Questions & Answers

  • asked in Natural Sciences 30th Aug '16:

    Should people have control over their genetic future?.

    Nilanjan Bhowmick replied 30th Aug '16:

    Should people take control of their genetic future?. What are the risk elements that we should learn more about?.
    It depends on what our genes control. And it also depends on who is in control. There is a weak sense of control and a strong sense of control. First, the weak sense. If the only thing our genes control are the color of our eyes or the color of our hair or the length of our arms and legs, then to control our genetic future would mean making a fashion statement. However, it should be remembered that this fashion statement cannot be made by the person who is going to get the chosen genes, but the person who begets the chosen genes. Hence, we don’t really control our genes; we control our babies’ genes. But our babies have exercised no control in choosing a longer arm or a bluer eye or a blacker strand of hair. For all we know, the baby may not like what it gets. The risk of fashion statements is the risk with all fashion: one wants to change it too often. It seems not right to get babies by design; the babies didn’t ask for it. And they may feel deeply wronged later in life if they came to know that what they are is not a product of nature but a carefully chosen design by a set of parents who had certain views about how babies should be. Those views may not be shared by babies when they grow up. So there is a sense that to employ this kind of control is precisely NOT to exercise any effective control over our future. It is to curtail it.
    Now take the strong sense of being in control of our genes. This sense involves what more our genes control apart from the obvious ones that fall under the weak sense of control. What about longevity of life? What about being struck by cancer? What about the removal of a genetic disease? Clearly, it seems desirable that if there are genes that control longevity or our proneness to cancer or our proneness to some disease, then the proper control of our genes may be highly desirable. It seems very unlikely that someone would complain later that his or her parents chose to avoid his being struck with cancer or some genetically transmitted disease. She would thank her parents for the foresight shown.
    The risk of being in control of such life changing genes lies more with the vague hope of finding such life changing genes. There may not be that many of them as we think. The main risk is a great deal of funding going in useless research to figure out these all important genes. It is like those alchemists looking for the ultimate stone that results in transmutation. All of us want to transcend ourselves. But this transcendence is often not possible. I don’t think there is anything wrong with such research though, as long as it is kept close to removing the causes of physical and mental suffering. But we need to understand that there are no genes of increasing happiness or decreasing pessimism and even if there are, a real debate is needed before we manipulate with such genes. If all humans turn out to be happy because of their genes, then those humans may well not feel that happy after all. We want to be in control of what makes us happy. We don’t want happiness to be in control of us.

    View all replies to this question
  • asked in Humanities 17th Jun '16:

    "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past." George Orwell, 1984. What comes to mind when reading the quote?.

    Nilanjan Bhowmick replied 23rd Aug '16:

    What comes to mind is the nature of politics and how it affects the truths that we believe about the future and the past. The effects of power come to mind.

    View all replies to this question
  • asked in Humanities 11th Aug '16:

    Century after Albert Einstein laid the scientific foundations for much of our scientific research. Other than science, what resonates most with you about Mr. Albert Einstein's contributions to humanity?.

    Nilanjan Bhowmick replied 23rd Aug '16:

    Just the sort of person Einstein was - persevering in research, warm and humane as a person, imaginative by nature.

    View all replies to this question
Reset my details