From: Vladimir Mironov
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 21:29:01 -0500
1. What shall we and what shall we not do with regard to the alteration and manipulation of life forms?
- Evolution is based on alteration of biological forms and DNA. It is a fact. If we want to stop evolution we must try to block it, if not - we must rationally deal with this. Agriculture was always based on genetic manipulation, breeding and selection. Transgenic plants and animals is nothing new from this point of view, just continuation ongoing technological and evolutional process. The main reason why people afraid new technologies is misleading media hype, inferior education, lobbing activities and unscientific propaganda of special interests groups. There is nothing more constant in our life then constant changes. We must not afraid or block changes but rather learn how to deal with this and how socially accomodate new emerging technologies.
2. What are the social consequences of the genetic revolution.
- Genetic revolution is dramatic but also strongly overhyped. FDA approved overhyped gene therapy still does not exist at least in USA. There is no FDA approved drugs based on overhyped genomics discoveries. The sad truth is that after adoption by BIG PHARMA all these overhyped gemonics, proteomics, metabolics, system biology and other -omics the actual number FDA approved drug was reduced (not increased), because technology is too expensive and not deliver what it originally promised at least in short term. It will probably take several decades until society will get all benefit from genetic revolution. It takes a time to build a village. The potentially most dangerous consequences of genetic revolution is designing of novel type of biological weapon using synthetic biology in case if parallel designing of countermeasure will be delayed... In case of catastrophe or war with using novel bioweapon humans could be eliminated or human population could be dramatically reduced. But humans can, must and will survive.
3. How shall we manage the social consequences of scientific facts?
- I think scientists could not be a part of lobbing groups for "micromanaging" social acceptance of specific technology because they have obvious conflict of interest. The job of scientists is to provide maximally objective information about potential social outcomes of any evolving technology. The whole Society not just educated elite with special interest must decide what is socially acceptable and what is not for given specific society and given historic time. Religious leaders (if it is not a theocracy state and if religion and state are legaly separated) also have doubtfull legitimacy and also not very impressive records of rational dealing with scientific and technological innovations. Religion tried to block development anatomy as a science which is basis of modern surgery. I did not l read any apology for this from any religious leaders, who meatime have no any ethical probvlem in using modern advances of anatomy based surgery...
Thus, I think that the whole society rather then special interest based lobbing groups must decide how to proceed using as many democratic approaches as possible including public debates, transparency and accountability of any lobbing group with mandatory public disclosure of any possible conflict of interest. Dealing with social consequences of scientific facts must be maximally evidence-based and not religion or believe based. However, consensus usually does not work in science. The truth is that science is highly undemocratic, elite-based or meritocratic enterprize. Nobody can vote: Is Sun moving around Earth or vice versa.Moreover: Consensus in science is nonsense.However, if science could not provide objective evidence and predictive outcomes, then common sense or decision based on common values are the best ways to manage social consequences of scientific facts. That is why religion or ideology which provide common shared values for specific society will never die. History of technology teaches us that luddites are usually loosers.This is my formula of social consequences of scientific facts:If something is technologically possible to do, and if there is social demand for this technology, then usually nothing and nobody can stop this technology from eventual implementation. The key words are: "social demand"
4. From your particular perspective, please identify the issues, values, and ethics involved in these transformative bio-practices.
- issue of embryonic human stem cells versus adult stem cells- issue of genetic modifications of germ cells
- issue of human identity after total replacement of stem cells or many organs
- issue of human "chimerization" using animal cells or xenotransplantation ( transplantation of living animal tissues and organs from transgenic animals to human)
- issue of tissue engineered brain and person identity
- issue of life and death and human identity if we will one day be able can clone or/and bioprint whole complete humans on demand
I would like to give one FUTURISTIC scenario of possible outcome of genetic revolution:
- Acephalic (without head) human embryo and fetus is not compatible with life and abortion of such organism at late stage of pregnancy is legal.
- Somatic nuclear transplantation allows to transplant cells of any adult person into denucleated human embryonic stem cells.
- Gene therapy can induce acephalic genes in this embryonic human stem cells.
- These genetically modified autologous (no immune rejection) embryonic human cells can be implanted into surrogate mother. Surrogate motherhood is already legal.
- If society will accept and permit genetic modification of germ and human embryonbic stem cells then we can TECHNOLOGICALLY create acephalic embryo.
- Person without brain technically could not be called person or even human being. No person - no ethical problem If acephalic body can be called human being , then organ like kidney or groups of organs is also human being. It is obvious nonsense.
Can we use this acephalic technology to grow autologous embryonic human organs for clinical transplantation? Will such technology be SOCIALLY acceptable?Some leading UK embryologist even suggested to use animals as possible "surrogate mothers" for such acephalic human embryo. So this idea is not mine ... I just communicate it.
We will never escape from new ethical, social and political discussion and debates created by new emerging technologies. I think the role of artists to formulate this problem and associated controversy in dramatic impressive way and encourage general public to think The job for scientists to provide maximally objective evidence and logical sequences of implementation of emerging transforming biotechnologies and bio-practices. In order to make rational judgement and informed decision general public and society as a whole must have right for objective information from different sources.
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