So this time it was a story from News of the Weird, of all places (along with discussion of globalization/imperialism and other harms to our earth), that got me thinking. Here’s the story:
A research team led by Richard Hanson of Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland) has produced a colony of “supermice” whose physical abilities are the rodent equivalent of those of gifted humans. By modifying a single metabolism gene, researchers enhanced the mouse’s ability to use body fat for energy, creating a mouse that can run five hours without stopping, live longer, and have three times as much sex as ordinary mice. According to Hanson, humans have exactly the same modifiable gene, “(b)ut this is not something that you’d do to a human. It’s completely wrong.” (6 Jan 2008 Issue)
Other stories on this: CNET News; The Independent (London)
The researcher’s quote made me think about what exactly you would “do to a human” and how we’re playing God so much already that doing something like modifying a metabolism gene really is maybe the least of our worries.
It seems shockingly horrible, doesn’t it: altering the essence of a human’s genetic code. But we have no problem making changes in the genetic codes of animals in our testing facilities — “in the name of Science” — and surely have no problem with genetically modified plants, as much or most of the crops grown in this country (and around the world?) have been altered to grow “better.” I think about my grandfather’s garden and some Monsanto corn he decided to grow which required the use of some Monsanto fertilizer, too. Unfortunately for his garden as a whole, any other plant grown close to the corn that got some of the fertilizer on it perished. And how does this genetic altering of plants and animals affect the future, and what of all the chemicals and pesticides that don’t affect their intended target? How are the estimated 99.9% of the 3 million tons of yearly pesticides globally that actually run off affecting this world for the worse? (More about pesticides here.)
I could go on many tangents here: greenhouse gases, corporate sweatshops and slave labor, oppressive governments (certainly not restricted to dictators), choices to act preemptively that kill others when you may have never been in danger yourself — the list is a long one. Ask yourself now, “What are some ways we, as a world, and maybe even I, myself, am playing God?”
The solutions to our world’s problems are not easy, and all the world’s oppressions are interconnected in some way. That’s why we must support one another as we work for change. As a quote attributed to Lila Watson(‘s group of Aboriginal activists) reminds us: “Your liberation is bound up with mine.” We’ve maybe come too far to return to an earth where we all farm our own fields and make our own clothes, but until we all find a way to collectively work and live so that no human, animal, plant, or anything on this earth — living or “non-living” — is oppressed, we are doing ourselves a grand disservice and expediting our own extinction.