Nature: Real or Imagined
April 30, 2008
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed experiments with artificial blood in humans even after studies showed a 30% higher risk of dying from a heart attack. And Scripps News reported that a University of California-Davis professor has genetically altered female goats by inserting human genes that cause them to give milk with lysozyme levels like woman’s breast milk. The debate over what is natural, what is artificial and whether it’s an important distinction rolls on.
“Anything that can ultimately advance health and science should be undertaken, promoted and funded regardless of what some moralists say about it,” said Celeste Chapel, a consumer health advocate and respected heavenly body known for her love of natural beauty and artificial intelligence. “The ultimate morality is the one that favors the development and progress of humankind, and if people have to be modified or die in the process, then so be it. True science isn’t always free, but freedom always justifies true science. Now pass me that artificial sweetener, it’s fake but it makes my coffee tasty.”
Not everyone is so sure that science should be left to roam where it pleases just because its purveyors say it’s good in the long run. “In the long run we’re all dead, but in the short run we can live and love and grow in truth and beauty; it’s the natural order of things and that shouldn’t be risked with artificial modification that may end up creating mutants and spur an accidental future of horror,” said Stacy Plainsman, a flat-chested philosophy professor who believes that breast enhancement is for the cowardly and the weak. “There’s nothing wrong with surgery or medicine that saves a life or replaces a lost limb, but to go out of our way and put the equivalent of a woman’s breast on a goat, or pump some risky chemicals through a heart to see if the body thinks it’s blood, is nuts. I’ll stick with real blood and my small tits capable of real goat-free breast milk. Let’s leave the animals alone for god’s sake.”
Washington Post reported that the FDA approved experiments with artificial blood substitutes even after studies showed that the controversial products posed a clear risk of causing heart attacks and death. The review of combined data from more than 3,711 patients who participated in 16 studies testing five different types of artificial blood, released Monday, found that the products nearly tripled the risk of heart attacks and boosted the chances of dying by 30 percent. An FDA official defended the agency, saying it had carefully weighed the risks and benefits of each study individually and had convened this week’s two-day meeting to address the very concerns raised by the analysis. An artificial blood substitute that has a long shelf life and does not need refrigeration could save untold lives by providing an alternative to trauma patients in emergencies, especially in rural areas and in combat settings. But attempts to develop such products have been marred by repeated failures and fraught with controversy.
Scripps News reported that University of California-Davis professor James Murray and fellow animal scientist Elizabeth Maga engineered a small herd of Alpine and Toggenburg dairy goats to produce high levels of a human antibiotic-like protein in their milk. Scientists have been manipulating animal genes for nearly 25 years. The goat’s-milk experiments, however, are among the few to transfer human genes to animals. UC-Davis dairy goats born with the human gene that regulates lysozyme in mammary glands have far more lysozyme in their milk than they would naturally – 67 percent of human levels compared with 0.06 percent. Lysozyme, a protein, destroys bacteria that cause intestinal infections and diarrhea, which every year claim more than 2 million impoverished young lives. The idea is to provide these goats to the poor who raise goats, and enhance their health. Doug Gurian-Sherman, a biotechnology specialist with the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group, said he has concerns about transgenic goats. Should the goats get into the wild – their altered genes make them more fit to survive – they could more easily multiply and over-browse a landscape, threatening native species and causing erosion, he said. Some people say that survival of the fittest is a valid concept even if the fittest didn’t become that way in a Darwinian sense.
“Just because a species or civilization developed into a stronger or better one due to outside help of some kind, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be allowed to alter the world around it or crush weak and sub-level competitors in the food chain,” said scientist and part time social engineer Able Critik, a free-science, free-love, free-beer advocate, who thinks that nature is random and error-prone, and that all true progress only occurs when intelligence messes with things. “Do you think that the United States of America became the single major power in the world due to an accidental combination of wine and roses? It’s the result of millions of people working hard with resources they dug up, developed, invented and applied all on the framework of a legal system, the rule of law, and Constitution and Bill of Rights that hard working, hard asses from Europe laid into place. It was beneficial to find lots of resources for food and energy in the ground, that’s true, but look at the dumb stuff the Middle Easterners are doing with all their wealth? Are they advancing their societies or just funding radicals with religious philosophies that have had their clans knifing each other for centuries? I’m telling you, it’s time to build a better race, a better civilization and a better culture. And if crushing those pathetic ones around us is what it takes, then get on with it.”
In related news, fake blood and women’s milk from goats continues to exist in real time and both have the potential to improve and enhance the lives of men, women and children of the future. No word on whether those folks are likely to want to crush other civilizations not using the same science.
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