Genetic Engineering (II)

This is the conclusion to the blog Genetic Engineering (I), which I originally wrote in 2003.
Prague's Jewish Cemetery

Today, it should be noticed by every policy maker – political, economic, social, military, medical, religious, scientific – that in fact conscious decision making alters natural selection. Human intention (and all its unintended consequences!) is now part of natural selection’s effects on the human gene pool. Design instigated by human choice effects the evolutionary process, probably influencing or changing the human gene pool at the same rate as natural selection would in its random creativity. Whatever are the limits of human intelligence or wisdom, they still have become part of the evolutionary process and thus nature itself. War, genocide, racial purity, marital laws, reproductive technologies, social constraints, and medical success in keeping diseased people alive and part of the reproductive genetic pool, all are the result of human conscious choice and are in fact altering the pure “randomness” of natural selection in human evolution. The fact is these policy choices in realms beyond science have a greater impact on the human gene pool than any current genetic technologies. Political, moral, medical, military, industrial and economical choices and policies do impact the human gene pool. Obviously as long as humans have existed, we had the potential to change the human gene pool. The revolution which occurs is our gaining awareness of human conscious choice and our own design influencing the creativity of natural selection and the entirety of the human gene pool.

The human effect on our gene pool is not limited to our efforts to preserve human lives or destroy them. Human use of energies and human technologies which are driven by population growth, which in turn are promulgated by advances in farming technologies, food production and medical science’s ability to preserve life, are all interacting with and producing changes on the environment. Evolution’s mechanisms work such that those species or even genetic combinations which are best able to adapt to these environmental changes will be the ones that carry forward into the future. Thus again the process of natural selection finds itself shaped by human choice. Policy makers today by their choices impact not only the immediate present but the genetic future of humanity as well.

gods of war

Ever since humans became capable of making conscious choices, we have been altering both the human genome and our environment. Human migration has spread the effects of human intention throughout the world. Globalization again reconfigures the human gene pool and impacts the environment. To focus so narrowly on genetic science and its potential risk of influencing or changing the gene pool causes us to lose sight of the bigger picture of human endeavors and decision making. It is a near-sightedness that fails to take advantage of human consciousness itself. For now we are capable of understanding how powerfully ideologies and politicians impact our gene pool. Our self-awareness can serve us far more than we currently allow it by helping us grasp the effects of societal and global decisions on our hereditary future. We may fail to pass along to future generations the wisdom of conscious awareness, but we will not fail to pass along the genetic effects of our decisions. The question is not only can or should policy makers be overseeing the work of geneticists, but how can we make use of genetic sciences to comprehend the effects of policy makers on the gene pool and to shape the policies of ideologies and governments accordingly.

The unknowns are many, but the very fact that human consciousness and choice has far reaching impact on human genetic destiny means that human policy makers today have a responsibility to realize how their many decisions in the diverse realms of human endeavor impact the human species and our viability to survive or thrive on planet earth. The issues may in fact be too large for current human imagination to deal with, yet its importance is too large for us to ignore.

See also my blog series DNA: The Secret of Life

One thought on “Genetic Engineering (II)

  1. Pingback: Genetic Engineering (I) | Fr. Ted's Blog

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