Welcome to the Dark Age of Designer Babies

by Carly Andrews


[A sobering 2014 article on alteration of the human gene pool which will have unknown consequences for the human race.  Once invoked, how can this be undone? Is this really what we want genetic science to be? ED]


As FDA holds hearing on new controversial fertility technique, Aleteia expert insists it’s a moral no-go.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is holding a hearing this week in the US to consider a controversial new IFV technology that would involve the creation of test-tube babies, using the DNA from 3 separate people.  The procedure aims at preventing potentially fatal mitochondrial diseases. [emphasis - DNI]
 
Troublesome cells

Mitochondria are organelles (or tiny power stations) found in every cell of the body except for red blood cells, generating energy for the cell. They are passed from mother to child through her egg.
 
There are around 5,000 children in the US suffering from the illness.  Mitochondrial diseases are often caused by mutations – inherited or acquired – in mitochondrial DNA.  The effects can include cerebral developmental delays, muscle weakness, seizures, strokes, dementia, diabetes, blindness, deafness, short stature, respiratory problems and in the worst cases, death.
 
This latest IVF research has discovered that exchanging the defective mitochondria of the parent egg/embryo with mitochondria from a healthy donor egg/embryo, avoids passing on the disease to the infant. 
 
There are two different methods for mitochondrial repair:
 
First – intervention by embryo: 
1. The sperm fertilises two eggs; one embryo is created using the egg of the parent, and another with the egg of the donor. 
2. The nucleus (containing the genetic information) from the donor embryo is removed and destroyed.
3. The nucleus from the parent embryo (which has the unhealthy mitochondria) are removed and the remains destroyed.
4. The parents’ nucleus is inserted into the donor embryo to create a healthy embryo.
 
Second - intervention by egg:
1. A healthy donor egg and the mother’s egg with defective mitochondria are collected. 
2. The donor’s nucleus (containing most of the genetic information) is removed and destroyed.
3. The nucleus from the mother’s egg is removed and the remains destroyed. 
4. The mother's nucleus is inserted into the donor’s healthy egg, and it may now be fertilised by sperm.

The consequences of either of the above procedures mean that the child would have around 20,000 genes from their parents and about 37 mitochondrial genes from a third-party donor. The genetic inheritance of the infant would be irreversibly moderated. 
 
Moral dilemma
 
Antonio G. Spagnolo, Director of the Institute of Bioethics, Faculty of Medicine, at the Università Cattolica del S. Cuore, Rome, has spoken to Aleteia about the moral implications of this highly controversial procedure. 
 
“Undoubtedly the efforts of the researchers in attempting to eliminate pathologies of this type are commendable” he says. “Unfortunately the manner in which they proceed to resolve illnesses is very problematic and numerous moral questions must be confronted."
 
“First of all, at the heart of the matter is the unavoidable problem - which is morally negative in itself - of IVF which is what actually enables the realisation of this new procedure.”
 
The Church is very clear on the moral depravity of IVF practices, in which many human embryos are experimented on and disposed of.
 
“Respect for the dignity of the human being excludes all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo." [Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith]
 
Besides the many risks involved for both the mother and infant, the big moral problem is that the human embryo is treated as mere disposable biological material, instead of a human person.

The Church explains that the human person is a unified whole, which is “at the same time corporal and spiritual. By virtue of its substantial union with a spiritual soul, the human body cannot be considered as a mere complex of tissues, organs and functions...” 
 
Therefore “the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence...from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality.”
 
If the human embryo must be treated as a human person, then it is “not in conformity with the moral law deliberately to expose to death human embryos obtained 'in vitro'.”
 
But then, wouldn’t the second form of IVF be morally permissible, since it only modifies the egg and not the embryo? 

Professor Spagnolo answers that “the procedure cannot be morally permissible.”
 
Consequences unknown
 
Firstly, in addition to the foundational problem of IVF in itself being morally wrong, Spagnolo emphasises the problem of consequences.
 
“Even for those who retain that in vitro fertilisation does not have any moral problems” he explains that “they still could not help but recognise that this new procedure is, in itself, loaded with unknown elements with regards to its results."
 
Indeed there is no way to tell, from supposed initial ‘success’ in experimentation, what the long-ranging consequences of this procedure could be for the child and what physiological or psychological problems it may cause further down the line. 
 
Gene therapy
 
Secondly, Professor Spagnolo considers the risks involved with understanding the procedure in terms of “gene therapy.” 
 
He explains that the scientific community has “always considered gene therapy on germ cells in the negative sense.” 
 
The practice “deals with inserting correct genes into a germ cell before IVF” he says. “Germ gene therapy is loaded with risks since any possible harm transmitted would be done not only to the embryo in question, but also to the descendants of the embryo.”
 
Here Spagnolo brings our attention once again to the teachings of the Church. 
 
“The Catholic Magisterium reminds us: ‘because the risks connected to any genetic manipulation are considerable and as yet not fully controllable, in the present state of research, it is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny. ...For these reasons, therefore, it must be stated that, in its current state, germ line cell therapy in all its forms is morally illicit.’” [Dignitas Personae, 26]
 
So basically, 3-person IFV treatment is a moral no-go.

"It is not enough merely to discipline by law the ways in which it is brought about" Spagnolo asserts, "since its fundamental meaning remains the same."



[Note:  Better analysis than most.  Yes, both the end/goal and the means used to reach it must be ethical.  The ends do not justify the means.

(1)  He identifies one of the major scientific consequences that seems the media wants to ignore:  the genetic engineering does not just affect the child born, but because those “foreign” genes become integrated into her germ cells (female oocytes) then those foreign genes will ALSO be passed down through the child’s future generations -- genetically altering not just the child’s genome but all her descendants and the human gene pool as well.  Thus not just one child’s problems are the issue, but also the cloning of those foreign genes down through the generations. 

(2)  I might also add that the fact that mitochondria have fewer genes than the nucleus does not therefore mean that they are “incidental” -- as demonstrated by the various mitochondrial diseases themselves. 

(3)  Approving this research -- much less clinical trials with human patients -- would thereby also approve killing the normal living human embryos used as the source of the healthy mitochondria.

(4)  How can patients in clinical trials give ethically or legally valid “informed consent” when the researchers don’t know the critical “information” they need to inform their patients -- e.g., the scientific facts, the risks and benefits, etc.?

(5)  Scientifically they don’t have a clue as to what genes are causing the problems in mitochondrial diseases.  (a)  As there are many different kinds of mitochondrial diseases, there are probably many different genetic mutations causing them.  (b)  By what genetic criteria will they determine the guilty genes when scientists still don’t know any more that 50% or less of the coding of THE Human Genome Project (which used only nuclear genes, and derived them from samples from people around the world and pooled them all together!).  Answer:  They don’t know, and can’t know.  Thus they are incapable of anticipating any dangerous consequences to the child or her descendants -- or explaining them scientifically.

(6)  A lot of research by many different scientists have shown that the normal “communication” between the nuclear genes and the mitochondrial genes is badly damaged when “foreign” mitochondrial genes are substituted for the natural mitochondrial genes -- and that causes serious damage to the organism.

(7)  And what appears to be a “beneficent” technique can also be used for maleficent purposes as well.  What if they use the same technique to inject non-human animal mitochondrial thus forming a chimera?  Or inject foreign genes desired by researchers into the donor mitochondria before injecting them into the human oocyte/embryo?  Same technique, different foreign genes.  Opens the door to all sorts of genetic engineering of human beings and their descendents.

(8)  My only pause was when he used the term “zygote”.  According to the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development (instituted in 1942 and updated continuously since then to the present), the formation of the human “zygote” is not when the new human being begins to exist.  The “zygote” is Stage 1c;  the embryo already exists before that point at Stages 1a and 1b.  That is, the new sexually reproduced human being begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization, when the sperm penetrates and fuses with the oocyte -- not at the end of the process.  If the “zygote” is claimed to be when the human being begins to exist, that would justify using (and killing) the already existing embryo at Stages 1a and b -- which is when a great deal of human genetic engineering is performed!  Well, at least he didn’t say “conception”. The article first appeared here.  -- DNI




The Perfect 46: A “Science Factual” Film about our Near Future

by Jessica Cussins

 

Sitting down to watch the science fiction film The Perfect 46, I had the strange sensation of walking through a hall of mirrors. Intriguingly meta-conscious, and perceptibly close to reality, this film highlights the world of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetics and makes it clear that this technology, now at our real-world doorsteps, could drastically shape our very near future.  [Emphasis - DNI]

The story centers on the aptly named company ThePerfect46, which starts off with a seemingly innocuous mission. Taking advantage of the fact that most Californians have had their genomes sequenced by this undefined point in time, it simply offers to analyze a couple’s genomes alongside each other to determine their ability to have a disease-free child.  

But founder and CEO Jesse Darden isn’t content to stop there. In a move that sparks internal controversy and leads to one staff person abandoning the project, he rolls out version 2.0, which allows the company to search through giant databases and match random people together based solely on their ability to create genetically “ideal” children. The film cuts back and forth between a tense situation unfolding for Darden, flashbacks of his life, and a documentary film made about his rise and fall. 

While The Perfect 46 is a fictional film, it is being promoted by a real-life website purporting to actually sell ThePerfect46 product (kudos for the smart marketing ploy!). 

Darden, played quite well by Whit Hertford, is the star of The Perfect 46. He is a Steve Jobs-esque anti-hero: the disliked techie genius, the man behind the company that aims to improve humanity but ends up causing great harm. Darden comes across as “a tortured genius… a character that can be lauded and loathed in equal measure.” He is romanticized as smart and entrepreneurial, but his considerable personal and inter-personal flaws are never out of view. 

Perhaps by now both Darden and ThePerfect46 sound strangely familiar. If so, it’s probably because the similarities to companies and products that actually exist right now are jarring. This is a kind of science fiction that is only just barely fictional.

In fact, writer and director Brett Ryan Bonowicz calls The Perfect 46 science factual.” He invited a number of researchers to be consultants on the film and strove to show “a respect for science.” The scientific community has applauded his use of “authentic science” and raved about how the film is “a refreshing change of pace” because it doesn’t dissolve into a dystopian nightmare.  Here Bonowicz elaborates on why he pursued this approach,

By making the film as factually accurate as possible, the conversation that the film creates should, I think, spark something that a more futuristic, fantastic treatment perhaps cannot. The topics we cover in the film – genetics, eugenics, the moral and ethical implications of a consumer genetics service, and the role of government vs. a DTC model – are discussions that deserve to be out in the public. This is a film of the moment.

 In fact, you may find reality to be even more bizarre than this particular fiction. Just last year, the infamous DTC genetics company 23andMe received a patent for "gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations." The premise of the technology was that it could allow people to choose a sperm or egg provider based on probabilities of having a child with the kinds of characteristics they desired including “height, eye color, gender, personality characteristics and risk of developing certain types of cancer.” In response to backlash from the media about its “designer baby patent” with drop-down menus of characteristics, 23andMe assured everyone that it no longer had any plans to pursue the full range of possibilities described.

Another company, GenePeeks, has remained undaunted. GenePeeks launched just months ago, founded by molecular biologist Lee Silver, who writes broadly about how positive eugenics is both laudable and inevitable, and Anne Morriss, the mother of a sperm donor-conceived son who inherited the rare recessive disease MCADD.

GenePeeks’ “Matchright” is remarkably similar to the product offered by ThePerfect46For $1995, “GenePeeks digitally combines your DNA and the DNA of potential donor matches to create a preview of thousands of personal genomes that your child could inherit, focusing on a panel of genes involved in childhood health and disease.” Based on this information, you can then preview your personal “catalog” of donors and further weed them out based on your preference for such characteristics as height, eye color, hair color, education level, and ethnicity. 

What GenePeeks hasn’t marketed yet is its ability to test for much more than “health and disease.” But the patent it was awarded in January explicitly lists many non-medical traits: aggression, weight, breast size/shape, drinking behavior, drug abuse, eating behavior, ejaculation function, emotional affect, eye color/shape, hair color, height, learning/memory, mating patterns, sex, skin color/texture, and social intelligence, among others. It is thought to be possible to screen for just some of these traits, but all are covered by the patent.

Furthermore, GenePeeks doesn’t intend to limit its availability to sperm banks. It plans to expand soon and become available for “anyone planning a pregnancy in advance.” Of course, there is at least one fundamental flaw in the methodology of all these schemes: two people can have an infinite number of children with a full range of characteristics. Choosing a “preferred” donor can’t possibly absolve all risk

In fact [spoiler alert], in The Perfect 46, a bug in the company’s algorithm results in the birth of 24 children with a severe genetic disorder. The horrific mistake causes the company to close its doors and forces Darden into solitude, where he continues to develop his work and reflect on what went wrong. What is perhaps most remarkable about the scenario is that no one is ever found to be at fault, even when some of the children die, and at least one suicide results. While Darden is depicted as a broken man, devastated by the fault in a system he designed, he is relatively unmoved by personal stories, including one about a loving couple that divorced after hearing they were “incompatible.” In his mind, “Just because I created something doesn’t mean I’m responsible for how people use it.”

Is this the kind of language that will be used around technologies governing life and death in our market-driven culture? The film probes many such important questions. How quickly does the right to know become the responsibility, or even the requirement, to know? What will people do with this information? And what happens, and who is accountable, when it is wrong? 

(If 23andMe is anything to go by, some information will be wrong.)

Furthermore, can changing the kinds of people who are born really be considered “preventative medicine?” When recommendations about who is “fit” to be born are made by a commercial entity, does the absence of state involvement make the actions less eugenic? Is “perfection” what we ought to strive for? If so, what do we make of the founder – who is anxious, anti-social, awkward, not good-looking, and in the end, in “an irony that was lost on no one,” infertile?

The desire to know and control more, even when the meaning of the knowledge and our ability to control it is imperfect, can be powerful. But while it makes marketing sense for drug and genetic testing companies to pathologize more and more conditions, it probably doesn’t make sense for us. As these technologies become increasingly present in our lives, that point risks getting lost.

GenePeeks has just received $3 million in financing. The concept of adding genetic profiles to dating sites seems to be gaining steam. These trends suggest that this film could well be “more of a glimpse of the future than simply a hypothetical conversation about ethics and genetics.” 

But if The Perfect 46 is “a sort of prequel to Gattaca,” hopefully we will find a way to stop short of that future. 

You can find upcoming screenings of this thought-provoking film here, and check out CGS’s personal genomics news page here. Can you make it through the hall of mirrors, discerning the difference between fiction and reality?



[Note:  The burning question remains:  Can they really decode anyone’s genome?  Answer:  No.

Remember that the “human genome” is defined as the total DNA in both the nucleus and the mitochondria outside the nucleus of a cell.  Aside from the fact that only about 15% of  “THE” Human Genome has still only been decoded (along with problems like individual genomes are unique;  the sample consisted of mixing multiple samples from people around the world;  only the nuclear genes, and only their extrons, were addressed, etc. (see:  http://web.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/project/index.shtml), what about that part of an individual’s genome provided by the person’s mitochondria?  And what about the 85% of the nuclear genes in an individual’s cells that was called “junk DNA” in the “introns” of those nuclear genes until lately?  Are these “kits” even capable of determining the mitochondria and the “junk DNA” in those “introns”?  See, e.g.: 

--  “DNA is actually not well understood. 97% of human DNA is called ³junk² because scientists do not know its function. The workings of a single cell are so complex, no one knows the whole of it. Yet the biotech companies have already planted millions of acres with genetically engineered crops, and they intend to engineer every crop in the world.”

Genetic Engineering and “Junk” DNA, Genetic Engineering, at:  http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/ramyasekaran-1541143-genetic-engineering/

--  The Astonishing Powers of "Junk" DNA

http://www.khouse.org/enews_article/2012/1982/

--  Most of What you Read was Wrong: How Press Releases Rewrote Scientific History, Center for Genetics and Society, at: 

http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=6390

--  Never-Seen-Before Secret DNA Code And An 'Unusual Meaning'-Scientists Find, at:  http://www.designntrend.com/articles/9627/20131214/never-seen-before-secret-dna-code-unusual-meaning-scientists-find.htm 

-- Junk DNA — Not So Useless After All

“Researchers report on a new revelation about the human genome: it’s full of active, functioning DNA, and it's a lot more complex than we ever thought, at:  http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/06/junk-dna-not-so-useless-after-all/

--  What Junk DNA? It’s an Operating System;  Their report adds to growing experimental support for the idea that all that extra stuff in the human genes, once referred to as “junk DNA,” is more than functionless, space-filling material that happens to make up nearly 98% of the genomehttp://www.genengnews.com/insight-and-intelligenceand153/what-junk-dna-it-s-an-operating-system/77899872/ 

Given that their claims don’t even mention those DNA’s gives an indication that they don’t.  So what does an individual who buys such “kits” really end of knowing about their genome -- and how can any medical or eugenic decisions be based on such “information”?  Indeed, how can any supposed “ideal child” be genetically designed at all?  Is so-called “positive eugenics” a bunch of nonsense?  Perhaps the above, too, is a “discussion that deserves to be out in the public”!  In fact, much of what passes as "genetics research" and the "kits" described below would seem to border on scientific fraud -- and someone should be held legally accountable. The article first appeared here.

Caveat emptor!  --  DNI]



Birth of ‘living materials’ at MIT combines synthetic biology, materials engineering

by Kenrick Vezina

Illustration by Yan Liang, via MIT News.

A team at MIT has combined techniques from synthetic biology and materials engineering to create hybrid “living materials”: bacteria engineered to take up functional nanoparticles and grow into thin layers with usable properties, like electrical conduction or light emission. This achievement is a perfect follow-up to news from earlier this month that another group at MIT had successfully created bionic plants   [Emphasis Others] (Read our Gene-ius post on the news here.)

Anne Trafton, writing for MIT News, reports: 

These “living materials” combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment, produce complex biological molecules, and span multiple length scales, with the benefits of nonliving materials, which add functions such as conducting electricity or emitting light. 

The organic analog of choice is bone. As Amina Kahn at the Los Angeles Times puts it:

 Our bones are remarkable feats of engineering; strong and yet light, shot through with holes and yet able to bear incredible loads. This super-strong natural material is built as cells incorporate hard minerals like calcium into living tissue

The MIT team, led by assistant professor of electrical engineering and biological engineering Timothy Lu, was inspired by this interplay of living cells with nonliving components.

The process Lu and his team used begins with the bacteria E. coli and genetic engineering. They chose E. coli because it naturally produces thin, slimy films that adhere to surfaces — it’s this adhesion that’s key. In order to adhere to surfaces, E. coli produces “curli fibers”, comprised of repeating protein chains.

The MIT team replaced the bacteria’s ability to produce curli fibers with an engineered genetic circuit that only produces curli fibers if given a certain molecule. Now the team essentially has an on-off switch for the bacteria and can control the formation of biofilms: supply the bacteria with the trigger molecule and they produce curli fibers and form biofilms.

On top of this, the team engineered another set of E. coli with a similar on-off switch but based on a different molecular trigger. And these bacteria were modified one step further: researchers altered the genes coding for the creation of curli fibers so that the protein chains would grab on to gold nanoparticles

So they had two varieties of engineered bacteria, both controllable via distinct molecule of their choosing, and one of the two’s ability to latch onto its environment with curli fibers has been co-opted to make the bacteria gather tiny bits of gold from its environment. 

Take both varieties, grow them together; manage their growth relative to one another with the two on-off molecules; and supply some nanoscale bits of gold. The researchers did just this and managed to coax the bacteria to build a tiny film laced through with gold nanowires: a conductive surface comprised of living cells

And the conductive biofilm is just one of several proofs-of-concept to come out of this project. 

The team was also able to embed quantum dots — semiconductor nanoparticles that glow a particular color after being illuminated by light — in their biofilm through a similar technique.

The final success lies in getting their modified cells to communicate with one another, as emphasized by the Christian Science Monitor. The molecular “on-off switches” described above don’t necessarily need to be supplied manually; in fact the researchers produced a third variety of E. coli which naturally produced the chemical trigger, activating the generation of gold-locking curli fibers in the second variety.

The potential applications for these living materials include batteries and solar cells, diagnostic devices and scaffolds for tissue engineering. According to Trafton, “The researchers are also interested in coating the biofilms with enzymes that catalyze the breakdown of cellulose, which could be useful for converting agricultural waste to biofuels.”

This latest breakthrough is sure to be one of many similar efforts that blurs the perceived boundaries between living and nonliving, artificial and organic. We’re increasingly able, as Lu and his team demonstrate, to manipulate our world at the level of molecules and atoms — whether those are DNA molecules or gold nanowiring.

 
Sources:

Additional Resources:




The article first appeared here.

How to build your very own Self-Directed Immortality Avatar for 2045!

by 2045.com


International Manifesto of the "2045" Strategic Social Initiative

Mankind has turned into a consumer society standing at the edge of a total loss of the conceptual guidelines necessary for further evolution. The majority of people are almost exclusively absorbed  in merely maintaining their own comfortable lives.

Modern civilization, with its space stations, nuclear submarines, iPhones and Segways cannot save mankind from the limitations in the physical abilities of our bodies, nor from diseases and death.

We are not satisfied with modern achievements of scientific and technical progress. Science working for the satisfaction of consumer needs will not be able to ensure a technological breakthrough towards a radically different way of life.

We believe that the world needs a different ideological paradigm. Within its framework it is necessary to form a major objective  capable of pointing out a new direction for the development of all mankind and ensuring the achievement of a scientific and technical revolution.  The new ideology should assert, as one of its priorities, the necessity of using breakthrough technology for an improvement of man himself and not only of his environment.

We believe that it is possible and necessary to eliminate aging and even death, and to overcome the fundamental limits of the physical and mental capabilities currently set by the restrictions of the physical body.

Scientists from various countries in the world are already developing technology that ensures the creation of an artificial human body prototype within the next decade. We believe the biggest technological project of our times will become the creation of such artificial human body and a subsequent transfer of individual human consciousness to such a body.

Implementation of this technological project will inevitably result in an explosive development of innovations and global changes in our civilization and will improve human life.

We believe that before 2045 an artificial body will be created that will not only surpass the existing body in terms of functionality, but will achieve perfection of form and be no less attractive than the human body. People will make independent decisions about the extension of their lives and the possibilities for personal development in a new body after the resources of the biological body have been exhausted.

The new human being will receive a huge range of abilities and will be capable of withstanding extreme external conditions easily: high temperatures, pressure, radiation, lack of oxygen, etc. Using a neural-interface humans will be able to operate several bodies of various forms and sizes remotely.

We suggest the implementation of not just a mechanistic project to create an artificial body, but a whole system of views, values and technology which will render assistance to humankind in intellectual, moral, physical, mental and spiritual development.

We invite all interested specialists: scientists, politicians, mass media personalities, philosophers, futurologists and businessmen to join the "2045" strategic social initiative. We welcome all who share our vision of the future and are ready to make the next jump.


THE AVATAR R&D NETWORK OF THE 2045 INITIATIVE

[To the right of the main page, click on “Immortality Button”:  “Click this button to start the development of your personalized immortal Avatar”]

The main objectives of our movement are:

1. To achieve the support of the International community and create conditions for international co-operation of interested specialists around the "2045" Initiative.  

2. To create an international research center for cybernetic immortality to advance practical implementations of the main technical project – the creation of the artificial body and the preparation for subsequent transfer of individual human consciousness to such a body. 
 
3. To engage experts in the selection and support of the most interesting projects in the quest to ensure technological breakthroughs.

4. To support innovative industries and create special scientific education programs for schools and institutes of higher education.

5. To create educational programs for television, radio and internet, to hold forums, conferences, congresses and exhibitions, and to establish awards and produce books, movies and computer games with the view of raising the profile of the initiative and spreading its ideas.

6. To form a culture connected with the ideology of the future, promoting technical progress, artificial intellect, “multi-body”, immortality, and cyborgization.


REQUIREMENTS:


For the registration of your pre-order, please answer the following questions:

Are you 18 or older?

Are you of sound mind so as to bear legal responsibility for your actions?

Do you personally -- yourself or as legal representative -- dispose of the funds required for the development (> $3M) for your avatar?

Have you decided to commission the development of your custom-made immortal avatar?

If you answer “no” to a question, you cannot proceed further 

[Note:  Guess this is yet another way to de-populate the world -- Russian-style.  Note that the Russians charge in U.S. dollars! -- DNI]


AGW Believers Replace Scientific Method With Dogma Pt. 2: Suppressing Dissent

by H. Sterling Burnett

 

People caught in the grips of the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the idea that human activities, primarily fossil fuel use, are causing catastrophic change in the world’s climate, seem to live with blinders on, unable to admit evidence to the contrary. 

I don’t begrudge the opinion of scientists who believe their own research shows, or who believe the dominant number of peer-reviewed papers indicates, humans are causing dangerous climate change. But I do disagree with many of the assumptions made by proponents of AGW. So far, evidence shows most of their projections concerning temperatures, ice, hurricanes, species extinction, etc. have failed. As a result, their projections of future climate conditions are not nearly trustworthy enough to make the kind of fundamental, wrenching, and costly changes to our economy and systems of government AGW proponents have proposed to fight climate change. I don’t think climate scientists can foretell the future any better than the average palm reader.

Making matters worse, AGW proponents discount, or ignore entirely, powerful studies that seem to undermine many of their assumptions and refute most of their conclusions.

Admittedly, I start with a position of skepticism, and indeed suspicion, when well-known researchers release a new study purporting to reinforce or provide further evidence AGW is true. This isn’t because I don’t want to hear what those who disagree with my assessment have to say. Rather, it’s based on my understanding of the lengths to which AGW true believers have gone to manipulate temperature data and try to shoehorn or force this and other data to match their dire projections.  It is reasonable, and even expected, for educated people to disagree with one another on this issue. This back-and-forth exchange of points and counterpoints shows the scientific method functioning as it should.

Many AGW believers, however, have seemingly abandoned the scientific method.

Progress is made in science by proposing a hypothesis, and developing a theory, to explain or understand certain phenomena, and then testing the hypothesis against reality. A particular hypothesis is considered superior to others when, through testing, it is shown to have more explanatory power than competing theories or hypotheses and when other scientists running the same testing regime can reproduce the results of the original test. Every theory or hypothesis must be disconfirmable in principle, such that if the theory predicts ‘A’ will occur under certain conditions, but instead sometimes ‘B’ or ‘C’ results, then the theory has problems. The more a hypothesis’ predictions prove inconsistent with results that occur during testing or real-world data, the less likely the hypothesis is to be correct.

AGW theory does not work this way. No matter what the climate phenomenon, if it can in some way be presented as being unusual by AGW proponents, it is argued to be “further evidence of global warming,” even if it contradicts earlier phenomena pointed to by the same people as evidence of global warming. {The same technique evolutionists use to defend their theory. A Theory so inaccurate the courts rule ex cathedra in favor of it - ED}  

What effects AGW will have seem to depend on which scientist one consults and which model they use. In realm of climate change research, different models looking at the same phenomenon applying the same laws of physics with the same inputs produce dramatically varied results.

Another indication AGW advocates have thrown over the scientific method is how they revert to various logical fallacies to manipulate peoples’ emotions in order to have the public dismiss climate realists’ arguments and research. AGW advocates commit the fallacy of ad hominem when they call researchers who disagree with their assessment of the strength of the case for AGW “deniers”—an obvious attempt to link them in the public’s mind with despicable Holocaust deniers. That is not science, it’s rhetoric. I know of no one who denies the fact climate changes, but there are significant uncertainties and legitimate disagreements regarding the extent of humanity’s role in recent climate changes and whether these will be disastrous. Those who refuse to acknowledge highly regarded scientists disagree with AGW are the real “deniers,” and they should suffer the opprobrium rightfully attached to that label.

AGW proponents commit the fallacy of appeal to numbers when they say the case for dangerous human-caused climate change is settled because some high percentage of a subset of scholars agrees humans are causing dangerous climate change. Consensus is a political, not a scientific, term. People once thought Earth was flat. Galileo disagreed, saying he believed it was round—and he was persecuted for saying so. And you know what? Galileo was right, and the consensus of the time was wrong. At one time, people, including the intellectual elite, believed Earth was the center of the universe and the Sun revolved around it. Copernicus said just the opposite. He was right, and everyone else was wrong.

Knowledge acquisition succeeds not through bowing to some purported consensus in thought and opinion, but through questioning previously received wisdom and continuously testing scientific theories against data. “Because the vast majority of us said so,” is not a legitimate scientific response to research raising questions about all or some part of AGW.

AGW researchers commit the fallacy of appeal to motive when they say a particular study or the work of a particular scientist or group of scientists should not be taken seriously because of who funded them. Both sides commit this fallacy, with climate skeptics often arguing AGW research is biased based on the fact it was funded by government, which history shows is predisposed toward finding reasons grow and exert ever more control over people.

Research should be judged based on the validity of its assumptions, whether its premises are true, and whether its conclusions follow from its premises, not on who funded the research. Data, evidence, and logic are the hallmarks of science, not motives.

Beyond the routine data manipulation and logical fallacies, AGW advocates’ own e-mails show they have tried to suppress the publication of research skeptical toward AGW. And they have routinely attempted to interfere with the career advancement of scholars who refuse to completely toe the AGW line, even stooping on occasion to try to get scholars fired for producing research undermining AGW.

AGW fanatics also try to suppress the teaching of a balanced, accurate understanding of the current state of climate science, with all its uncertainties, in the nation’s schools. This is the tool of the propagandist, not the scientist seeking the truth.

All these reflections came to a head in recent years, as AGW true believers have fought in court to prevent the release of the data underpinning their own research, attempted to suppress free speech by accusing those with whom they disagree of committing libel, and even on occasion called for the prosecution and incarceration of climate skeptics for daring to question AGW orthodoxy. Some AGW proponents have openly admired various authoritarian regimes for their ability to “get things done” without the interference of democratic institutions. Real scientists know truths do not bloom under authoritarianism.

When a theory does not comport with the facts, data, and evidence, it is the theory that should be questioned, not the data or the motives of those bringing such evidence to the world’s attention. Consider this my plea for AGW true believers to embrace, once again, the scientific method, to follow the evidence in the field of climate research where it leads even if it proves inconvenient or inconsistent with their earlier beliefs. To the extent I myself have failed to live up to this ideal, I will try and do the same, approaching AGW arguments with an open mind.


Another One For The Transhumanist Scrapbook: Draconian Punishments

by Joseph P. Farrell


So many people sent me versions of this important and significant development that it was simply a kind of moral imperative that I alert readers here to it, and say something about it. In this case, there are four different articles, each of which reveals, almost immediately, what the new concern is:


Is Biotech Seeking Ways to Make People Suffer Eternally?

Should Biotech Make Life Hellish for Criminals? 

Enhanced Punishment: Can Technology Make Life Sentences Longer? 

Could we condemn criminals to suffer for hundreds of years? Biotechnology could let us extend convicts’ lives ‘indefinitely

When Dr. de Hart and I were writing Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas, one of the questions we were impelled to raise, one which the transhumanist movement itself raises repeatedly, is what does it mean to be “human”? And this, we implied, was not simply a philosophical question. Nor was it a question of biological or chemical “scientism” with its convenient, and largely useless, materialist reductionisms. It was a question of culture, society, jurisprudence, and morality

Within the transhumanist “vision” there is a common underlying theme, regardless of whether or not one accepts the “heaven scenarios” of such advocates like Ray Kurzweil, or the more sobering assessments of transhumanist researchers like Joel Garreau and their “hell scenarios”, for in both cases, the favored transhumanist “GRIN” technologies – genetics, robotics, information processing, and nano-technologies – open both favorable and horrific vistas of the future.

In this case, we are concerned with the horrific ones, for as the articles suggest, what if such technologies made life extension possible as a matter of judicial punishment? This unpleasant prospect, as the articles aver, is actually being not only entertained but its advocacy is even being implied in some circles. What if, in addition to this, other technologies are super-added to life extension, technologies of the “androgynous and alchemical fusion” of man and machine, to implant criminals with chips, to subject them to forms of “virtual torture” and suffering? Some transhumanists have envisioned the downloading and uploading of individual’s personal memories as a technique of virtual life extension. But what if such technologies could recover the memories of victims of crimes? Would criminals then be punished by making them relive in some sort of “virtual reality” the horrors of the crimes they committed on their victims? Could criminals of the future be sentenced to “life extension and ‘hard reliving’ of their crimes from the victim’s point of view” for “x” number of years, without hope of parole or reprieve? While such questions sound like science fiction, as the above articles point out, they are already being entertained, and they are being entertained, because the technologies impelling them are already under development.

Indeed, one can envision a state of development where such technologies were so advanced that a sentence of life in prison with “at hard virtual labor” would be so horrific, that the death penalty, far from being a thing to be avoided by defendants, might become a thing sought.

But there are yet other possibilities as well, possibilities that were, in fact, explored in the television science fiction series Babylon Five in the 1990s: the “death of personality.” In that series, convicted murderers are subjected to a kind of “death of the ego”: the erasure of the personality, memories, and emotions of the perpetrator

While some may view all of this favorably, and argue that it is “ethical,” I incline to the other opinion, and hold that it is barbaric, and a measure of the dehumanizing that such philosophies and technologies are inevitably bringing with them. I submit that such punishments are indeed “cruel and unusual” and little other than a form of torture.

 But whatever one’s opinion may be, the cultural transformation of culture and society that the transhumanists are championing or, in a few cases, decrying, are indeed hurtling down the tracks toward us and will force each of us to deal with the types of questions these articles are pointing out.


See you on the flip side.



The article first appeared here.