[extropy-chat] FWD (SK) Genetic Engineering Paranoia (And Baseball!)

Terry W. Colvin fortean1 at mindspring.com
Sat Oct 22 17:28:31 UTC 2005

Beware of genetic 'enhancements'


By Osagie Obasogie

Recently, Jose Canseco and I were guests on a talk show to discuss gene doping,
the genetic equivalent to anabolic steroids - a way to "juice up" to gain a
competitive edge. It is possible that in the next few years athletes will be
able to enhance their performance by altering their genetic make-ups. Canseco
argued that gene doping "is definitely the next big step in evolution." Genetic
enhancement, he said, "goes way beyond sports. Imagine an army of a million
individuals who can out-think, out-use the environment in the sense of less
food, more reaction time, better vision, better physical reaction . . . (T)he
human race . . . is going to evolve and no one's gonna stop it."

It's easy to dismiss this as the ramblings of a B-list star struggling to keep
himself in the limelight. Indeed, when Canseco released his now infamous
"Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big," this
was most people's response. Yet we have been forced to swallow the bitter
truthfulness of Canseco's pill. In the few months since "Juiced" was published,
we've seen Congress threaten to rescind Major League Baseball's anti-trust
exemption, a finger-waving Rafael Palmeiro told not to return to his team
because he was becoming too embarrassing, and a belittled Big Mac, Mark McGwire,
forced to essentially plead the Fifth.

Is Canseco correct? Is a society of genetically engineered super humans on the
horizon? If we don't take action soon, it very well might be. What's
particularly disturbing is a sense of inevitability articulated by Canseco and
other advocates of this technology - including distinguished scholars who
embrace it as an unqualified good.

This temptation of eugenics - using genetic and reproductive technologies to
create a superior master race - is not new. Engineering humanity is hardly the
inevitable next stage in evolution, but may be the unfortunate next step of an
unregulated biotech industry. Genetic science may offer remarkable therapies for
those who are sick, injured and suffering. But we can and should draw lines
regarding acceptable and unacceptable uses.

We the people, not scientists intoxicated with hubris nor stockholders
unaccountable to the public, have the right and responsibility to determine our
common future. If we want to improve the human condition, let's make sure that
all our children have food to eat and juice to drink - just not the kind that
Canseco is pushing.

Osagie K. Obasogie, a Mt. Healthy native who attended Summit Country Day High
School, is a project director for the Center for Genetics and Society in
California. He is a graduate of Yale and Columbia Law School.


"Only a zit on the wart on the heinie of progress." Copyright 1992, Frank Rice

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA) < fortean1 at mindspring.com >
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