Two timely issues call into question our use of genetics, both in science and popular usage: CRISPR technology used — in the pre-natal state — to genetically edit-out/repair potentially fatal genes, and the Google controversy.
CRISPR — Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats — technology, discovered by scientists at UC Berkeley and modified by those at MIT, will almost certainly result in a Nobel Prize. Berkeley scientists discovered that these repeats were used by bacteria to protect themselves against viral infections. Between the repeats, they found pieces of the viral DNA that had previously attacked the bacterium. If, and when, the same virus again attacked, the intruder viral DNA would be compared to the DNA stored between the repeats. If it is recognized as a “repeat offender,” the bacterium sends in proteins to destroy the viral DNA. They additionally noted that in non-virally infected bacteria, CRISPR could be used to delete some bacterial genes and replace them with others.
Our use of this technology in human cells allows injection of the DNA-modifying proteins into a human egg while it is being fertilized in a test-tube. Fatal genetic conditions identified in the mother or father — in the recent report this was a cardiac abnormality, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — can potentially be corrected pre-natally and, after the correction, the fertilized egg implanted into the mother. An incredibly promising technology, it may allow, as with this cardiac abnormality, children at-risk for sudden death to grow old.
Of course, there are ethical concerns related to this technology. Will it be used to create “perfect” people, eliminating the diversity that makes us better and stronger? That is up to us. A head-in-the-sand refusal to engage with this is not the answer.
The scientific use of genetics and the concept of diversity, above, is tied to its’ non-scientific use in the Google’s James Damore controversy.
Damore spent 3,400 words to say three things: Women — and ethnic minorities — are genetically different than (select) men; Those genetic differences are why there are more men than women (and minorities) in positions of power; Refusing to acknowledge this creates all sorts of difficulties and controversy, and is bad for business.
Google, he argues, doesn’t allow ideas such as his from being discussed, as people are “shamed into silence.”
The differences between men and women in the workplace are due to inherent, genetic differences, he claims. What?
There are differences between men and women — phenotypic (hair color, eye color) and genotypic (a slight variation in genes coding for gender) — for which I am always pleased. Do these explain workplace differences? Pay differences? IQ? No. What we term Intelligence Quotient is heavily influenced by…