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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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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?

  • 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

  • by glorybe (946151) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:28PM (#39331865)
    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.
  • 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....

  • 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 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.

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

    by Kemanorel (127835) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:38PM (#39332007)

    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 Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:42PM (#39332063)

    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.

  • 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 TC Wilcox (954812) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:45PM (#39332087)

    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 pregnancy tests (probably a blood test so the results can't be faked) and aborting the preganancies of anyone who is pregnant without permission. Great world you envision.... I'd personally rather give up meat....

  • by Atypical Geek (1466627) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:48PM (#39332809)

    You may notice that many of the replies so far advocate population control* as the solution to climate change, aka anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

    * Forced sterilization, mandated use of birth control and so forth.

    A quick question for AGW proponents: do you want to give control over who can and cannot have children to the same people who gave you the TSA?

  • 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!

"Help Mr. Wizard!" -- Tennessee Tuxedo

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