Weekend reading: genetic testing, enhancement



Publish date

November 19, 2007

Topic(s): Uncategorized

NYT: My Genome, Myself: Seeking Clues in DNA
Katie Hafner continues her “DNA Age” series with a story about getting in touch with her own SNPs by taking a commercially available genetic test:

Offered the chance to be among the early testers, I agreed, but not without reservations. What if I learned I was likely to die young? Or that I might have passed on a rogue gene to my daughter? And more pragmatically, what if an insurance company or an employer used such information against me in the future?

But three weeks later, I was already somewhat addicted to the daily communion with my genes. (Recurring note to self: was this addiction genetic?)

For example, my hands hurt the other day. So naturally, I checked my DNA.

Was this the first sign that I had inherited the arthritis that gnarled my paternal grandmothers hard-working fingers? Logging onto my account at 23andMe, the start-up company that is now my genetic custodian, I typed my search into the Genome Explorer and hit return. I was, in essence, Googling my own DNA.

Globe and Mail: Faster, taller, stronger, smarter … better?
Arthur Schafer reviews John Harris’ book “Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People”:

It’s fallacious to equate what’s natural with what’s good. Sometimes they coincide; often they diverge. For example, painless childbirth was regularly denounced as a blasphemy against God until, in 1853, Queen Victoria set an example by delivering a child under chloroform. Only then did religious opposition fall silent. Today, no one worries much about the ethics of analgesics or eyeglasses. Quite the opposite: You’d seem a complete idiot if you rejected all artificial aids to better living.

So why is there so much fear and fretting about the present and future use of biotechnology to make ourselves healthier, stronger, smarter and longer-lived?

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