Monday, March 28, 2016

The good, worrisom aspects of the manipulation of genes

Genetics is a difficult topic to understand. The very word itself will turn some readers off and make them put down this column before going further.
Long ago people understood that animals could be bred to make certain characteristics stronger and for those characteristics to be maintained. That was simple. Put two animals or plants together and an exchange of sexual material would do the trick, so to speak.
Moving on down the line a bit, we humans, as the supposedly most intelligent beings on the planet, thought that the genetic stuff was concentrated in the center of cells called the nucleus. Nothing about genes could change that. That idea has changed. Other parts of cells have genes as well. Techniques have been developed that enable us to change genes. Some people think that messing with Mother Nature is a bad thing. (Where is Father Nature in all of this? I don't know. Perhaps he left, leaving genetics as a field of single parenting.)
Now there is a rapidly growing field of genetic manipulation. Scientists can change genes. There is growing fear that changing genes to make things better is dangerous. Some of the fear is based on religion, with people simple saying that humans cannot play the role of the creator. That notion is contrary to the teaching that the creator made humankind in his or her image. If that much is true then humankind can use genetic modification to the benefit of itself. The fact is that it already has done that.

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