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Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 21 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Warrior-Poet, Moderator

Im actually surprised that this topic hasnt been broght up before I was curious on your feelings towards Genetic Engineering and Transhumanism mostly the former. Do you feel manipulating genetic information is wrong or right? I feel that as long as we arent using it to make superhumans or other selfish wants, its ok. Manipualting DNA to solve problems with disease is perfectly exceptable. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 21 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Why on earth shouldn't it be right? I mean, it will help people, it will hurt no people, (barring the inevitable mishaps and screwups, but those also happen with regular medicine and when you cross the road in rush hour.) so what can one possibly say against it? (apart from religious arguments.)

There are risks involved, certainly. Careful testing and being pretty damn sure just what the gene therapy is going to do before applying are mandatory. But again, this goes for anything in the medical sciences.

Frankly, I don't see the problem with making superhumans either, if that is at all possible. Using genetic manipulation to make everybody smarter? Stronger? Healthier? Sounds great to me. What's the downside? Humans aren't the be-all end-all of life on earth. We're just one stop along the road of evolution, and there are quite a few flaws with the product so far. Some "intelligent design" would go a long way towards rectifying that. (if you pardon the very lame pun.)

Genetics is the next big frontier. In the nineteenth century, it was chemistry and mechanics. In the twentieth, the massive step was electronics and computers. In the twentyfirst, we'll master the art of genetic manipulation, and gain control over life like we never had before. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 21 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Warrior-Poet, Moderator

When I said superhumans i should have been more specific about what I dont like. When parents determine what characteristics their child will have such as blond hair, blue eyes, willl grow up to be 6'5 thats what I feel is wrong. Making their ideal son or daughter. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 21 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Dawnstorm, Candidate

The "no" vote was me.

I associated "genetic engineering" with "social engineering" (of the behaviouristic bent), thoughtlessly clicked "no" and hit reply.

Then read the topic.

Uh-oh...

That'll teach me to read first, vote then. Consider my answer a measurment error... <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: -->

***

I see no problem with manipulating genes; but some of the impetus to do so is scary; and that's what most often is behind the idea of creating &quot;idealised&quot; humans. A few examples:

There's this SF short story by Greg Egan: &quot;Cocoon&quot;, in which a biochemical firm discovers a &quot;genetical cure&quot; for homosexuality. The main character is a homosexual industrial spy. Interesting read. Interesting questions.

Then, there's been a documentary about parents who lost their child, who are hoping for &quot;cloning&quot; techniques to bring her back. *Shakes head*

But these aren't specific caveats; it's similar to my apprehensions about &quot;non-restorative cosmetic surgery&quot; (such as breast-augmentation). While I do think that people should have the right to undergo such operations, shows like MTVs &quot;I want a famous face&quot; bother me. What I don't like is the way that certain tendencies make it harder for people to be &quot;imperfect&quot;, and usually all those tendencies work towards a unification, which, frankly, makes life boring.

I see a continuity, there: Make-up/clotes --&gt; Hairdo/Dying hair --&gt; Tattoos --&gt; Surgery/hormone &amp; chemical treatments --&gt; Genetic engeneering. These get increasingly harder to reverse, and genetic engeneering might prove to be irreversible.

On a grand scale, this tends to cramp your freedoms of expression. I don't want a copyrighted body; and I don't want to be ousted for not having one. (I'm a SF reader, can you tell? <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) --> )

***

Anyway, long talk about what Warrior-Poet did NOT ask about. I have, actually, little to say about the responsible use of genetic engineering to understand/combat diseases (especially hereditary ones). New technology, old problem.

We have to be more careful with genetic engineering than we have to be with, for example, breeding (because the results are even harder to predict; and the side-effects could only come out after generations...). But that's about it.

I see no problem with genetic engineering, really. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 21 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by gierra, Sorcerer-of-Rank

i'm not terribly against it, i think we're just so far from knowing enough about it that we would not be able to do something responsibly. it raises so many questions about regulations, where do you draw the line with what you can and cannot do. science and technology are part of our evolution.. we certainly didn;t get to the top of the food chain by the strength of our bodies!

obviously it has a lot of good points. we can test fetuses now to see if they will get things like CP and MS, so if genetic engineering can correct that, then that's great. but then people will say, well we can tell our child will have bad eyesight, let's fix that. oh, our child will be more prone to obesity, let's fix that. oh, our child will have freckles, we don;t like that, let's get rid of them. and so on and so on. where do you draw the line?

i haven't thought enough about it, or even knoiw enough about the subject to really form a solid opinion tho. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 22 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Zarathinius, Auditor

Obviously I am very much in favor of using genetic engineering to help those who are somehow genetically disadvantaged, but I also think the implications are many and varied, especially considering the fact that genetic engineering is still in its infancy. Will genetic engineering be reliable? Will there perhaps be subtle flaws or mutations that result from human tinkering, things that may not become apparent until after many years, posibly even many generations, of modified humans? We really have no way of knowing until genetic engineering reaches a point where anybody with enough money has the capability to change their children in innumerable ways. And when that happens, it might be too late to prevent social revolution. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 22 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Whilst that is true, it also applies to almost any other innovation. How many medicines turned out to have additional side effects years after their introduction? How many years did scientists work with radium before they discovered the dangers of radioactivity? How many decades did we burn coal and oil before the ecological effects became apparent?

The bottom line is that there are definitely risks involved in genetic engineering, as there is in any other new technology. We should certainly do our utmost to test these things and make them safe. But we cannot let the fear of possible future dangers cripple us into inaction. If something does come up in the future, surely people will then be able to discover a solution. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 22 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Xray the Enforcer, Auditor

I've never bought into the &quot;slippery slope&quot; (gods, I hate that term) argument on any given subject, although sometimes I get a bit wild-eyed and belligerent at the encroaching theocracy we got going on down here in the U.S.

Anyway, I was going to make a well-reasoned argument against germline manipulation, but it seems my neurons are unwilling to cooperate this morning. Must goad them with more coffee. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 22 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Zarathinius, Auditor

The bottom line is that there are definitely risks involved in genetic engineering, as there is in any other new technology. We should certainly do our utmost to test these things and make them safe. But we cannot let the fear of possible future dangers cripple us into inaction.


Yes, I agree that most problems that are discovered after people have died of it can be rectified to prevent future damage, but there is a difference with publicly available genetic modification. Widespread genetic engineering of humans may have the potential to create a social division; one that really would be determined by virtue of birth rather than the superficial &quot;noble blood&quot; believed to exist in the past. When people would be born with a literal genetic legacy other than that of their ancestors, there could arise either a class of superhumans, or a class of degenerates. The extent, availabilty, and possible future implications of genetic engineering are largely unknown. This does not mean, of course, that it should be avoided or shunned, but it does mean that great care must be taken in its development. It also means that people who have something to gain from its distribution - medical corporations and commercial labratories - must be kept under close supervision. Capitalism does not favor long-term caution; it favors short-term profit. Despite the possible benefits, problems, or whatever else associated with genetic engineering, we must be careful not to jump into a situation without foresight. Vague references to the possible benefits are only speculation (think of nuclear fission energy), and the doomsayers are paranoids who fear change.

In short, we should allow further study and development of genetic engineering (humans have never been very good at witholding progress), but we can't make any permanent decisions when we still have so far to go. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 23 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I hadn't though of that, interesting. It's certainly possible that genetic engineering will further increase the differences between the rich and the poor if the rich are actually genetically enchanced by their parents.

But I think this will not be a radical departure from the status quo. Right now, the upper class already has the advantage because their children receive better education, better nourishment. They already have a higher average intelligence than the lower classes, I suspect.

In our current society, we try to combat this through systems like public schooling and scholarship grants. There's also the principle of equality before law, flawed though it may be in practice.

Similar devices would have to be employed for the protection of the non-genetically enhanced in the future. Even so, it is possible this would cause far more bitter class struggles than we currently have. There's also the possibility of a religious backlash. All in all, increased inequality is a downside to genetical engineering, yes.

Still, I don't think such troubles would last more than a couple of generations, nor do I think our current equal law system would collapse into a genetic caste society. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 25 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Zarathinius, Auditor

Fair enough. I suppose my point about the gap beteen the elite and the poor was that, in our modern world, the general attitude is: &quot;If I can pay for it, I have a right to it.&quot; Although this seems fair as long as people stay within the realm of the law, it tends to perpetuate the division between the elite and everybody else. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 26 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Yes, it does tend to keep the gap intact. But I doubt anything will ever break that down completely. Even when the communists in russia tried they ended up with stalinism instead.

Then again, the division between the rich and the poor is much bigger in some places than in others. Here in Europe, things aren't so bad. Are you from the states? If so, that would go some way towards explaining our different outlooks as regarding this subject, I suspect. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 26 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Virus, Candidate

I voted no.

Genetic engineering as an answer to imperfection prescribed by nature is absurd. We have too many people on this planet as it is.

Patching up bad breeding with a quick fix would eliminate decent, diligent people striving to better themselves to find good mates. After all, why be responsible when you could abort/alter the product of crack binge sex?

I believe nature knows best. To circumvent the long process of evolution which cultivates the noble and strong-willed for a prepackaged version is an insult both to nature and mankind. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 27 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Dawnstorm, Candidate

Quote: &quot;Virus&quot;:1a5garvt
I believe nature knows best. To circumvent the long process of evolution which cultivates the noble and strong-willed for a prepackaged version is an insult both to nature and mankind.[/quote:1a5garvt]

On the other hand one could argue that the ability to manipulate genes is a result of the &quot;long process of evolution&quot; and will continue to be a factor in it (even this discussion might proof evolutionally relevent).

In other words, unless you demonstrate how anything humans (= biological organisms) do can take place outside of evolution, I do not find this argument compelling.

Also, I think you'll have to show how evolution &quot;cultivates the stong-willed and the noble&quot;. To my mind evolution simply caters to the lucky, and those who have more lottery tickets are more likely to be lucky.

The problematic elements seem to be the ability to reflect on evolution, and the desire to have evolution go in a way beneficial to humans (which evolution may or may not do).

If I view evolution as a game, &quot;genetic manipulation&quot; is a &quot;risk move&quot;, as far as adaption is concerned. It enhances our ability to react to change (a bit like a homeostatic system, really), but it also adds an unpredictable element of danger. So while we might better our chances, overall, we still have introduced a new risk, the extent of which we have yet to comprehend. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 27 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Zarathinius, Auditor

Then again, the division between the rich and the poor is much bigger in some places than in others. Here in Europe, things aren't so bad. Are you from the states? If so, that would go some way towards explaining our different outlooks as regarding this subject, I suspect.


Yeah, I'm from the US. Here we have capitalistic healthcare, a corrupted, entrenched government, and the Kansas board of Education (i.e. intelligent design). I suppose the problems we are discussing seem larger to me because of it; the U.S. has a greater ignoramus-per-square-mile count than all of Europe combined, I think. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I strongly doubt that. Different culture, absolutely. Different prejudices. But we have them just the same. Last year, my countrymen were burning down schools and mosques after one filmmaker got murdered by a fanatic... how's that for enlightenment? Our government is mostly ineffective, our healthcare is collapsing under it's own weight. Different problems, but there all the same.

Re: Virus

I believe nature knows best. To circumvent the long process of evolution which cultivates the noble and strong-willed for a prepackaged version is an insult both to nature and mankind.


I disagree with this one. Evolution is very effective at achieving its own goals, which is creating lifeforms that are good at reproducing. Humans take the top spot here, as evidenced by current overpopulation problems.

But, as those same overpopulation problems prove, evolution is flawed too. It doesn't adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Due to the ways it works it is unable to solve problems in the most efficient way, it can only take small steps. Problems that do not directly influence reproductive capability remain unadressed.

Evolution creates rugged, jury-rigged organisms. But a smart engineer with the proper tools in a controlled environment like the one we live in can do a whole lot better. We're busy developing those tools.

I strongly doubt genetic engineering would make people less responsible. No matter how good your genes, you still need to learn and to work hard to get anywhere. Talent is useless if not applied. Nor would it affect &quot;mate selection&quot;, since people don't chose their &quot;mates&quot; based on their genes anyway. And there's still nurture versus nature.... no matter how good the gene make-up, without a good education and good parenting the child won't get far.

I fail to see the relevance of abortion and crack binge sex to this debate.

Finally, I agree with Dawnstorm that evolution doesn't cultivate the &quot;strong willed and noble&quot;. It cultivates the smart and the rapid-breeding. Are rats strong-willed and noble? Are cockroaches?

Society will always favour the strong-willed. Education and upbringing will always have to instill the ideals of nobility. Evolution has precious little to do with this. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Virus, Candidate

In other words, unless you demonstrate how anything humans (= biological organisms) do can take place outside of evolution, I do not find this argument compelling.


I am not saying that humans are separate from evolution; only that artificially accomplishing what would normally require better people is not the answer. To accept it as such is to surrender to consumerism, to mediocrity.

Also, I think you'll have to show how evolution &quot;cultivates the stong-willed and the noble&quot;.


Think Darwin.

To my mind evolution simply caters to the lucky, and those who have more lottery tickets are more likely to be lucky.


This is slave mentality.

It enhances our ability to react to change (a bit like a homeostatic system, really)


Sure, if you need plenty of factory drones.

Evolution is very effective at achieving its own goals, which is creating lifeforms that are good at reproducing.


Yes it is, and you can bet it will kill us off if we continue our arrogance.

But, as those same overpopulation problems prove, evolution is flawed too.


How can evolution be flawed?

Due to the ways it works it is unable to solve problems in the most efficient way, it can only take small steps.


What? What is the most efficient way?

Talent is useless if not applied.


Exactly. Good genetics is a privilege. To be able to pass on your genes is a privilege.

people don't chose their &quot;mates&quot; based on their genes anyway.


Oh? So what do they base it on then?

I fail to see the relevance of abortion and crack binge sex to this debate.


I fail to see how your sentence is relevant either but I guess you missed the joke.

It cultivates the smart and the rapid-breeding. Are rats strong-willed and noble? Are cockroaches?


So you admit that the human race’s current route is destined to the likes of these vermin?

Society will always favour the strong-willed.


Does our society favor the strong or the highest bidder? I believe it is the latter. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Warrior-Poet, Moderator

Virus, harsh but most of what you said is completely correct. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

No, it's not.

You claim evolution cultivates the strong willed and the noble. Then, when I bring up my rats and cockroaches example to prove that evolution does not in fact do so you express a fear that humanity is headed the direction of these creatures... that makes no sense. Cockroaches and rats evolved without any evil meddling with evolution, right? So they're strong willed and noble? If not, how is humanity different?

How can evolution be flawed? Because it can only ever favour short-term advantages. Something that will only prove helpful generations down the line will never evolve. That's why our spines aren't suited for walking upright, and will give back-problems to vast quantities of people. That's why our eyes have blind spots. That's why there are tons of genetic disabilities and diseases, people born with defects so hideous they cannot survive for more than a couple of years or decades. Recessive traits survive a very long time even if they're disadvantageous.

A human engineer can improve on problems such as these. Unlike evolution, which is a blind process, a human can see what he's doing, where he's going, what he wants to accomplish. He can attempt solutions far more ambitious than evoltion can, and far more quickly.

And will evolution kill us of because of hubris? Ha! It's not a god or something... we have mastered the food chain. We might be decimated by some new disease, but other than that biological threats are few and far between. (and against diseases, genetic engineering may well prove the prime weapon) Man is far more likely to destroy himself with nuclear weapons or enviromental abuse than anything natural. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Dawnstorm, Candidate

Quote: &quot;Virus&quot;:cs52j2wc
In other words, unless you demonstrate how anything humans (= biological organisms) do can take place outside of evolution, I do not find this argument compelling.


I am not saying that humans are separate from evolution; only that artificially accomplishing what would normally require better people is not the answer. To accept it as such is to surrender to consumerism, to mediocrity.[/quote:cs52j2wc]

What do you mean by &quot;articial&quot; in an evolutionary context?

[quote:cs52j2wc]Also, I think you'll have to show how evolution &quot;cultivates the stong-willed and the noble&quot;.


Think Darwin.[/quote:cs52j2wc]

Survival of the fittest. Natural selection. Adaption. Nothing about strong-willed. Nothing about noble.

Explain again.

[quote:cs52j2wc]To my mind evolution simply caters to the lucky, and those who have more lottery tickets are more likely to be lucky.


This is slave mentality.[/quote:cs52j2wc]

Who's a slave to who/what? I'm not sure I know what you're driving at here. Evolution has no purpose. There's nothing to submit to.

[quote:cs52j2wc]It enhances our ability to react to change (a bit like a homeostatic system, really)


Sure, if you need plenty of factory drones.[/quote:cs52j2wc]

How does modifying genetic material to (for example) better resist certain diseases equate to conformistic behaviour?

*** view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 28 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by TollofDays, Peralogue

This discussion topic brings to mind that movie Gattica. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Virus, Candidate

Because it can only ever favour short-term advantages.


Short-term advantages? Some species are nearly as old as the planet itself! I believe you are talking about technology…

Something that will only prove helpful generations down the line will never evolve.


Evolution is a never-ending process, what are you talking about?

That's why our spines aren't suited for walking upright, and will give back-problems to vast quantities of people. That's why our eyes have blind spots. That's why there are tons of genetic disabilities and diseases, people born with defects so hideous they cannot survive for more than a couple of years or decades.


These defects are the product of bad breeding and nature intended this, She is not wrong. If a species grows slovenly then it will become extinct as deserved.

By the way, where did you get that spine information?

Recessive traits survive a very long time even if they're disadvantageous.


So what if eugenics takes long?

A human engineer can improve on problems such as these. Unlike evolution, which is a blind process, a human can see what he's doing, where he's going, what he wants to accomplish. He can attempt solutions far more ambitious than evoltion can, and far more quickly.


Please explain how evolution is a “blind” process. Also, the majority of humans cannot “see what they’re doing” look at all the damage we have already caused the planet.

And will evolution kill us of because of hubris? Ha! It's not a god or something... we have mastered the food chain. We might be decimated by some new disease, but other than that biological threats are few and far between. (and against diseases, genetic engineering may well prove the prime weapon) Man is far more likely to destroy himself with nuclear weapons or enviromental abuse than anything natural.


I was merely pointing out that nature finds a way toward balance. Man should discover and appreciate nature and this balance, since he is a part of it, rather than trying to conquer it. Also, you said yourself that overpopulation has become a problem. How about depletion of resources?


When gene manipulation is as easy as making a choice it oversimplifies a vastly complex process. Nature gives us our frailties for a reason, or would you have us be immortal?

What do you mean by &quot;articial&quot; in an evolutionary context?


Now you’re just playing semantic games. Get real.

How does modifying genetic material to (for example) better resist certain diseases equate to conformistic behaviour?


Ok let me put it this way, would you take the time to raise your own child or have one molded to your liking using some magic machine? view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Warrior-Poet, Moderator

Again Virus made all of my points for me. Nice Job Virus. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

I think you somewhat missed my points, virus. (but perhaps I didn't state them clearly enough)

Short-term advantages? Some species are nearly as old as the planet itself! I believe you are talking about technology…


By this I mean that a change is only beficial from evolution's point of view if it provides an immediate advantage. If something mutates that will eventually become something hugely beneficial, but doesn't help right now, it will not be retained and the beneficial trait will not evolve.

Moreover, evolution can't take a step back. If something has evolved and is helping, it cannot be replaced from the ground up by a new ability that will do a better job, because that would involve a short term disadvantage to gain a long-term benefit. To take the spine example: it was originally evolved for species walking on 4 legs or swimming. When man started to walk upright, the spine was adapted, but it still wasn't truly suited for bearing the weight of the entire human body, giving humans never-ending back problems. It would have been better to design a new skeleton from the ground up, but that is not possible in evolution. You can't &quot;unevolve&quot; the first spine.

(as for my info on the spine... it comes from a Dutch newspaper article I read some time ago. But a quick google search confirms it, for example [url=http&#58;//www&#46;pbs&#46;org/wgbh/evolution/library/07/1/l_071_02&#46;html:36t243tx]here.[/url:36t243tx])

Additionally, evolution will only solve problems that directly affect the capability to breed. For example, dementia is not a disadvantage evolutionary speaking, because by the time a creature becomes dement he'll have finished breeding and raising his children, so if his brain melts away that's no issue. However, it's quite a big deal for humans who have to deal with their loved ones slowly becoming childlike strangers.

Finally, evolution only works on the long-term. Our modern society is changing so mind-bogglingly rapidly that previous evolutionary advantages are now fast becoming crippling disabilities. For example, growing fat and being lazy are highly advantageous in evolution. If you're fat, you won't starve if bad times come, and it means you use the food you eat more efficiently. If you're lazy, you conserve energy until you really need it. This also means you'll need less food, and are far more capable of survival in meagre times. I need to explain what effect those traits have nowadays...

These defects are the product of bad breeding and nature intended this, She is not wrong. If a species grows slovenly then it will become extinct as deserved.


Bullshit. Those defects are the product of evolutionary flaws, not bad breeding. They're inherent in the human species. Nature &quot;intends&quot; nothing, it is a mindless process. And where on earth do you get concepts like &quot;nature isn't wrong&quot; and &quot;extinct as deserved&quot; from?

Evolution has nothing to do with survival of the &quot;deserving.&quot; A species cannot &quot;grow slovenly&quot;, it can merely be replaced by a better species, or perhaps fail to adapt to a changing environment. Deserving has nothing to do with this, no more than the moon &quot;deserves&quot; to orbit the earth, or light &quot;deserves&quot; to travel at 300000 kilometers per second.

Please explain how evolution is a &quot;blind&quot; process


Evolution is a blind progress, because it's essentially trial and error. Things mutate, they either breed or they die. If they breed, the mutation is passed along, and continues to breed. Evolution is blind because it doesn't have a goal, it doesn't know where it is going. It's simply a matter of some things working and others not working, without knowing the reason.

Humans have the advantage in this, because rather than relying on random chance to produce the wanted mutation, they can actively search for it. Moreoever, they can make improvements that would never evolve naturally, such as my dementia example.

However, you are right in stating your doubts about human foresight. In many cases, we don't know what we're doing either. But that doesn't mean genetic engineering should be thrown out with the bathwater... it just means we should take care, and not attempt anything too ambitious until we've thoroughly tested simpler procedures.

I was merely pointing out that nature finds a way toward balance. Man should discover and appreciate nature and this balance, since he is a part of it, rather than trying to conquer it. Also, you said yourself that overpopulation has become a problem. How about depletion of resources?


Nature may find a balance, but the fact is that as a species we've overcome this for the most part. There are no longer any predators but ourselves, famine no longer is a risk. (most every famine last century were caused by war, not a physical lack of food. Or they were the work of idiotic leaders like Mao.) Disease isn't a shadow of the threat it posed in the past.

As you rightly pointed out, this has brought it's own problems with it, such as overpopulation and depletion of resources. I'll agree a balance must be found here, but it's not nature's balance. That would involve killing 90% of the earth's population in diseases and famines until we're reduced to numbers the world can comfortably support. We'll find our own way, with solar and nuclear energy to replace the natural resources we've used, with birth control and cultural changes to limit population, with engineering to drain seas and cultivate mountains. Perhaps, one day, we'll even be able to cultivate other planets, and so truly escape all bounds of nature.

When gene manipulation is as easy as making a choice it oversimplifies a vastly complex process. Nature gives us our frailties for a reason, or would you have us be immortal?


No, nature did not &quot;give&quot; us frailties for &quot;a reason.&quot; They either are things simply inconsequential to the evolutionary process, or flaws remaining from previous evolutionary steps. Some of our &quot;weaknesses&quot; would indeed have been instrumental in our evolution. If proto-man had been strong and fast with great sharp claws and teeth, he'd never have learned to use tools. And you'd have a point if you said that we're busy wriggling out from under the mechanisms of evolution, and that in doing so we may well be preventing future evolutionary improvements.

But I don't care about any of that. Evolution isn't all that it's geared up to be, and personally I'm not about to wait another few million years for the next evolutionary steps. Humans can do better than natural processes. We're indeed trying to master nature, and a damn good thing that is too! I think we've just about succeeded.
And as for immortality? That too may be down the line, if current theories on cell reproduction and decline prove correct. Not sure we're psychologically fit to handle that, but that's for another generation to worry about.

Anyway, my bottom line would be that you're right to draw attention to risk of human failings messing stuff up, but that given the magnificent possibilities lying before us I do not think that should stop us, merely slow us down to a safer pace. And anyway, we're not talking about changing the entire human species right now, we're talking about curing all kinds of terrible diseases and disabilities by through genetic engineering. Would you truly have us do nothing just for the fear our solution may prove wrong?

EDIT: and you still haven't shown how evolution cultivates the strong-willed and the noble rather than the cockroaches and the rats. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Dawnstorm, Candidate

Quote: &quot;Virus&quot;:1nnop6mo
What do you mean by &quot;articial&quot; in an evolutionary context?


Now you’re just playing semantic games. Get real.[/quote:1nnop6mo]

Yep, that's a question of semantics, in part. That's because I'm trying to understand what you're saying.

But the point behind it is that introducing the &quot;artificial vs. natural&quot; into the context of human evolution is problematic (in the sense of &quot;should be topicalised&quot;). I do think I have a point to raise that semantic question.

From the evolutionary perspective it doesn't matter at all what we do. We do one thing, we survive. We do another, don't. Or the other way round. There's nothing intended about it.

What we &quot;should or should not do&quot;, from a species' perspective within the context of evolution depends on what furthers the survival of the species. The assumption the evolutionary context places upon us here is that the species wishes to survive.

At that point I'm not sure what you're arguing.

Two possibilities I can see:

1. You might argue that &quot;artificial&quot; means of adaption do not favour the survival of the human species.

2. You might argue that &quot;artificial&quot; means of adaptation change the &quot;rules of evolution&quot; and what we end up with is in some way inferior to what we would have had if we placed our trust in &quot;natural&quot; processes.

Very likely what you're saying is something I can't think of right now. But since all the things I can think of &quot;hinge&quot; upon the question of what &quot;artificial&quot; means in an evolutionary context, I thought clarification of the term would be a good way to start. For example: Was it wrong to invent the wheel? Is it wrong to live in rectangular houses? Is it wrong to light fires? Should we have done without plastic? Etc.

[quote:1nnop6mo]How does modifying genetic material to (for example) better resist certain diseases equate to conformistic behaviour?


Ok let me put it this way, would you take the time to raise your own child or have one molded to your liking using some magic machine?[/quote:1nnop6mo]

Spontanous reaction: the former.

But: How do you teach your child not to have a genetic disease, for example? How do you teach your child not to have inherited bad eyesight? Or are you saying that we should not attempt to rectify such situations, but instead we should accept this as the &quot;natural&quot; way?

I did say, in some post above, that I don't want a trademarked body. But that's no argument against genetic manipulation as such; it's more an argument against certain cultural trends (which include non-restorative plastic surgery, among others) which will find a new expression with genetic manipulation.

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If I'm confusing you as much you're confusing me, perhaps we should employ an interpreter? <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) --> view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Dawnstorm, Candidate

Quote: &quot;Randal&quot;:1dj0rifd
Humans have the advantage in this, because rather than relying on random chance to produce the wanted mutation, they can actively search for it. Moreoever, they can make improvements that would never evolve naturally, such as my dementia example.

...

Nature may find a balance, but the fact is that as a species we've overcome this for the most part. There are no longer any predators but ourselves, famine no longer is a risk. (most every famine last century were caused by war, not a physical lack of food. Or they were the work of idiotic leaders like Mao.) Disease isn't a shadow of the threat it posed in the past.

...

But I don't care about any of that. Evolution isn't all that it's geared up to be, and personally I'm not about to wait another few million years for the next evolutionary steps. Humans can do better than natural processes. We're indeed trying to master nature, and a damn good thing that is too! I think we've just about succeeded.[/quote:1dj0rifd]

Randal, I have similar issues with these quotes than I have with Virus' posts (which makes me think that the problem, indeed, lies with me. <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> )

&quot;Humans have the advantage in this...&quot;

That's unclear, I think. Do you mean that Human goeal centered-ness has an advantage over blind evolution? Do you mean that, within evolution, Humans have an advantage in this against other species?

There is a sense in which the &quot;goal centeredness&quot; of human cognition has advantages to humans that are not directly related to reproduction.

We have not mastered nature (or evolution) in any way, I'd say. We're still part of the process of evolution. We may have begun to modify our surrounding to an unprecedent extent, but if the environment no longer supports such modifications, our advantages against other species decreases. The modified environments we live in do have an effect on our physical evolution, I'd say.

Basically, I'm arguing that - in the context of evolution - man vs. nature might be a false dichotomy. For example, if you say that &quot;most every famine last century were caused by war, not a physical lack of food,&quot; that's an imprecise comparison. Food was physically lacking; the cause was war, rather than, say, a draught. How does saying this differ from: &quot;Locusts don't move on because food is physically lacking, they move on because they've eaten it all.&quot; In both cases, behavioural patterns are the cause for food shortage. Humans tend to wage war and cause food-shortage in the process.

I do hope I have a point, and I'm not just spouting semantics. But if we think we're wriggling out from under evolution, I think we're kidding ourselves. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Yes, with &quot;humans have the advantage&quot; I mean that humans can actively search for solutions for specific problems, whilst evolution either needs hundreds of thousands of years to come up with something similar, or may fail to come up with a solution at all because the problems don't directly impact the capability to reproduce.

I mean that genetic engineering would be able to solve problems natural selection never could by itself.

You're right that I probably went too far when I stated that we are beyond evolution now. Got carried away by my argument, sorry. Your comparison of war with locusts is apt, I think.

I do believe that many of the natural constraints of this world have been overcome by humans. In that sense, we are above nature. But the principles of evolution do still apply, albeit at a social level rather than at a genetic level. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Dawnstorm, Candidate

Thanks for the clarification. <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->

Quote: &quot;Randal&quot;:3uvwcy6t
I do believe that many of the natural constraints of this world have been overcome by humans. In that sense, we are above nature. But the principles of evolution do still apply, albeit at a social level rather than at a genetic level.[/quote:3uvwcy6t]

Then, I think, that's where we differ.

I see no substantially different approach to the rest of the animal kingdom at work. We modify our surroundings to suit our needs, but then so do ants. Sure, no species has done so, up to now, to the extent humans have. In that respect, I see technology as a by-product of evolution, a more complicated version of the stick a monkey may use to disturb tasty insects. Without rawmaterials, all our technology is void. If a Tiger mauls us we die. We're subject to the same standards as the rest of the planet. It's just that we're better insulated, which makes the process more complicated.

I agree that social behaviour has an impact on evolution. But, I would argue, that that's true for all animals, especially social ones (ants, bees, wolves, chimps...), albeit to a lesser extent. I do see the differences you see (I think, unless I misunderstand), I just don't think they're evolutionally significant.

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[size=75:3uvwcy6t](Btw, off-topic, but: since you talked about the possibility of immortality; perhaps you'd enjoy reading Brain Stableford's SF-novel &quot;The Fountains of Youth&quot; - which I think should be called &quot;Mortimer Grey's History of Death&quot;, like the novella it spawned from. Interesting thoughts in there and quite an entertaining read.)[/size:3uvwcy6t] view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Peter, Auditor

Hmmmm, how about this interpretation of the most recent points in the argument.

1. There is such a thing as being evolutionarily good (i.e. increases chance of survival). So, man's capacity to develop complex tools to control his environment is evolutionarily good because it helps the species, man, survive and helps individual members if the species pass their genes along. Therefore all technology which helps man deal with its environment is evolutionarily good, including technology to alter our genes.

A quick note this use of good is meant to be purely descriptive, there is no prescriptivity in it, so there is no notion that good is how things should be (should just has no place here).

2. There is such a thing as being good for humans (i.e. increases chances of survival, of being happy, content, of flourishing etc.). So, man's capacity to develop complex tools to help him control his environment is good for humans because it helps the people survive, it takes away their pain, satisfies their desires and allows them to flourish as people. Therefore all technology which helps man deal with his environment is good for humans, including technology to alter our genes.

On a quick note for this use of good, it is not necessarily prescriptive in nature. It could be purely descriptive, although I would expect most people not to think of it in that way.

It seems to me that Dawnstorm is arguing from 1 and Randal from 2. Both notions of good include survival as good, but the second has more content (in and of itself that is not meant to be a value judgement, more content is neither good nor bad for the theory, it depends on what that content is and what we value). I think that Randal views evolution in terms of the good it does for humans, so technology is different from evolution in that it offers a different approach to creating greater good for humans (and that it can do better than evolution).

So, when Dawnstorm says that technology is just a more complex effect of evolution, he is saying that technology is good for survival. When Randal says that technology allows us to improve upon and overcome evolution he is saying that evolution is not as good for humans as technology is (or could be with enough work).

If this is the case (and let's be honest here, I may have not only got the wrong end of the stick, I might have got the wrong end of the wrong stick), then really all we are seeing here is a discussion about the use of the word evolution. I would be inclined to see it more like Randal, but then I am not a scientist, and this certainly doesn't mean that Dawnstorm is wrong (just that I think Randal's account gives us greater scope for discussion of interesting notions).

If I have totally misrepresented your views then I apologise. view post


Transhumanism and Genetic Engineering posted 29 March 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionTranshumanism and Genetic Engineering by Randal, Auditor

Nah, what you said sounds just about right to me.

Dawnstorm: never heard of this Stableford fellow, but it's a concept I've come across in a number of different science fiction novels, though not as the main subject. I'll check this book out if I can find it somewhere. (which isn't a given here.) [/off-topic] view post


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