Science is taking us forward, but where are we heading? GMOs, Chimeras and synthetic life forms, but will it be a brave new world?
The man, aware that his father was sick, was desperately working on a cure. He was a scientist and was hoping that his professional studies would crossover and help restore his father's failing mental capacities. In order to do this, the man had a number of test animals, mostly consisting of apes and chimpanzees. One day, he gave a promising batch of a drug to one of his subjects, but this, in turn, kicked off an unfortunate series of events, leading to that chimp being put down.
Later, the man discovered that the test subject had had an infant and took him home. As time progresses, this chimpanzee becomes increasingly smarter.
Now, if this sounds familiar, this is the basis for the book and movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In that movie, through genetic manipulation, the chimpanzee becomes smart enough to become self-aware, learns language and eventually leads a group of animals into a battle for freedom. Simultaneously, a human-engineered virus spreads across the world, leading humankind to die off in large numbers, because as you see, dear listener, Hollywood learned long ago that not only will the future be dystopian, but those types of movies sell more tickets as well.
REUTERS / Lucas Jackson
The last few weeks have been awash with great stories, although they have been hard to spot among the numerous stories involving Trump such as, "Will or won't Mexico pay for the wall?", "Did illegals vote in the election?", and "How many people actually showed up at the inauguration?". Although the media loves to hate and hates to love Trump, they can't seem to stop talking about him. Which is too bad, considering that although he is a controversial figure, he is still just a man with a job to do, like him or not. Probably, the biggest problem that media has with Trump is that he refuses to accept the idea that they are the chosen ones that can't be held accountable. That they are the ones to dictate to the rest of the nation what should or should not be true and what people should think or discuss. That just like in that famous poo-pourri commercial, they don't smell.
Some of the biggest, if not the most important stories over the last few weeks have had something to do with science, and how many in the scientific community envision the future. Now, if someone brings up GMO, or genetically modified organisms in a conversation, most people will either say, "Great! It is our future" and then go on to say a number of different buzzwords, usually involving increased yields, more productive plants and disease-resistant. Which sounds pretty good, right? Others will say it is horrible and how evil and destructive they are, usually using up words about mega-corporations, the problems with monocrops, killing off the bees as well as a loss of genetic diversity and in general, all of it going against nature. But, are GMOs really that bad?
The Chicago Tribune reported that — "after years of development, protest and regulatory red tape, the first genetically modified, non-browning apples will soon go on sale in the United States." That's right. Apples, that when cut and exposed to air, don't turn brown. Think about that for a moment. Usually, the darkening of fruit is a sign that the decay process has not only set in, but is in one of the later stages, which of course, alerts us to the dangers of eating something that may harm us.
In his defense, the founder of the company that makes the Arctic Apple said — "I think consumers are very ready for apples that don't go brown. Everyone can identify with that 'yuck' factor." So, there you have it. The yuck factor is now a thing of the past. Feel healthier yet?
In defense of GMOs and relating to animals, Business Insider wrote — "Humans have been changing the genes of creatures for thousands of years. An expert in genetically engineering animals said — "We've just called it selective breeding." In fact, the article goes on to point to a number of different examples, such as — "the bulldog with its wrinkled face, the dachshund with its long back, and the pug with its curly tail: animals we've created based on our own preferences." That's right. None of these animals existed as they do now before humans began to actively seek to change them for whatever reasons. Which is pretty neat, right? Who hasn't noticed the rise of the so-called lap dog over the last 10 years? It seems as if no self-respecting B-list Hollywood star would be caught dead without one.
And yet, the article at Business Insider continues — “We bred these features into creatures but gave them horrible genetic defects along the way. Bulldogs, with their disproportionately large heads, are all born by C-section, while those other two breeds have serious spine troubles because of their characteristic traits." That's right. It hasn’t all been roses along the way. Sure, the animals are cute, but without human intervention, they may or may not be around in a few years.
Sputnik / Artem Kreminsky
With this in mind, and taking it one step further, the Chicago tribune recently ran an article this week that noted that a semi-synthetic organism had been created. That's right. A new life form. In fact, the article notes — "This semi-synthetic organism constitutes a stable form of semi-synthetic life, and lays the foundation for efforts to impart life with new forms and functions."
Now, this new life form is not necessarily a chimera, although news reports were also abuzz with a half man half bear half pig test being successfully carried out as well. Well, ok that was from South Park, but as National Geographic noted — "scientists announced that they have created the first successful human-animal hybrids. The project proves that human cells can be introduced into a non-human organism, survive, and even grow inside a host animal, in this case, pigs."
As we move forward into the brave new world, many are left asking: "What will the future bring-Will it be like Avatar? The Planet of the Apes? Will it be a utopia? Or will it be something else?"
So, what do you think dear listeners? "Is the creation of synthetic life a good thing?"
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