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Biotech Earth Science

Solving Climate Change By Bioengineering Humans? 363

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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  • Re:Going way too far (Score:2, Informative)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:45PM (#39332089) Journal

    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.

    Clearly, it's much easier to come up with serious alternatives, like bioengineering humans to be able to breathe greenhouse emissions and putting gigantic venetian blinds into orbit. Or who knows? The Bible says that the oil fields will eventually refill themselves if we can just bomb Iran. And there's just oodles of oil waiting under the ground that only requires detonating nuclear bombs wrapped in cyanide and plutonium and red dye #2 under the tectonic plates to shake that oil a-loose. Those are all much less onerous, and perfectly safe, and...and just think of all the great jobs they will create! Good, American, non-union jobs. Anyway, I read Freakonomics and those guys said terraforming is really the way to go, and everybody knows they are like the smartest guys ever.

    So let's just try to think outside the box here, because everyone knows that when it comes to energy, there can never be any technological breakthroughs that don't involve extracting fossil fuels from the Earth. It's like a mathematical impossibility, according to that nice young man from the American Families for Freedom and Prosperity (AFFP) on the Fox News. And he couldn't say that on TV if it wasn't 100% true.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:53PM (#39333565)

    How do you know it already isn't? X-Ray back scatter scanners my ass.

  • 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.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears