blog 7

I very much enjoyed this week’s readings and lecture. Though it was short, the material presented gave us a interesting look at how all the material on human evolution we have covered in the past 7 weeks can now be applied to our life today and how we have gone great lengths to subvert it. Biocultural anthropology looks at how our biology affects our culture and how culture affects our biology. It’s amazing to think how much control humans have gained over our environment, so much so that for the past few millennia we have consciously and unconsciously influenced our own evolution based on social and cultural whims, removed from the purpose of survival and reproduction. Recently we have taken great steps toward the possibility of taking our evolution completely into our hands through gene editing and manipulation. This represents a radical step in human progress, one that we don’t fully understand. There is much debate on how this process should be utilized and what should be its limits. On one hand, gene editing has the ability to wipe out every genetic ailment that plagues mankind, from the simple and annoying to the debilitating and deadly. We theoretically could enhance our defenses to illnesses or gain immunity from them all together. Our future children could possess greater mental and physical abilities than we could ever imagine. On the other, genetic manipulation could lead to problems we can’t foresee. Edited genes could cause unexpected problems, some maybe not detectable until they are far into the gene pool. A whole new group of genetic defects could be produced, some causing more suffering than any before. Shortsighted and arbitrary manipulation could shrink the gene pool, eliminating traits at the time considered undesirable, but in actually being useful, causing the human race to be less adaptable to future threats to our species. One of the articles this week pointed out that we have purposely suppressed the actions our body takes to heal and protect itself. It’s possible that we could erase a trait vital to our health and survival without knowing it. Overmanipulation could degrade the variability of the human experience. Inequality could be exacerbated by the wealthy being able to sculpt their offspring, cementing a class line at birth. Countries have already placed some guidelines going forward, but they are not uniform. The United States and other western countries have banned the manipulation of human embryos while China has not. It will be interesting as time progresses to see how long this caution will last as some countries reap the benefits of genetic manipulation while others fall behind. With this much control comes hard questions on what it means to be human and how far are we will allow ourselves to take this. Those that will bare the consequences of our actions will not have a say. Genetic manipulation as we know it begins at the very beginning, before and just after fertilization, long before any consent to the procedure can be made. What does that mean for our children and the future of the human race?

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