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Biotech Medicine Science

Could Colorblindness Cure Be Morally Wrong? 981

destinyland writes "One in 12 men suffers from colorblindness, though '[t]he good news here is that these folks are simply missing a patch of DNA ... which is just the kind of challenge this Millennium is made for. Enter science.' But NPR's Moira Gunn (from Biotech Nation) now asks a provocative question. Is it wrong to cure colorblindness? She reports on an experiment that used a virus to introduce corrective DNA into colorblind monkeys. ('It took 20 weeks, but eventually the monkeys started distinguishing between red and green.') Then she asks, could it be viewed differently? 'Are we trying to 'normalize' humans to a threshold of experience?'"
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Could Colorblindness Cure Be Morally Wrong?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:01PM (#31634960)

    As someone who is red green colorblind, if someone asked me, I'd say yes. It's in part prevented me from working in a number of fields I'd be interested in. I wanted to be a pilot as a kid. I later wanted to be an electrical engineer, but I have a hard time with resistor values that are color coded, so that was out. I have a hard time with Ethernet cable pairs, lights on switches and routers, so I have a difficult time with networking courses. You tell me you can "fix" my vision, count me in.

  • by Robin47 ( 1379745 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @09:23PM (#31635220)
    I think we might be missing the point. I read it as "Maybe we shouldn't have the cure available because it would be morally wrong." That strikes me as a lot more ominous.

    I'm deaf and they are researching a similar cure for my condition. I can't wait to hear again. But what if they decided it would be wrong to change me from the way my genetic makeup made me? Or maybe the people in a third world country shouldn't be helped to advance because they would loose their heritage? In each case, the people should have the right to decide their fate. Just my opinion but interesting question.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Informative)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:05PM (#31635654) Journal
    Interesting thread on that very topic is to be found here []. In that same story were several other threads on the same topic, and one even discussing that messed up family (if I remember correctly). Here is another quite emotional comment []. As far as I can tell, it boils down to the fact that if you 'cure' someone, it implies that they were deficient to begin with, and a lot of deaf people object to the idea that they are deficient. Sad that it gets in the way of the joys of music and the convenience of talking, but to each his own.
  • by eh2o ( 471262 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:17PM (#31635768)

    The answer is they have extra depth, actually extra spectral resolution.

    Color perception is a byproduct of the retina being stimulated with a particular spectral distribution of light. Its a spectral sampling, much like how the ear samples the spectral distribution of sound, but a totally different method and with much much lower resolution.

    We all see the same spectra, some people get more or less information than others. Mainly this manifests in differences in discrimination ability between colors as well as disagreement about what constitutes a "color match" between observers that are getting different information.

    Debating about what this maps to in the head is mostly an exercise in mental masturbation, the brain simply integrates available information in a statistically optimal fashion.

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @10:34PM (#31635906) Journal

    No, he's talking about a philosophical matter that we will never, ever be able to know. It's a thought exercise that young children often engage in to entertain themselves, although ultimately, the answer is "mu"

    Two people can agree on a color, and point to the same color by the same name, but is it internally also the same? Could someone see a world where red looks like what you see blue as? You'd call them by the same name, because you attached those names based on common experience, but does the internal "representation" have any reality?

    You can't determine it experimentally any more than you can measure what someone "hears" when they read a book. And maybe even less likely than that.

    He's trying to imagine what it would be like to see four colors instead of three, which is an exercise that is probably as difficult and meaningful as a monochrome-viewer to imagine two or three colors, or a flatlander to imagine a three-dimensional world. Ultimately, i'd guess "not only an extra color, but a whole extra bunch of combinations of colors with a more complex system of complementary colors." But I can only see the standard 3, so I can't really imagine it.

  • by Kryptonut ( 1006779 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @01:07AM (#31637042)

    Those of us that ARE colourblind would LOVE to have it corrected. People don't realise how much of an impact it can have.

    I work in IT, not because it's what I dreamt of doing as a kid, but because I wasn't allowed to be a Pilot, a Captain (my father used to drive tugboats for a living) or even a Police officer.

    If you haven't experienced it first hand, then you have no right to question whether people who do experience it every single day of their lives, should be "allowed" to change it.

    I want the same employment opportunities as everyone else, and I want my nephew (son of my sister) to have the same employment opportunities as everyone else too, whether he's inherited the gene or not as well.


  • Re:Sure why not (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rocketship Underpant ( 804162 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:12AM (#31637672)

    Humans can already see some ultraviolet. The only problem is that our lenses filter out the UV part of the spectrum. In WW2, however, elderly people who had had cataract surgery were used to read UV signal lights that normal people would not be able to see.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Saturday March 27, 2010 @04:34AM (#31637766) Journal
    "In my opinion (i am a physicist) the only good scientific field for highly functioning autists is math"

    Temple Grandin would disagree, she is autistic and the worlds foremost expert on animal handling facilities. She is known as the woman who thinks like a cow [] because she believes her autisim gives her insights into animal behaviour.
  • by lumbricus ( 936846 ) on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:19AM (#31639210)
    This situation seems to be similar to the ongoing debates about the morality of cochlear implants (for the hearing impaired): []
  • by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Saturday March 27, 2010 @10:27AM (#31639264) Homepage
    Which is why you can only enter certain trades if you are colour blind. Pilots can have certain types, but must be able to recognise bright red and green. Infantry generally welcomes most types, as they are useful, as OP points out. Certain trades are disbarred entirely.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine