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Attempts to remake Eden are dangerous



One per cent rules the world today. One per cent controls over eighty per cent of the national wealth in the United States. One per cent controls over 66 per cent of the global wealth and economy. And this rule of one per cent shall remain unchallenged even a hundred years from today. The elites of today will remain the elites tomorrow. But, with a difference. Wealth will be theirs and added to that they will be biologically superior too — some kind of super humans lording over everything that they will survey. Today they are in the laboratories tomorrow they shall be among us in our societies.

Who would these neo elites of future be? And how would they differ from us — the teeming ninety nine percent? In probably hundred years or a trifle more from now they will emerge the most superior organism in animal kingdom. They may not be crawling all over but shall be perceptible enough. They would be a new breed of human beings, created in laboratories by rewriting the code of life and changing Darwinian concept of evolution. 

They would be the creations created by us transgressing the constraints of natural evolution and putting the clock faster. They would be the products of new genomics technologies — organisms with new and superior capabilities.

Five years ago in 2009 Rebecca Sato in a scientific publication, Daily Galaxy, asked a question: Are we close to creating super humans? Five years later scientists today are able to "pinpoint many specific genes including being lean, living a long life, improved self-healing, thrill seeking behaviour, and having an improved memory among many other incredible traits. Many believe that these genes can be manipulated in ordinary humans, in effect creating Super-Mutants."

Isaac Asimov, the famous thinker and sci-fi writer wrote, "The advance of genetic engineering makes it quite conceivable that we will (soon) begin to design our own evolutionary progress." Today, we are in the thick of it. 

Respected business leader and entrepreneur, a leading authority on the economic impact of life sciences on business and society and author of a global best seller Juan Enriquez is right and cannot be argued with. He says, Darwinian evolution can't stop us any more. Our newfound ability to write the code of life will profoundly change the world as we know it. Because we can engineer our environment and ourselves, humanity is moving beyond the constraints of Darwinian evolution. The result, he says, may be an entirely new species.

In about a hundred years or in the next millennium we shall be our creators — biologically engineering ourselves, tailor-making our progeny, eliminating all our weaknesses and augmenting prowess. These progenies, products of assisted evolution, will be superior beings — titans among the dwarfs; beautiful and handsome, physically perfect and powerful, super intelligent, free from all common maladies and will probably be completely immune to all kinds of infections.

These super humans of future would be the neo elites as the new genomics technologies would be expensive, will be far beyond the affordability of common men and will become the exclusive privilege of the ultra rich and powerful — pithily, one per cent of the global population who controls and runs the world. 

Genetic enhancements or assisted mutations will immediately create a new world of haves and have-nots in an already polarised world. I am not against science and neither am I opposed to innovations. But I am scared of this new technology and attempts to play god. Its implications would be simply disastrous to our society.

In essence, the technologically enabled human genetic manipulation and selection poses a serious challenge to conservative and traditional concepts of religion and social values; differs diametrically from Left progressive ideologies and is opposed to egalitarianism. In short, it advocates neo elitism and create an endless chasm between super humans and perceived sub-humans.

The pitfalls of this genetic engineering will be endless because it is quintessentially antipathetic to social welfare and will reconfigure the natural world with human beings included. Molecular biologist Lee Silver of Princeton University has been elitist in his advocacy of the human germline engineering and the new techno-eugenics. We do not agree with his views he expressed in his book, Remaking Eden: How Cloning and Beyond Will Change the Human Family. 

Silver says, many think that it is inherently unfair for some people to have access to technologies that can provide advantages while others, less well-off, are forced to depend on chance alone ... (But) American society adheres to the principle that personal liberty and personal fortune are the primary determinants of what individuals are allowed and able to do. Indeed, in a society that values individual freedom above all else, it is hard to find any legitimate basis for restricting the use of repro-genetics ... I will argue (that) the use of reprogenetic technologies is inevitable ...Whether we like it or not, the global marketplace will reign supreme.

Ethics have not always been the brick wall impeding the growth and development of science. But playing god isn't what science should aspire to achieve. The tenet that nature isn't always right and perfect is flawed. And therefore efforts to defy the laws of nature, its natural selection and its slow pace of evolution is certainly a dangerous idea which may mutate our civilisation and definitely for the worse. 

What is at stake is enormous and intentions of the new reprogenetic technologies are barely coy.

The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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