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A Smarter Future?

I was recently reading an article in Science News that made me think of an interesting thought. The article titled Doubled gene means extra smarts, talks about how a gene titled SRGAP2 is duplicated in humans but not in other primates, leading researchers to believe that it lead to the improved brain capacity of humans over other mammals. It goes on to further talk about how this gene has now become a staple in the human genetic code insuring human intelligence. In addition, the shortened version of the gene SRGAP2 is also found duplicated in some humans, which can cause increased width of cortex layers leading to extra smarts. I found it particularly interesting that they found the gene that leads to increased intelligence, because it unlocks all sorts of possibilities. I mean we could figure out how to duplicate these genes in dogs or cats, making them as smart as us so we can finally understand these animals. Additionally we can eventually figure out how to replicate them in humans leading to even smarter humans, further progressing our society and maybe even solving some of our most puzzling problems. What do you all think about modifying genes in animals or even humans? Is it good or bad? Will it lead to disastrous consequences?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 17, 2011 at 3:42 am

    The phrase that comes to mind when I think of gene modification is, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There’s a fine line between genetic mutation for good, and the point where something becomes unnatural. In this case, SRGAP2 can be used for good in humans, but if we start to use it in beings that wouldn’t naturally have that intelligence, what creatures would we creating, and with what consequences? I think that the gene has the ability for good, but can as easily be used to unnaturally manipulate nature and science, creating chaos.

  2. October 17, 2011 at 3:50 am

    I believe that the most relevant question at the center of this debate does not pertain to whether or not we can duplicate such a gene, but instead whether or not we should do so. Modern science is teeming with possibilities regarding the creation of a ‘superior’ form of man, both in a physical and cognitive sense. While advocating continued investigation into the possibility of such procedures, many scientists warn that genetic manipulation infringes upon the sanctity of mankind.

    After all, over the course of the Homo sapien’s existence on this earth, evolution has occurred entirely at its own pace – both guided and restricted by the reliably slow progression of time. To leapfrog the boundaries of our own genetic structure, therefore, would not only prove immensely self-serving, but also considerably dangerous.

    Man’s ambition extends only as far as the limitations of his own mind and body. The man who wishes to avoid injury will not start a fight at the bar. The government unsure of its military strategy will refuse to declare war.

    If we modify the human being to the point where he no fears his own weaknesses, what reason has he to abide by the rules of society? The world is big enough for 7 billion flawed men and women, but not for two perfect individuals.

    Invincibility has its price. All too soon, I believe we will learn this lesson.

  3. October 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I can’t help but agree with katieinamasu’s nugget of wisdom from Peter Parker’s uncle Ben. While this is an exciting opportunity for scientists and mankind alike, I can’t help but thinking of what this might mean for eugenicists and the resurgence of a eugenics movement. Will we begin to engineer new borns or modify already living specimens to double the SRGAP2 gene? If anyone’s seen Gattica, you know what that can lead to. And as far as the argument of increasing the intelligence of everyday animals by upping their SRGAP2, I have two thoughts. The first being, if the point of this is to understand these animals better, duplicating the SRGAP2 and increasing their intelligence would change what inherently makes a dog a dog or a cat a cat. The ability of metacognition– or even just simple human cognition– is not one that any non-primate animal has been show to possess and would thereby alter the specimen to the point where we would not gain any true understandings of these animals in doing so. Additionally, these animals have the intelligence and inter-species communications skills they do for a simple reason: it is not evolutionarily effective to have them. If dogs or cats were meant– and I really hate to use a word like that when it comes to science– to be intelligent in this way, they would have over time developed such qualities and come to possess them naturally.
    While the prospect of understanding what make a human just that and what differs one from another, we must proceed with caution bearing in mind the dystopias we’ve been shown (Huxley’s “Brave New World”, the film Gattica, and even Hitler’s eugenic cleansing of Europe) as cautionary tales.

  4. October 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Ahh this reminds me of Planet of the Apes. Seriously though, do you really want other animals to be as mentally capable as human beings? The main tool that put us on top of the food chain is our ability to reason, to throw things, and find more ways to throw things.

    What if other animals gain access to our most powerful tool? We would have to face extinction. We do not have horns, wings, or sharp teeth to protect us from those animals. They have our mental capacity, as well as their natural weapons.

    However, if that doesn’t happen, we can’t leave a cat inside a cage if it has our conscience. We often have no problem killing insects or mistreating animals (feeding them crappy food is mistreating them), because we do not see them as equals. What if one day, they become our equal in mental capacity. Then what do we do.

    I, for one, am NOT becoming a vegetarian!

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