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Genetic engineering ?

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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by ldwechsler   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 3:32 pm

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The original objection to GMO foods came from Europe. It was political and economic. Had farmers in Africa and Asia used seeds producing disease resistant crops, European farmers would be greatly injured.

So a lot of objections were made and the same sweet folk who forced DDT to stop being used also made certain the those who did survive could not truly thrive.

Right now there is a fuss over "golden rice" which was developed to carry a lot more Vitamin A than regular rice to help children in less developed countries from developing blindness. Because of lack of the vitamin, thousands of kids in Southeast Asia lose their sight each year. But 'well-meaning morons' have made it sound like poison.

That is the real problem when we deal with ethics and genetics as we see in the books. In theory, if I am a geneticist and on my own I make changes in my children's DNA that improves their lives I might be violating the Beowulf Code. If I use it to prevent my kids from getting cancer, that is fine. If I use it to give them violet eyes, which are pretty, I probably am over the line. But what if I know there is a possible problem in a gene that might lead to my child not living as long as I would like? Or, if on a tough planet, I make the kid stronger?

What was done on Grayson could be argued as a violation of the Beowulf Code. The problem with the ethical issues is that things are seldom black and white.
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by JohnRoth   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 3:44 pm

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ldwechsler wrote:
- political rant deleted -

That is the real problem when we deal with ethics and genetics as we see in the books. In theory, if I am a geneticist and on my own I make changes in my children's DNA that improves their lives I might be violating the Beowulf Code. If I use it to prevent my kids from getting cancer, that is fine. If I use it to give them violet eyes, which are pretty, I probably am over the line. But what if I know there is a possible problem in a gene that might lead to my child not living as long as I would like? Or, if on a tough planet, I make the kid stronger?

What was done on Grayson could be argued as a violation of the Beowulf Code. The problem with the ethical issues is that things are seldom black and white.


Let's deal with these one at a time.

First - what changes? The Beowulf code, as I understand it, forbids importing "non-human" DNA into the genome. I'll be blunt here - I have no clue what this means in practical terms. DNA is DNA. This seems like essentialism, which is something that most of the science establishment rejects with some passion.

Making the kid stronger is adapting the kid to cis environment. Allowed.

What happened on Grayson is adapting the people to the planet. Allowed.

Make sense?
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by runsforcelery   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:23 pm

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ldwechsler wrote:The original objection to GMO foods came from Europe. It was political and economic. Had farmers in Africa and Asia used seeds producing disease resistant crops, European farmers would be greatly injured.

So a lot of objections were made and the same sweet folk who forced DDT to stop being used also made certain the those who did survive could not truly thrive.

Right now there is a fuss over "golden rice" which was developed to carry a lot more Vitamin A than regular rice to help children in less developed countries from developing blindness. Because of lack of the vitamin, thousands of kids in Southeast Asia lose their sight each year. But 'well-meaning morons' have made it sound like poison.

That is the real problem when we deal with ethics and genetics as we see in the books. In theory, if I am a geneticist and on my own I make changes in my children's DNA that improves their lives I might be violating the Beowulf Code. If I use it to prevent my kids from getting cancer, that is fine. If I use it to give them violet eyes, which are pretty, I probably am over the line. But what if I know there is a possible problem in a gene that might lead to my child not living as long as I would like? Or, if on a tough planet, I make the kid stronger?

What was done on Grayson could be argued as a violation of the Beowulf Code. The problem with the ethical issues is that things are seldom black and white.



Actually, no. The Grayson mods would not have violated neither the spirit nor the wording of the Beowulf Code where the nature of and motive for the mods are concerned.

The Graysons confronted one of those "modded to live in their planetary environment" situations the Code specifically and clearly permits. Moreover, there was no way they could have withdrawn their population from their environment, so unless Beowulf wants to be Janeway and worry about whether or not preventing an industrial accident that wipes out an entire star system would constitute "interfering in their development" :roll: (I know; the writers' fault, not Mulgrew's), it's kind of a no-brainer from the morality and ethics side of the equation.

Where the Code might have had a problem is that the majority of those who received the mod weren't told that they had, which definitely violates the "informed consent" aspect of the Code. Everything else was golden by Beowulf standards, however, and Beowulfan bio-ethicists would almost certainly have given them a pass on that one because of the emergency nature of their situation and the mindset of the population in question.

And it's worth remembering that Grayson sort of couldn't violate the Code when the modification was actually performed. ;) The geneticists in question left Old Earth centuries before it was ever formulated and, in fact, performed their mods only 13 years after the Final War began, whereas the Code's prohibition on designed uplift weren't formulated until well after the war ended. There was thus no Code for them to violate . . . and even if there had been, they couldn't have known a thing about it!

As for changing your child's eye color or making her stronger or smarter, the Code doesn't prohibit that, either. It prohibits, specifically:

(a) the inclusion of synthetic or non-human DNA in a genetic mod;

(b) modification without the informed consent of the "owner" of the genotype/DNA being modded (that is, somatic mods of almost any sort are totally acceptable and germ-level mods of children who have not yet been conceived are up to whoever provides the sperm and the ova), which is where the Grayson geneticists would be on shaky ground by Honor's day;

(c) any eugenics program designed specifically to create an "improved humanity," other than with allowable modifications --- that is, no synthetics, no nonhuman genetic material -- made on an individual, case-by-case basis (that is, no "we're going to design the next stage of the human race and apply it across the board" mods but if individual parent(s) want to make sure their kid is smarter, stronger, etc., than they were and no prohibited material is involved, go for it);

(d) any weaponized use of genetic modification (doesn't apply to individuals who end up with faster reflexes, greater strength, etc., even though those sorts of mods obviously have combat implications);

(e) any modification which the geneticist knows will have negative consequences for the health of whoever receives it, whether they want it or not (this is the equivalent of the old Hippocratic "First, do no harm" proviso and would cover things like a weight-losing mod that would produce the genetic equivalent of anorexia or bulimia).

There's a bunch of minor stuff running around in the weeds of the Code, focused around things like physician responsibility, but those are the major provisions that deal with something like the Alignment. Point (c) is the biggie, of course, and as I've said before, it stems from two different but related concerns. (1) There was no way the Code's originators wanted to risk a reprise of the "super-soldier" madness which had devastated Old Earth [obviously also a factor in point (d)]. (2) There was no way they wanted to see "racism" in the form of quantifiably differentiated genetic groups would be defined as "superior" or "inferior." (That sort of thinking, on the part of the super-soldiers, had also been a major factor in the causes of the Final War.) Manpower has been in flagrant violation of the Code from the day it was founded, and genetic slavery is unspeakably abhorrent to Beowulfan geneticists. What the Alignment is up to would probably be marginally less abhorrent to them, but would remain far beyond the pale.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by saber964   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:31 pm

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If you want look up Luther Burbank. He was like Edison to plants
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by JohnRoth   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:49 pm

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runsforcelery wrote:As for changing your child's eye color or making her stronger or smarter, the Code doesn't prohibit that, either. It prohibits, specifically:

(a) the inclusion of synthetic or non-human DNA in a genetic mod;

(b) modification without the informed consent of the "owner" of the genotype/DNA being modded (that is, somatic mods of almost any sort are totally acceptable and germ-level mods of children who have not yet been conceived are up to whoever provides the sperm and the ova), which is where the Grayson geneticists would be on shaky ground by Honor's day;

(c) any eugenics program designed specifically to create an "improved humanity," other than with allowable modifications --- that is, no synthetics, no nonhuman genetic material -- made on an individual, case-by-case basis (that is, no "we're going to design the next stage of the human race and apply it across the board" mods but if individual parent(s) want to make sure their kid is smarter, stronger, etc., than they were and no prohibited material is involved, go for it);

(d) any weaponized use of genetic modification (doesn't apply to individuals who end up with faster reflexes, greater strength, etc., even though those sorts of mods obviously have combat implications);

(e) any modification which the geneticist knows will have negative consequences for the health of whoever receives it, whether they want it or not (this is the equivalent of the old Hippocratic "First, do no harm" proviso and would cover things like a weight-losing mod that would produce the genetic equivalent of anorexia or bulimia).

There's a bunch of minor stuff running around in the weeds of the Code, focused around things like physician responsibility, but those are the major provisions that deal with something like the Alignment. Point (c) is the biggie, of course, and as I've said before, it stems from two different but related concerns. (1) There was no way the Code's originators wanted to risk a reprise of the "super-soldier" madness which had devastated Old Earth [obviously also a factor in point (d)]. (2) There was no way they wanted to see "racism" in the form of quantifiably differentiated genetic groups would be defined as "superior" or "inferior." (That sort of thinking, on the part of the super-soldiers, had also been a major factor in the causes of the Final War.) Manpower has been in flagrant violation of the Code from the day it was founded, and genetic slavery is unspeakably abhorrent to Beowulfan geneticists. What the Alignment is up to would probably be marginally less abhorrent to them, but would remain far beyond the pale.


Point (a) is the one I have a problem with. The other points are pragmatic or ethical concerns, that is a religious concern, at least from the point of view of most modern-day geneticists.

Let's take those violet eyes as an example. Elizabeth Taylor is famous for having violet eyes, but those were actually blue eyes that appear violet under certain lighting conditions (and I'll bet the director and lighting experts knew exactly how to get that effect on film). If that's what you want, no problem.

Real violet eyes are known, as are several other very unusual eye colors. They all seem to have low melanin in the iris as a base. The trouble with that is that they're prone to certain eye problems in high sunlight conditions, so they'd be prohibited under clause (e).

Now, let's take hair color. What's the problem? Clause (a). Since green isn't a natural hair color, a DNA mod for that would be prohibited. Given what I've see some of the kids doing to their hair these days, it would fly off the shelf if it was available.

(a) may have a perfectly rational underlying reason, but as stated, it's irrational. If it's to prevent bringing over major chunks of another animal's physiology, it's also probably either impossible or would require more work than simply designing the mod from scratch.
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by runsforcelery   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:13 pm

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JohnRoth wrote:
runsforcelery wrote:As for changing your child's eye color or making her stronger or smarter, the Code doesn't prohibit that, either. It prohibits, specifically:

(a) the inclusion of synthetic or non-human DNA in a genetic mod;

(b) modification without the informed consent of the "owner" of the genotype/DNA being modded (that is, somatic mods of almost any sort are totally acceptable and germ-level mods of children who have not yet been conceived are up to whoever provides the sperm and the ova), which is where the Grayson geneticists would be on shaky ground by Honor's day;

(c) any eugenics program designed specifically to create an "improved humanity," other than with allowable modifications --- that is, no synthetics, no nonhuman genetic material -- made on an individual, case-by-case basis (that is, no "we're going to design the next stage of the human race and apply it across the board" mods but if individual parent(s) want to make sure their kid is smarter, stronger, etc., than they were and no prohibited material is involved, go for it);

(d) any weaponized use of genetic modification (doesn't apply to individuals who end up with faster reflexes, greater strength, etc., even though those sorts of mods obviously have combat implications);

(e) any modification which the geneticist knows will have negative consequences for the health of whoever receives it, whether they want it or not (this is the equivalent of the old Hippocratic "First, do no harm" proviso and would cover things like a weight-losing mod that would produce the genetic equivalent of anorexia or bulimia).

There's a bunch of minor stuff running around in the weeds of the Code, focused around things like physician responsibility, but those are the major provisions that deal with something like the Alignment. Point (c) is the biggie, of course, and as I've said before, it stems from two different but related concerns. (1) There was no way the Code's originators wanted to risk a reprise of the "super-soldier" madness which had devastated Old Earth [obviously also a factor in point (d)]. (2) There was no way they wanted to see "racism" in the form of quantifiably differentiated genetic groups would be defined as "superior" or "inferior." (That sort of thinking, on the part of the super-soldiers, had also been a major factor in the causes of the Final War.) Manpower has been in flagrant violation of the Code from the day it was founded, and genetic slavery is unspeakably abhorrent to Beowulfan geneticists. What the Alignment is up to would probably be marginally less abhorrent to them, but would remain far beyond the pale.


Point (a) is the one I have a problem with. The other points are pragmatic or ethical concerns, that is a religious concern, at least from the point of view of most modern-day geneticists.

Let's take those violet eyes as an example. Elizabeth Taylor is famous for having violet eyes, but those were actually blue eyes that appear violet under certain lighting conditions (and I'll bet the director and lighting experts knew exactly how to get that effect on film). If that's what you want, no problem.

Real violet eyes are known, as are several other very unusual eye colors. They all seem to have low melanin in the iris as a base. The trouble with that is that they're prone to certain eye problems in high sunlight conditions, so they'd be prohibited under clause (e).

Now, let's take hair color. What's the problem? Clause (a). Since green isn't a natural hair color, a DNA mod for that would be prohibited. Given what I've see some of the kids doing to their hair these days, it would fly off the shelf if it was available.

(a) may have a perfectly rational underlying reason, but as stated, it's irrational. If it's to prevent bringing over major chunks of another animal's physiology, it's also probably either impossible or would require more work than simply designing the mod from scratch.


Well, four out of five ain't bad!

I will say that I believe religious concerns are totally appropriate for the decisions made by individuals, but religion played no part in my original conceptualization of the Code. I can't really go back and change the statement of the Code from its original formulation, of course, but the underlying purpose wasn't to preserve the purity of the Creator's prototype; it was to foreclose the importation of those chunks of another animal's physiology. As to how possible/difficult that might be --- hey, not my problem! I'm the big concept guy. The implementation details are up to the engineers! :lol:

I do try to maintain internal coherency and continuity, and I try to avoid stepping too heavily on current day scientific understanding (except when handwavium or unobtainium is the absolutely essential isotope, you understand ;)). If I've grandfathered in a less than optimal (or accurate) element, however, I'm sorta stuck with it unless I want to violate that internal coherency and continuity. As I've said before, there are several things I would have done differently if I'd been designing the Honorverse today instead of a quarter century ago!


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by quite possibly a cat   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:40 pm

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Saying you can't make synthetic genes or import non-human DNA seems like something that might get into a code designed to limit gene modding. I'm not saying its particularly rational rule, or even well defined rule. It sounds like it was riddled with implicit and/or explicit assumptions.

But that's realistic! Sometimes stuff is messy. Take something like "do no harm". You can't cut someone with a knife. Unless you're doing surgery that will probably overall help them and you're a surgeon following proper procedure and they've agreed to it. Unless they are incapacitated and its really important surgery, then you don't need their permission. Unless...

And sometimes people make up plain stupid rules! See: DDT.
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by Fox2!   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:53 pm

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runsforcelery wrote:
(a) the inclusion of synthetic or non-human DNA in a genetic mod;



In one of the stories, there is a casual mention of a Mesa researcher who has access to some of the limited quantity of tree cat genetic material, acquired by undoubtedly nefarious means when tree cats were first discovered. Mesa/Manpower is trying to find the telempathic, perhaps even telepathic (they weren't sure at this point of the extent of tree cat abilities), with the eventual aim of adding it to one or more of their "uplifted" star lines.
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by n7axw   » Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:09 pm

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Fox2! wrote:
runsforcelery wrote:
(a) the inclusion of synthetic or non-human DNA in a genetic mod;



In one of the stories, there is a casual mention of a Mesa researcher who has access to some of the limited quantity of tree cat genetic material, acquired by undoubtedly nefarious means when tree cats were first discovered. Mesa/Manpower is trying to find the telempathic, perhaps even telepathic (they weren't sure at this point of the extent of tree cat abilities), with the eventual aim of adding it to one or more of their "uplifted" star lines.


Yep. According to the story, the cat rather promptly died and left the researcher with DNA they had no luck using.


Don

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When any group seeks political power in God's name, both religion and politics are instantly corrupted.
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Re: Genetic engineering ?
Post by pappilon   » Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:35 am

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runsforcelery wrote:
(a) the inclusion of synthetic or non-human DNA in a genetic mod;



Fox2! wrote:In one of the stories, there is a casual mention of a Mesa researcher who has access to some of the limited quantity of tree cat genetic material, acquired by undoubtedly nefarious means when tree cats were first discovered. Mesa/Manpower is trying to find the telempathic, perhaps even telepathic (they weren't sure at this point of the extent of tree cat abilities), with the eventual aim of adding it to one or more of their "uplifted" star lines.




n7axw wrote:Yep. According to the story, the cat rather promptly died and left the researcher with DNA they had no luck using.


Don

-


And we are expecting Manpower to play by the rules (more like suggestions) laid down by Beowulf because ...?
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