More on the Human Genome. : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

The positive and negative implications of this breakthrough are STILL being discussed everywhere [except perhaps this forum.]

The Human Genome

While we already discriminate based on outward appearance [even if it's just an attraction to a great smile], how far will we go in the future to hold on to this need for discrimination? Since studies have already shown that there are more differences in DNA WITHIN given ethnic groups that BETWEEN ethnic groups, will we look for familial "differences" to maintain ostracism?

-- Anita (, July 06, 2000


Anita, this is such a new and complicated subject with so many ramifications that most folks don't yet know what to say about it. At least I don't. The potential for medical applications is wondrous and exciting. The potential for a Brave New World of latter day eugenics is scary. The philosophical and ethical implications are enormous.

Personally I haven't much to say on cloning, etc. at this time. I don't understand and it's totally out of my control. I have the feeling that whatever can get done, will be done, no matter where it leads.

-- Lars (, July 06, 2000.

Lars: I would think that above all others on this forum YOU would be interested in this, because you presented that other article on genetic influences in running, athletics, etc. Do you want to hold on to theories from 20 years past, or replace them with today's knowledge? I suppose the choice is yours, but personally, I like to keep up.

-- Anita (, July 06, 2000.

I agree about Lars that it is hard to know where the HGP will lead, in that it has no declared object aside from mapping the genome. That is a completely neutral act, neither good nor bad. Now it is mostly done and it remains entirely neutral.

Each individual use that the genome map is put to will have its own merits and its own complexities. Each will be an individual topic of discussion.

As for the cartoon, I don't expect the HGP to have any effect on the various extremisms, because the HGP does not address their cause or offer a solution. Human sameness, whether 99.9% or some other number, has never had the slightest past bearing on wars, racism, scapegoating, or the intolerance of differences. It won't start now.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, July 06, 2000.


Sure, I want to keep up. But realistically I can't educate myself into expertise in genetics or computer science or telecommunications simply by reading articles. My insights on such things doesn't exceed the level of sophomore bull sessions.

I think the world's knowledge of genetics right now is similar to the world's knowledge of nuclear energy in 1945. There were many speculations then. Fortunately, the pessimistic speculations did not come true (yet). Unfortunately, the optimistic speculations (such as unlimited power) did not come true either. In 1945, many things were yet to be learned about nuclear science.

That is why I can't possibly comment on the subject of genetics other than to say "wow". All the ramifications in your link (privacy, patents, racism, designer babies, immortality, determinism) are open-ended IMO. There are truths waiting to be discovered. There are demagogues waiting to exploit these truths. We must be vigilant.

But, lest I disappoint you, I did have this thought upon reading your Encyclopedia Britannica article on genetics. The article distinguishes between species and races. Yeah, even with my 20 year old knowledge I knew that species can not interbreed whereas races can. My politically incorrect thought was "gee, I wonder if some Dr Strangelove has ever tried to crossbreed a human with a gorilla or a chimp?" (no jokes please). The DNA is so similar that it might be possible to do a crossbreed that results in a sterile creature equivelent to mule (a mule being the result of crossbreeding the horse and the donkey species). I predict this will be attempted. Indeed, it may already have been attempted. If it could be accomplished, what wonderful ethical debates would arise. Do these new animals have "rights"? Could humans ethically exploit them as a "worker" class or as a "soldier" class? Could I own one as a personal beast of burden or as a pet? Much grist for Geraldo's mill.

-- Lars (, July 06, 2000.


Yes; this is one last look-in before I leave; old habits die hard.

Yeah, even with my 20 year old knowledge I knew that species can not interbreed whereas races can.

You are correct, this is 20 y old knowledge. Genera can transfer DNA betwixt them. Species can cross breed. Where I live we have most of the species of red oak native to the area; in addition we have every possible cross. It is impossible to identify red oaks. In addition, there is good evidence of, even, cross kingdom, transfer of DNA. We have one bacterial gene which has more than 98% sequence homology with its host plant gene but none with the same gene in related bacteria. Go figure. Sorry that I can't be here for the discussion, but you will figure it out.


-- ZiX4Y7 (, July 06, 2000.


Have a good trip.

I was talking animal interbreeding, not plants. Can animal species be interbred beyond the horse/mule and lion/tiger sterile hybrid results?

Does the potential for such interspecies breeding exist with the new gene-tweaking technologies? Is there a potential for genetic creation of an entirely new species? Is there potential for revivng long-extinct species? Is there potential for me shutting up?

-- Lars (, July 06, 2000.

Yet Another Question brought on by gene-splicing technology and genetically engineered life: how do engineered life forms fit into the biological schema of Species, Genera, Families, Orders, and so on?

For example, if you create a batch of fruit flies with genes from, say, a sea slug or a cockroach, is it a new species?

-- Brian McLaughlin (, July 06, 2000.


You shouldn't try to get me going on taxonomy; which is what you are talking about. It is really a mess. Some animals and plants have developed blocks to cross species and cross genera breeding. But these don't always work (nothing is perfect) [when we talk about hundreds of thousands of years, or more; hence hexaploid wheat]. Now talking about DNA exchange is different than talking about breeding. Best left for another time.

Does the potential for such interspecies breeding exist with the new gene-tweaking technologies?

It will, yes.

Is there a potential for genetic creation of an entirely new species?

The term species is so fluid in my mind that I'm not sure how to answer that. Do you want to use morphology or intervening 16s RNA sequences.

Is there potential for revivng long-extinct species?

Based on present information, it doesn't seem to be likely.

Is there potential for me shutting up?

I hope not.

Best wishes

-- Z1X4Y7 (, July 06, 2000.

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