the JDAMs detonate.

    • To be fair, world population growth is expected to level off in the next hundred years or so. See the UN's take [un.org] on it; according to their "medium variant" we'll only have about 10 billion people by 2100 (though of course these numbers have a very high error margin). Population growth in most of the developed world is near 0 (except for immigration) and a few European countries have negative population growth. But yeah, the real issue is getting 3rd world women to have fewer children.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:21PM (#39331741)

    The solution offered here is an example of the class of solution it is supposedly an alternative to:

    Forget CFLs, hybrid cars, and organic jeans. Buying our way out of climate change â" even if it's green consumption â" won't get us far. A new paper (PDF), published in Ethics, Policy, and the Environment by NYU bioethics professor S. Matthew Liao, poses an answer: engineer humans to use less.

    Buying bioengineered humans is certainly an example of "buying our way out of climate change", and its far more speculative in its utility than any of the forms of buying our way out of climate change it is offered as an alternative to in TFS.

  • by tmosley (996283) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:21PM (#39331753)
    Was it Oryx and Crake?

    Do I need to move into the deep wilds and avoid taking vitamins?
  • less humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zlives (2009072) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:23PM (#39331781)
    why wouldn't you engineer humans to be less in number... o right can't use birth control.
  • Totalitarianism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by medcalf (68293) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:24PM (#39331803) Homepage
    Is there any doubt that coercion would follow, since a lot of people would refuse? The effort to perfect man into someone's ideal image has always resulted in mass death.
    • Well, on a purely objective level, mass death would sort of solve the problem too, according to these folks...

    • I actually read an extreme environmentalist blog that perhaps tongue in cheek (perhaps not), advocated using nuclear weapons. The idea being how well nature handled chernobyl, the Earth would not only survive, but flourish post nuclear winter. I kid you not!

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:24PM (#39331807)

    super soldiers that make up the people who refused this and didn't geneticaly tamper with their children to produce smaller people decide to just take what they want from the leaf eating midgets?

  • by Derekloffin (741455) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:24PM (#39331815)
    Even if you did such, all that does it push back the wall some, there is still a wall there. We only have so much farmland, never mind the limits on other resources. If you really want to reduce consumption in a way that won't hit a wall you'll have to stop our population growth, and even reverse as it is pretty much too high as is. I don't think genetics are the solution there though. That's more a social issue.
  • Ethical concerns. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:24PM (#39331819)

    The ethical concerns are only absurdly complicated when trying to justify something which is clearly unethical.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There was a sci-fi short that posited mankind colonizing other planets, but just as they had started spreading out, all the newborns were coming out "devolved" to Australopithicus. Evolution had driven the growth of intelligence and the brain to get mankind off the single vulnerable planet, but now that it had spread and was safe from a single-point disaster, evolution pointed to the efficiency of not maintaining that large energy intensive brain. Monkeybrains were quite good enough.

    So that's actually the

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:26PM (#39331843)
    We'll all be genetically engineered humans, probably patented by Monsanto, and will then have to pay a licensing fee to reproduce. :-)
  • by glorybe (946151)
    Instead of ideas such as making people smaller why not simply confront the fact that we need to severely restrict births. A lower population eats less meat, needs less roads and cars and allows general preservation of the environment as well as having natural land for wild life. Simply have rules that allow only the best young people to have one child in one marriage. Problem solved and no test tubes or fancy thinking need be involved at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Instead of ideas such as making people smaller why not simply confront the fact that we need to severely restrict births.

      yes

      A lower population eats less meat, needs less roads and cars and allows general preservation of the environment as well as having natural land for wild life.

      yes

      Simply have rules that allow only the best young people to have one child in one marriage. Problem solved and no test tubes or fancy thinking need be involved at all.

      NO! You are wrong on so many levels I could write twenty essays and five dystopian novels on the subject.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TC Wilcox (954812)

      Instead of ideas such as making people smaller why not simply confront the fact that we need to severely restrict births. A lower population eats less meat, needs less roads and cars and allows general preservation of the environment as well as having natural land for wild life. Simply have rules that allow only the best young people to have one child in one marriage. Problem solved and no test tubes or fancy thinking need be involved at all.

      Yes, great idea! Let's create a world government with enough power to: - measure the best-ness of every single human - decide who gets to have children. Not the best? Sorry, no kids for you dumb-ass! And I'm sure this entire process would be done fairly and transparently and wouldn't favor the people in power.... - the power to enforce its decisions from people who may not want to follow the rules and may be trying to hide pregnancies. That means somehow getting all females on the planet to take periodic p

      • by chrb (1083577) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:53PM (#39332891)

        measure the best-ness of every single human - decide who gets to have children

        Children cost money to raise. When the parent has no money, then the state has to step in and pay. If there were a system where people had to pay upfront for the costs of raising their children before they were conceived then it would introduce a financial control metric into the system. Being poor wouldn't necessarily be a problem - there would be various providers offering you loans, and they would evaluate your ability to repay the loan before making it.

        Sure, it isn't "fair" to people with no money that they can't have kids, but it also isn't "fair" that people with no money expect the rest of society to pay for their kids. If having a single child is important for society, then maybe the first one should be free, and you only pay after that. The bottom line is that if, at some point in the future, people don't self-regulate their fertility, and society can't afford a constantly expanding population, then the only societies that will prosper will be the ones that enforce regulations on fertility. Could you imagine China without One Child Per Couple? The population would have been approaching 2 billion by now. There are parts of Africa where overpopulation is already resulting in there being not enough land to support the people, and this is a driver of conflict and wars.

    • and what do you do about the old people? or do we simply kill them once they refuse to work?
      to give you a hint, once the single children get married and have their own kid, they will be two working people providing for seven eating people (four of their parents, two of them and one of the kid).

    • Well, until it comes time to decide who "the best young people" are, that is.

      Then there's all those forced abortions and sterilizations, and even w/o the question of forced abortions, I'm pretty certain that most people would object to being forcibly sterilized.

    • But that raises another question. Is it better to control births by genetically programming people to act rationally in this type of environment (involving one act of totalitarianism), or to enforce a one child policy forever.

    • by JeanCroix (99825)
      Way to piss off all the environmentalists with 3+ biological children. Oops, paradox.
  • Double plus good indeed.

  • This falls firmly into the Orwell/Mad science category. He wants to genetically modify people so they prefer the diet he believes to be optimal.
  • by JazzHarper (745403) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:31PM (#39331911) Journal

    A bioethicist advocating eugenics.

  • Pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:32PM (#39331925)

    professor of philosophy and bioethics

    His insights in nutritional science are likely to be as correct and relevant as /.s insights into modern interpretive dance. This was a LOL article.

    Old world thinkers have just barely moved beyond the "vital force" principle in organic chem... still hung up on the differences between humans and animals being some mysterious vital force. Sorry, there's just not that much difference.

    His theory seems to be he can create a bovine protein allergy. He might succeed at creating a bioengineered lupus-like autoimmune disease.

    He might manage to make us allergic to hemoglobin (what could go wrong), or maybe unable to digest some essential amino acid that is in meat and also some plants... kwashiorkor here we come!

    Another fun one would be cross species contamination into carnivorous species... Bye bye lions and tigers and housecats and wolves and dogs and...

    You know what would be fun? Catholic mass is into the transubstantiation thing where the wafer turns into the body of christ. Unable to digest meat means unable to digest the host. Therefore catholics can't take the pill. The meat allergy pill, I mean, not the birth control pill. Although the jokes are already firing up about "eating meat". Except on Fridays during lent when you're not supposed to eat meat. Except for fish, which is a plant. This will be fun to watch.

    Seriously though, it might be an interesting bioweapon. Imagine something that spreads like AIDS so religious types can blame the victim for their sex life, but it gives them fatal kwashiorkor.

    Another fun one would be to build the industrial facilities to generate and package enormous quantities of some obscure non-essential amino acid, then release a plague that converts human digestive systems into having that formerly non-essential amino acid now be an essential amino acid. Then sell the food supplements to keep them alive... at a high profit of course. This is a subcategory of the old game of give new 3rd world mothers enough baby formula to supply the baby until they stop making milk, then say ha ha and charge whatever you can get out of them lest they watch their babies starve. Ha ha, its a great day to be an American isn't it....

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      He might manage to make us allergic to hemoglobin

      You can't, really. Genetic modification of already-living beings is difficult at best. Genetic modification is almost always done to a new generation because it's simpler. It's not that much simpler, though, so you of course have to do trials first. A hemoglobin allergy would kill a test subject so early on that it would clearly be a failed trial.

      Usually the unintended effects you have to worry about with genetic modification are the subtle but insidious ones, because you're unlikely to spot them early on.

  • So if humans are not eating the cows how will their numbers decrease? Are we just going to kill them all? Planned extinction of species that product too much CO2?
    • by vlm (69642)

      So if humans are not eating the cows how will their numbers decrease? Are we just going to kill them all? Planned extinction of species that product too much CO2?

      Presumably the mad scientist won't get rid of northern european ability to drink cow milk (other branches have varying levels of lactose intolerance). So we could keep the female cows around for milk and cheese. What to do with the male ones? Oh I know, grind them up and feed them to the living cows. Oh wait, thats how we ended up with mad cow disease. Whoops.

      One thing I don't get is growing cows on land suited for cows and not much else is perfectly Ok. Factory farming of cows, not so Ok. So we'll h

  • So, are we absolutely sure this guy isn't some good scientist gone mad? I mean the whole concept sounds like the start of a crazy bond movie plot, where the Mad Scientist gets fed up with the world's corruption and decides to make a genetically engineered army that will make the work a better place and distract the governments as he creates his G.E.N.E. Bomb that when detonated near space will forcibly convert all of the world to his ideal. "Do expect me to talk?" "No, I expect you to eat your salad Mr. Bon
    • by Guy Harris (3803)

      So, are we absolutely sure this guy isn't some good scientist gone mad?

      Actually, I suspect he [smatthewliao.com] is asking questions to provoke thought about ethical questions, whether the thoughts are "that's crazy" or "you have a point" or....

  • Meat is murder! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kemanorel (127835)

    Tasty, tasty murder...

    Mmmmmmmm... Bacon...

  • by halfEvilTech (1171369) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:39PM (#39332019)

    Suprised this hasn't been mention. If any thread fit that tag, this sure enough would.

  • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:42PM (#39332059)

    How about we stop the global populating increasing at the current exponential rate? Then we can look at the minor efficiencies of all the other stuff.

    While the Chinese One Child Policy may not be ideal at least it recognizes reality - too many humans creates too many problems. Note, I'm not saying the human population should be decreased (except perhaps, by natural population decline - which is exhibited in advanced countries).

    Much of the catastrophic predictions of Malthusian correction are based on the current uncontrolled human population growth. If that growth can be slowed considerably, stopped, or even (naturally) reversed then there is a chance that our technologies might catch up with our consumption (eg. improved recycling, synthetic generation of some resources from our waste, etc).

  • using gene therapy to create smaller, less resource-intensive children

    ...bought the album that had the song [wikipedia.org] on it.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:47PM (#39332125)

    This paper is written specifically to raise a fire storm with much wailing and gnashing of teeth on all sides.

    Meanwhile, Liao loves every minute of the spectacle and writes a couple of grant proposals based on it.

    Sorta like when Limbaugh or Beck or Imus etc, says something outrageous specifically because he's not been the center of attention lately.

  • Really. You know, it is statements like these that make intelligent people seriously dislike science as a whole.

    Does anyone here honestly believe if everyone stopped eating meat the issue of earths natural climate change would stop?

    Or even how about it would change the natural cycle of change in our favor?

    Put this in context of a planetary eco system, which is a structure so vast no way are we going to understand it anytime soon. A planetary eco system inside another gigantic structure which is our solar

  • Controlling our genetics is one thing but, trying to make us vegetarian, meek, small and docile is just creepy and silly. If you were going to manipulate our genes why not go for Gigantic, Strong, Arrogant, Meat Eating, World Beaters. Oh guess it has been done. Still, don't want my kids to be a bunch of Hobbits no matter how good the books were.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:49PM (#39332155) Homepage
    similar to the one mentioned, namely the project to dissuade humans from the taste of meat. My team works in shifts to identify common foods and cravings people may have. we have assembled around 30 meals we've identified as generally enjoyed
    in the US, and after nearly a decade of extensive testing and development im proud to say we've made significant progress. Of the commonly consumed edibles we've engineered, many test subjects eat only some of the food. often times they refuse to eat certain items entirely. By changing the color and texture of the food we've ensured that even the most visibly palletable foodstuffs remain of limited interest to numerous test groups.

    the project ive overseen has the potential for proven commercial success. should any reader need more information on patent licensing, design or independent consulting/partnering please feel free to contact me.

    regards,
    Mike Archer, President
    AppleBees Restaraunts.
  • After millions of years of evolution, humans become large and at the top of the food chain,and this guy wants to override all that to make them leaf-eating midgets. So while there may never be consensus on the intelligent design notion of a higher power guiding our development, at least now we have the option for unintelligent design with a stupid power screwing it up.
  • So he wants to make everyone into Indians?

  • Is this wacky proposal being seriously considered anywhere?

    Meanwhile, nobody seems to want to study geoengineering.

    We are probably only a few decades from being able to build space-based reflectors that block a nontrivial amount of sunlight from hitting Earth. We can already "seed" clouds to make them rain under some circumstances; maybe we can figure out how to encourage clouds to form, since at least some sorts of clouds seem to reflect heat away from Earth. I have read about proposals to drop something

  • Some men just want to watch the world burn

  • The only way you'd get people to submit to something like this is by going to full blown total war... and then winning. Which means you're dealing with a full blown thermo nuclear war on a global scale.

    Which would probably not be the best thing for the environment.

    I don't know... environmentalists do well when they talk about reducing pollution or protecting animals. But when they start talking about limiting children or forcing people to live differently or this genetic engineering idea... they're going to

  • Didn't they ever read Brave New World where they talk about all the unintended consequences? When they engineered people to patch and mend their clothes so they would consume less, the fashion industry cratered. Actually, that's not such a bad idea. The averted textile pollution might be enough to not need engineered humans in the first place ...
  • I think top priority should go to bioengineering Matthew Liao to ensure that he doesn't reproduce at all.
    Second, make sure he never again has the opportunity to interact with people, or really any life form.

  • by Spykk (823586) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:24PM (#39332551)
    Unless we develop a source of energy that has all the convienances of fossil fuels and costs less we should operate under the assumption that all fossil fuels will be burned eventually. It doesn't matter how many political drawbacks you attach to fossil fuels. If burning oil is the cheapest option then someone, somewhere will continue to do so. Any resources we tie up in trying to slow down the consumption of fossil fuels will ultimately have been wasted.
    We have two options when it comes to dealing with climate change. We can invest in developing a carbon neutral fuel source that costs less than fossil fuels without subsidies, or we can invest in adapting to a change that we cannot stop. Everything else is pointless politics that can only hurt us in the long run.

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. -- Francis Bacon

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