Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘DNA’ Category

In light of our ongoing treatment of Sanger and the Eugenics Movement, it’s fair to ask if the eugenists have any merit to their argument.

No, they don’t.

From a Christian anthropological perspective, the least among us is made in the image and likeness of God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that He will judge us by our treatment of them, as He identifies with, “the least of these my brothers”.

As for the genetic basis of their argument: genetics or environment?, the safe answer is probably both. We can train a chimp to play golf and even fly a spacecraft, but that doesn’t make it human. Aping (pardon the pun) human behavior does not change genetic and simian reality for the chimp. For humans whose genetic defects render their function as less than optimal, sub-par performance does not make them less human, or less worthy of human dignity. An individual need not exhibit or realize all of their potential functions at all times in order to be a member of the human family.

We know that certain traits are hereditary, having identified what genes on what chromosomes are responsible. Down Syndrome is the most famous and easily recognizable based on physical (phenotypic) characteristics. Certain psychiatric conditions such as the Schizophrenias appear to have a genetic etiology. Autism may well prove to be genetic as well. I’m currently involved in a research project that points in that direction.

To make matters murkier, to what extent do environmental (physical or psychosocial) factors influence, or exacerbate underlying genetic predispositions? Then there is the issue of the extent to which environmental factors influence and ameliorate the physiological and psychological effects of a genetic disorder.

Take autism as an example. Children with horrific deficits in communication, with a broad spectrum of associated developmental delays, would easily fit in to the eugenist’s list of targeted individuals. It’s my considered opinion that there is indeed a genetic, developmental defect at the root. With a prevalence in the population that is increasing, a moral and ethical decision needs to be made. What do we do with these children?

Having one myself, the answer is simple. Treat them.

The last decade has witnessed a revolution in the treatment in children with autism. Better speech therapeutic regimens, as well as social skills, special education, physical and occupational therapy, play groups, have all shown dramatic effects in children whose function was less than half their chronological age.

Unlike our chimpanzee friends here, these children are humans, being taught human skills. The environmental stimuli effect neural development to bring the child’s behavior and cognitions more in line with optimal human function. That’s environment being used to overcome genetic defect.

We’ve had great success after six years of daily work, several hours per day. We’ve also learned more about love in the process than we ever dreamed imaginable.

That doesn’t happen with sterilization and abortion. Eugenics proclaims that life has a monolithic standard of acceptability, that individuals not meeting its arbitrary and capricious standard ought never to have existed. Unable to murder the adult, eugenists will prevent the child. Such a standard says nothing about the targeted individual and everything about the sickness and evil of the ones who crafted it.

Genetics doesn’t describe our difficulties so much as it invites us to engage in growth as individuals, as civilizations.

That requires courage, imagination, and an appetite for innovation.

Most of all, it requires love.

Read Full Post »

LifeNews reports, Obama Admin Forces Americans to Pay for More Embryonic Stem Cell Research: “National Institutes of Health chief Francis Collins approved taxpayer funding of 27 more lines of embryonic stem cells.”

Having overturned the Bush administration’s restrictions, we are headed in the wrong direction morally, but also scientifically. Embryonic stem cell research has consistently yielded tumors in lab animals, whereas adult stem cell research has led to hundreds of therapeutic applications in humans.

To be certain, Collins has set limits by funding an additional 27 lines of cells. Prudent caution? Consider this quote from former Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, Leon Kass, M.D., in Human Cloning and Human Dignity, The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics:

“We should not be self-deceived about our ability to set limits on the exploitation of nascent life. What disturbs us today we quickly or eventually get used to; yesterday’s repugnance gives way to tomorrow’s endorsement. A society that already tolerates the destruction of fetuses in the second and third trimesters will hardly be horrified by embryo and fetus farming (including in animal wombs), if this should turn out to be helpful in the cure of dreaded diseases.

“We realize, of course, that many proponents of cloning-for-biomedical-research will recommend regulations designed to prevent just such abuses (that is, the expansion of research to later-stage cloned embryos and fetuses). Refusing to erect a red light to stop research cloning, they will propose various yellow lights intended to assure ourselves that we are proceeding with caution, limits, or tears. Paradoxically, however, the effect might actually be to encourage us to continue proceeding with new (or more hazardous) avenues of research; for, believing that we are being cautious, we have a good conscience about what we do, and we are unable to imagine ourselves as people who could take a morally disastrous next step. We are neither wise enough nor good enough to live without clear limits.”

Read Full Post »

It’s news like this that makes me proud to be a molecular biologist.

Yahoo News breaks an AP story of yet another person exonerated by DNA testing. Mr. James Bain is the longest-serving convict of the 246 convicts freed nationwide by DNA analysis, having served 35 years in Florida prisons for the kidnapping and rape of a 9 year-old boy in 1974.

The great work of The Innocence Project demonstrates yet again why capital punishment is so very dangerous. Had the rape of this boy been a capital offense, as many are now militating for, then Mr. Bain would have gone to his death about twenty years ago.

Fortunately for Mr. Bain, he lived long enough for the exculpatory evidence to clear him, freeing him to live whatever life he has left in some measure of peace. I hope he gets millions.

Chilling are these quotes from the story:

“Attorneys from the Innocence Project of Florida got involved in Bain’s case earlier this year after he had filed several previous petitions asking for DNA testing, all of which were thrown out.”

“Ed Threadgill, who prosecuted the case originally, said he didn’t recall all the specifics, but the conviction seemed right at the time.
‘I wish we had had that evidence back when we were prosecuting cases. I’m ecstatic the man has been released,’ said Threadgill, now a 77-year-old retired appeals court judge. ‘The whole system is set up to keep that from happening. It failed.'”

Three cheers for The Innocence Project. The criminal justice system needs to be moved in the direction of facilitating the testing of potentially exculpatory DNA evidence. Justice demands no less.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 766 other followers

%d bloggers like this: