Readers' Letters

Written by capnasty

A. Genetic mice & haircuts

From:             FitchDonS Date sent:        Wed, 21 May 1997 03:42:30 -0400 (EDT)To:               lansdowne Subject:          Message of Comment on CoNEM II.20

Hi, Leandro:

You published (in CoNEM II.20):

With a single genetic switch, scientist have created a strain of super mice two to three times more muscular than usual, with big, broad shoulders and massive hips.

Now if they can find a way of chemically inhibiting that "single gene that appears to limit muscle growth" only temporarily, it _could_ be useful, both medically and commercially, yes, not to mention the way it might revolutionize _sumo_ wrestling. But I suppose such a discovery would run afoul of the same attitudes that cause some people to boycott foods that have been genetically altered to reduce the speed with which they decay in storage, or to die of diabetes rather than use insulin produced by genetically altered bacteria. And then there are those tonnes of Toblerone chocolate the British have impounded, because they contain "a genetically altered soy product" (presumably soy-based lecithin, which is apparently normally ok in chocolate) -- I guess because those Mad Scientists have genetically altered a strain of soy beans to cause them to produce a larger-than-normal yield of that material.

Sounds to me like the old "There are Things Man was not Meant To /K/n/o/w/ Do" cliché. As far as I know, however, it's still ok for man to breed plants or animals (possibly excepting humans) for desirable characteristics, as long as they work with accidental ("natural") variations rather than calculated ones. To Believers in this school, those things that _look_ like tomatoes are perfectly acceptable since they were developed before artificial genetic manipulation was.

I found it while reading "The Toronto Sun" at the Barber.

Oh? You actually pay money to have your hair cut? What interesting priorities this implies.

Don Fitch (who stopped going to Barbers when the price of haircuts went above two dollars (U.S.), and who recently decided that there are better things to do with ten minutes every day than to shave -- which permits spending a bit more time online, and results in a long gray beard which might cause people to take me seriously.

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Hello Don, thank you for your letter:

I don't see the problem with genetics. I think that in a sense it’s like we were given a computer (the body) and not the "programming language" it has been programmed with. The DNA is a very complicated system, and for any effective changes to take effect, they have to be done in the early stage of development (when we are but one or two cells).

Can you imagine changing several million cells to achieve something? It is possible, by altering genetics to make life longer as well. We will never be immortal, because genetically the cells know how many times they will have to divide. Once reached that stage, the cell lives until it dies. Unfortunately, like you said, many things have a certain concept behind it, mostly religion based as well. Perhaps it is true that we are not meant to tinker with stuff that God created. At the same time, we have the technology and the knowledge to do it.. why not?
It's tempting to play God.

As for the barber, I go to the barber once every month, or depending how long I want my hair. Lately I like it short, and I don’t have gray hair yet to look wise. In fact I am way too young, and even if I don't feel like an ignorant teenager, society considers me something to watch out from. Credit Card companies refuse me. Banks think I live off my parents. School despises the way I behave. My barber is one of the few people in the neighbourhood that treats me with respect even considering the tremendous age gap.

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