December 27, 2002
Life Out of Balance
It has begun.
The first cloned baby, by a cult who believes we are ourselves clones of aliens.
Self-organizing robots driven by "hormonal" software to erect Space Solar Power System satellite without the help of astronauts.
A hole opens up in the sky, forcing the people in a city at the bottom of the world to run for cover from the sun.
A fascinating character who has provided some visual commentary on the matter -- in fact, if you watch his first film you will find some incredible premonitions of 9/11.
Posted by tmonkey at December 27, 2002 10:00 AM
I randomly caught the beginning of the cloning press conference and was stunned. That Raelian woman is so cool; the gleeful but controlled aplomb with which she announced that the first human clone had been born... And I wondered, was this it? Was this the moment? Let us all approach the singularity together, my friends.
I think cloning is kind of misused as a term and overrated as a concept: so what if a couple or a person wants to grow another human with the same DNA? (S/he'll probably have some defective organs and severe psychological problems.) We have this skewed science fictive notion of the power of cloning, as if the clone pops out of the test tube fully formed, prime age, with consciousness intact (like the orcs in LOTR). Somebody's gotta program the dang thing, and that's where it gets to be really messy. Genetic engineering is the scarier concept -- I want my son to have Lance Armstrong's VO2 and Michael Jordan's vertical -- but even then, I believe nurture will prove itself to be decisive -- that is, until we figure out how to do brain transplants...
nature trumps nurture. trust me on this one.
I am not saying that I think cloning is all that, or that this is actually the moment, the point of no return. But the event reminded me of 12 Monkeys, it had that stomach-lurching feeling of maybe maybe huge change. Like when the magnetic core of the earth stops spinning, in The Core.
I think it's more like 80% nurture v 20% nature. OK, so DNA can carry things like a propensity for certain diseases or cancer, but the development of the mind is largely a matter of will and upbringing and circumstance. Gattaca, there is no gene for the human spirit, and all that. ...
I'm adopted. Reverse the 80/20 and maybe we can agree.
What exactly do you mean when you talk about "nature" and "nurture"? Physical characteristics like fatness, thinness, hairline, musculature? Sure, I'll grant you that nature/genetics has a ton to do with physiology. And insofar as physiology impacts psychology, the scale tips towards "nature", ie, the things we have no control over.
The things we do have control over are really, to me, the crux of the issue. The idealist in me has to believe we have control over the general course of our lives, barring freak accidents like getting hit by a truck, an epidemic of some sort, or an ELE. I also hate to think that I'm anything like my biological parents, other than the metabolism and physical characteristics I inherited. I understand that this is something like saying if you're depressed you just have to will yourself to get over it -- which is not acceptable in the face of scientific studies showing chemical imbalances which may or may not be inherited.
But the genetics game (or "nature") is still a game of chance, like saying you might as well round off 98% to 100%. Another way of arguing for nurture with a slight lead over nature is to look at children of exceptional people: how often to the kids of superstars turn out to be just as incredible?
I believe that behavior is almost as genetically guided -- not determined, I'm no determinist -- as physiology. When I bring up my own genetics interrupted, I mean to say that I can see, first hand, the behavioral/attitude/outlook differences among genetically unrelated populations. (say, me and my parents.) Not that this doesn't happen in related families. It's different, though. Genetics, for instance, made you ornery tonight.
See now that's where I think it all goes wrong.
In my view -- and this is a very unscientific view, I'll admit -- I believe it is false to think that the vagueries and nuance of human behavior can be deterministically categorized into discrete switches, to the point where we can say "we have discovered the gene marker for sarcasm or happiness or intelligence". It's the same kind of thinking that is propogated by the pharmaceutical industry which would have us believe that there isn't an ailment we can't "cure" with a pill.
Sure we can address certain biochemical areas with the equivalent of cluster bombs, but that's not necessarily solving the "problem". There are other ways to affect things (change in diet, lifestyle, outlook, social pressure, etc) that may not be immediate, but certainly have a causal relationship.
I guess this all a question of worldview, and the genome/genetic tinkering point we have reached is an outgrowth of the Enlightenment, out of determinism, that the world is completely knowable through science, and I'm not saying that it's unknowable or that I'm an agnostic or anything. I just think that propensity and disposition is one thing, but as human beings at a particular point of technnological and sociological development, we have achieved such control over our environment that we are able to lessen the overall dominance of genetics in our survival (how about nurture:70% and nature 30%?).
Of course, now we are faced with the prospect of gene therapy/engineering as opposed to compensating for genetic effects (imagine, for instance, designer skin colors), which is why we are at a tremendous moment in history.
well I know where the gene for sarcasm isn't, 'cause the "genetics made you ornery" thing was sarcastic.
OK, I am taking steps to correct my irony blindness. <irony>.Long Live Snarky! </irony>
My final volley in this thread.