NOTE: This original thread-story-post-blog entry was created 12-30-2009. It has been updated now and again as the occasion warrants. It gets scarier every time I update it !!!
NEW UPDATE on September 29, 2014 –>
These updates concern “gene drive” technology, which basically means using human intervention to increase the likelihood of a particular genetic outcome. Of course, that can be used for some wonderfully good things — but also some truly horrific and human-enslaving things. Check out this new information — and also do your own research on the topic:
Enoch note on update for May 2, 2013 –>
When you finish reading my post in its entirety, come back here and check out the latest information on this sad topic at this link:
_____ORIGINAL 12-30-2009 ENTRY START HERE_____
Each day we humans face a very ancient question — “Can evil come from good?”
Our most distant ancestors — who surely felt a great reverence and awe for creation — regarded existence as essentially good — but they still had to account for evil within the system. There was life, for instance — glorious and stunning — but there was also death — ignoble and mean.
There was compassion, kindness and decency, but also cruelty, hatred and incredible obscenity.
How are to reconcile these apparently irreconcilable differences?
Many systems of thought developed within the human family to deal with this obvious tension, this seemingly unexplainable and inexplicable dichotomy between good and evil.
It has always been a bit of a sore spot for any organized system of thought. Like a bad relative you have to explain to friends.
The main challenge – problem – obstacle — irritant is that you can take anything good and transmute / transform it to evil, and vice versa.
It is as though – ultimately and at their inner essence — all human activities, inventions, techniques or devices are the same thing, and whether it is good or evil depends on your vantage point, your perspective, your milieu, your frame of reference, to borrow a phrase from dear old Albert.
The implication, of course, is that the elements of existence are neutral, they simply “are” — but we humans determine the good or evil by how we utilize them.
Technology (the dictionary says) is defined as –
. . .the totality of the means employed to provide objects necessary for human sustenance and comfort.
Technology is a word and concept of consciousness which arises from Hellenic origin; from the word TECHNE which means “art” or “craft”; and the word -LOGIA, which means “sayings,” “oracles,” “utterances.” This second word is also centered around LOGOS or the Word, oral or written communication. The sacred consciousness of that which is immanent within existence, but must be discerned by the individual.
Proper technology is, therefore, a means of evolutionary expression for human consciousness, the manifestation of the contents of consciousness as it directs human activity and creation, especially in light of what is considered the finest aims of human existence. As Immanual Kant defined it, logos is –
. . .a communicable mental faculty (concept/relation) which allows (hu)man to strive toward the realization of his (its) highest ends.
As an example, many humans can create or manufacture a chair.
When you use that chair – however — the extent to which it embraces “chairness” and functions in total harmony with human intent is the true measure of how well the “technology” that was used to create it aligns with the perfection of the chair form.
Technology, which is to say, the creation of anything by human hands (or mind) can reflect good (proper embrace of logos) or evil (rejected or improper use of logos).
For instance, the same explosives that are used to carve a road across or thru the mountains — to link remote communities — can also be used to destroy those communities via weapons of war.
The same education system that teaches people how to read and write, how to count, can also be used to indoctrinate and propagandize a specific message to the detriment of free thought.
As the Biblical allusion puts it so aptly, the same metal used for a plow shear can also be used for a sword.
I could go on, but I think you begin to get the point of this part of the paper. In fact, as you begin to fidget in your seat, you are probably wondering where I am going with this commentary…
The human race daily confronts a wide range of possible threats to its ongoing existence. Some of the threats are apparent, some less so. Some are real, some are possibly manufactured for personal, political, or corporate gain.
Most of us are familiar with this short apocalyptic list –
- Thermonuclear destruction
- Viral pandemic or epidemic
- Traditional widespread war
- Large-scale volcanic eruption
- Asteroid / Meteor/ Comet strike
- Self-Induced Climate Change
- Food Shortages
- Water Contamination
- Alien invasion
- Rise of Artificial Intelligence
- Micro black hole (e.g., CERN accident)
For a longer worry list — see my link here –>
Worry and Vexation
The problem — for me — is that as you review the short list or the long list, there is one gaping hole in it. Something very dangerous indeed is missing.
And it is an evil that can be transmuted from a good.
The scientific and medical establishment informs us (the general public) that one of the most exciting areas of research that will help improve our lives is gene therapy. Here are a few definitions to ponder –
Gene therapy is a technique for correcting defective genes responsible for disease development.
The quote above is from a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program.
Gene therapy is designed to introduce genetic material into cells to compensate for abnormal genes or to make a beneficial protein. If a mutated gene causes a necessary protein to be faulty or missing, gene therapy may be able to introduce a normal copy of the gene to restore the function of the protein.
This quote is from the “Genetics Home Reference” which is “A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.”
The transfer of DNA is usually achieved either by mixing the DNA with a substance that enhances its uptake or by packaging it inside a disabled virus (a virus that can carry DNA into a cell but cannot cause a disease).
The above is from the Wellcome Trust.
Advances in understanding and manipulating genes have set the stage for scientists to alter a person’s genetic material to fight or prevent disease.
This is from the National Cancer Institute (U.S. National Institutes of Health).
Now all of this sounds like good technology and proper use of the logos. I applaud, encourage, and support it.
Before we can talk further about gene therapy and some potential issues to worry about, we need to bring up the subject of the human genome and the Human Genome Project.
First off — what exactly IS the human genome?
A genome is all the DNA in an organism, including its genes. Genes carry information for making all the proteins required by all organisms. These proteins determine, among other things, how the organism looks, how well its body metabolizes food or fights infection, and sometimes even how it behaves.
Just to augment this a bit –
The human genome is the genome of Homo sapiens, which is stored on 23 chromosome pairs. Twenty-two of these are autosomal (do not pertain to sex determination) chromosome pairs, while the remaining pair is sex-determining.
Males have two distinct chromosomes (X,Y) while females have the same chromosomes (XX). Both the egg and the spermatozoa have 23 chromosomes. The egg is always the carrier of the X chromosome The spermatozoa can carry either an X or a Y chromosome.
And of course there is this standard bit about DNA –
DNA is made up of four similar chemicals (called bases and abbreviated A, T, C, and G) that are repeated millions or billions of times throughout a genome. The human genome, for example, has 3 billion pairs of bases.
This last piece of information is really important for future reference –
The particular order of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs is extremely important. The order underlies all of life’s diversity, even dictating whether an organism is human or another species such as yeast, rice, or fruit fly, all of which have their own genomes and are themselves the focus of genome projects. Because all organisms are related through similarities in DNA sequences, insights gained from nonhuman genomes often lead to new knowledge about human biology.
Your next question should be — what exactly is the Human Genome Project?
Begun formally in 1990, the U.S. Human Genome Project was a 13-year effort coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. The project originally was planned to last 15 years, but rapid technological advances accelerated the completion date to 2003.
The stated goals of the project were as follows –
- identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA,
- determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs for human DNA,
- store this information in databases,
- improve tools for data analysis,
- transfer related technologies to the private sector, and
- address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project.
All items listed above are from http://genomics.energy.gov/ (U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science).
Now is the point in this discussion where we begin to ponder the possible transmutation of the good (correcting defective genes) to the evil (making good genes defective).
First off, let’s be clear about some terminology.
We are not talking about an event that simply makes you ill. A virus may impact a human at the cellular level (e.g., influenza), but I am talking about an event that alters your genetic structure at the chromosomal level (e.g., HIV). Permanently and with intent to influence future generations. Speaking of HIV –
HIV is one of a group of atypical viruses called retroviruses that maintain their genetic information in the form of ribonucleic acid (RNA). Through the use of an enzyme known as reverse transcriptase, HIV and other retroviruses are capable of producing deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from RNA, whereas most cells carry out the opposite process, transcribing the genetic material of DNA into RNA. The activity of the enzyme enables the genetic information of HIV to become integrated permanently into the genome (chromosomes) of a host cell.
© by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University.
Here is a pretty straight-forward description of a retrovirus from Wikipedia –
A retrovirus is an RNA virus that is replicated in a host cell via the enzyme reverse transcriptase to produce DNA from its RNA genome. The DNA is then incorporated into the host’s genome by an integrase enzyme. The virus thereafter replicates as part of the host cell’s DNA. Retroviruses are enveloped viruses that belong to the viral family Retroviridae. The virus itself stores its nucleic acid in the form of a +mRNA (including the 5′cap and 3′PolyA inside the virion) genome and serves as a means of delivery of that genome into cells it targets as an obligate parasite, and constitutes the infection. Once in the host’s cell, the RNA strands undergo reverse transcription in the cytosol and are integrated into the host’s genome, at which point the retroviral DNA is referred to as a provirus. It is difficult to detect the virus until it has infected the host.
The human genome contains all of the DNA for the individual — it is the totality of an organism’s hereditary information. Before we continue, though, we need to clarify two additional terms, genotype and phenotype.
The internally coded, inheritable information (genotype) maintained by all organisms, yields the critical instructions that are interpreted and utilized by the creative structure of the cells to produce the outward, physical manifestation (phenotype) of the individual organism.
Logic would imply, therefore, that all phenotypic appearances have some basis in genotypic architecture — the implication being there is an identifiable and genetically accessible basis for such things as handedness, hair color, eye color, nose size, et cetera, ad nauseum.
Now, let’s take this one small – innocent — step further.
Suppose there is a genetic basis for ethnicity or race.
That is to say, suppose there can be found — within the human genome — even the smallest and most insignificant of genetic markers for ethnicity or race — these can then be used for targeted genetic warfare.
This genetic marker does not need to point to any patently overt phenotypic feature — like skin pigmentation, distinct facial features, or hair composition — it can be something more subtle, deeper, like the distinct nature of immunoglobulin structure, cellular hemoglobin processing rates, specific protein encoding or susceptibility to certain inheritable chromosomal mutations.
After this identification, it is merely a question of simple IF-THEN programming.
For instance, imagine you are editing some text (like the search-and-replace function in your word processing program on the computer).
Suppose you have these two sentences –
The sky is blue.
Sometimes it is gray.
Let’s say you need to change the first sentence. You want it to read “The sky is orange.” Further suppose this sentence occurs on every page of a 100,000-page book you are working on, but you only want to change it on certain pages, and let’s also say you are not sure where those pages are that have this sentence.
You could sit there and search through each event and decide which to change — one at a time — but not only is that completely unrealistic (in terms of time), the chances for an error are significant.
You cannot change the sentence on a global basis, because there are many places where you want it to remain “The sky is blue.”
Suppose, though — for the events you do want to change — the next sentence (in those cases you want to edit) is just ever so slightly different and always reads like this –
The sky is blue.
Sometimes it is grey.
Now we can write a routine that basically looks for “The sky is blue.” during the search-and-replace process, but only changes it to “The sky is orange.” IF the next sentence reads “Sometimes it is grey.” and not “…gray.”
For our genetic discussion, then, if you were out to do evil and introduce a retrovirus designed to change good genes to defective genes, you would not want to impact everyone’s genetic structure — you would only want to target your perceived enemy.
Therefore, consider the spelling difference of “grey” to “gray” as a genetic marker for race or ethnicity. Suddenly you can unleash a retrovirus into human populations that will “search-and-replace” within the genome, but only infect people with a specific genetic pattern(s).
Why would anyone do this?
If you can identify specific ethnicity or racial genetic markers, no matter how insignificant, they become the trigger points for the introduction of active viral strands which can cause chromosomal disruption.
This could be accomplished at the level of the 23rd chromosomal pair, that which determines gender in humans.
Typically (as has been stated previously) men are XY and women are XX in the pair for the 23rd chromosome. However, in some events people are born with only one sex chromosome (monosomy of the sex chromosome), or with three sex chromosomes (trisomy of the sex chromosome).
This can lead to problems –
Turner syndrome (XO syndrome, monosomy X, missing Y): This should just be called the “X syndrome” because the person has an X, but no second sex chromosome. Such people are female, as there is no male Y chromosome. It is a 1-in-5000 syndrome, involving some relatively minor conditions, but usually sterility.
Klinefelter syndrome (XXY syndrome, also rarely XXXY): a 1-in-1000 disorder where the person is usually male (because of the Y chromosome), but has lower levels of testosterone and may have some female-like features (because there are two X chromosomes), and is usually sterile. The rarer XXXY syndrome may lead to retardation.
Jacobs syndrome (XYY syndrome): The person has an extra Y male chromosome. He will be male and may be largely normal, or may suffer from minor features such as excess acne and may be very tall, and in some cases behavioral complaints such as aggression. Frequency around 1-in-2000.
Triple-X (XXX, also XXXX or XXXXX): These people are females with an additional X chromosome. In rarer cases, there can even be 4 or 5 X chromasomes. They can be largely normal, or may suffer from problems such as infertility (some but not all), and reduced mental acuity. Occurs with a frequency around 1-in-700.
As we also discussed earlier, the first 22 chromosomes are not related to sex determination and are referred to as autosomal. There are many defects related to DNA that result from having extra chromosomes, large missing sequences, or other major errors. Here are some examples:
Autosomal Dominant Genetic Diseases
- Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease
- Machado-Joseph Disease
- Marfan syndrome
- MODY diabetes
Autosomal Recessive Genetic Diseases
- Alpers Syndrome
- Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy type I
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy type II
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy type III
- Tay Sachs
- Usher Syndrome
A disease trait that is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner can occur in either sex and can be transmitted by either parent.
Recessive means that disease only occurs when a person has two copies of the bad gene. Usually this means they must inherit the disease from both parents.
So, let’s recap.
While ostensibly gene therapy is intended to mend defective genes, the obvious implication is that it can also be used to create defective genes, or transform good genes to defective ones.
If the target is the autosomal chromosomes, then it may, or may not, be inheritable. It may just impact the “infected” individual. However, depending on the recessive or dominant nature of the disease, it may be capable of being passed on to offspring.
If the target is the 23rd chromosome, then technically you are impacting the inherited character of the race or ethnicity you are targeting — within a generation or two there would either be widespread sterility or all offspring would be genetically impacted with the diseases or conditions noted previously.
We are not yet at the point where this can happen, but technology moves fast. Rogue states and even private enterprises can access technology and information which can be transmuted from good to evil.
Targeted genetic attacks are not science fiction.
Here is a headline from The Environmental Factor, which is produced monthly by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/), Office of Communications and Public Liaison. This is from the April 2009 edition –
Nanotechnology Delivers — First Report of Targeted Killing of Tumor Cells
Here is an article published on November 5, 2009, about gene therapy successes –
Here is an article from The New England Journal of Medicine, January of 2009, talking about successful gene therapy –
IMPORTANT NOTE — I originally wrote all this in 2009, so the refs above are a little dated – you can EASILY do your own research and arrive at the same conclusion – simply type “gene therapy” in your browser and do some reading to get updated. No problemo.
We must be exceedingly cautious in evaluating this research.
We are entering what Aldous Huxley called a “Brave New World,” but the extent to which our technology is used for good — and not for evil — is up to us, but we must be diligent in our examination of possibilities.
One of main functions of any disease-monitoring organization, in any country — like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States — is to watch for fluctuations of genetically-induced events. A sudden and unexpected rise in some autosomal disease or XY, 23rd chromosome, disease, must be monitored and explanations provided — such as the introduction of a targeted genetic attack.
So– forewarned is forearmed. The cautionary tale of Pandora’s Box is thousands of years old — sometimes we can, in our unrestrained zest to do good, cause evil to be unleashed in the world.
Keep your eyes open.