March 2010 Archives

A "Therapy" for Homosexuality?

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In his book Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution author Francis Fukuyama writes the following:

Assume that in twenty years we come to understand the genetics of homosexuality well and devise a way for parents to sharply reduce the likelihood that they will give birth to a gay child. This does not have to presuppose the existent of genetic engineering; it could simply be a pill that provided sufficient levels of testosterone in utero to masculinze the brain of the developing fetus. Suppose the treatment is cheap, effective, produces no side effects, and can be prescribed in the privacy of the obstetrician's office. Assume further that social norms have become totally accepting of homosexuality. How many expecting mothers would opt to take this pill?
My suspicion is that very many would, including people who today would become quite indignant at what they perceive to be antigay discrimination. They may perceive gayness to be something akin to baldness or shortness - not morally blameworthy, but nonetheless a less than a less-than-optimal condition that, all things being equal, one would rather have one's children avoid. (The desire of most people for descendants is one guarantee of this.) How then might this affect the status of gays, particularly those in the generation from which gayness was eliminated? Wouldn't this form of private eugenics make them more distinctive, and greater targets for discrimination, than they were before? More important, is it obvious that the human race would be improved if gayness were eliminated from it? And if it is not obvious, should we be indifferent to the fact that these eugenic choices are being made, so long as they are made by parents rather than by coercive states?

What do you think of this possible future Fukuyama describes without many gay people? Without much of a gay culture? Or even without any gay culture at all? Is there anything wrong with the "expecting mothers" preference to have children that are not short, bald, or gay? EXPLAIN!

"...one would rather have one's children avoid."

"They may perceive gayness to be something akin to baldness or shortness - not morally blameworthy, but nonetheless a less than a less-than-optimal condition that, all things being equal, one would rather have one's children avoid."

Privacy in the Genomic Age

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DOES YOUR GENOMIC INFORMATION WANT TO BE FREE?


Harvard Professor Steven Pinker

NEW TECHNOLOGIES, NEW DILEMMAS:

Seemingly we are besieged with privacy concerns already in the "digital age" of Facebook, Flicker, and online chat and chatter. And identity theft is a major issue when all that is at play are your social security number and name. The ability to sequence an individual's genome threatens to complicate hugely the threat to privacy.

But not everyone is adopting a defensive posture with respect to genomics and privacy. The "PGP 10" have launched an effort to model the use of genetic information voluntarily to help move science forward in this area. What do you think?

How about these questions: Would you want to have your genome fully sequenced, if you could? Do you want to know? Or do you prefer not to know? Would you make the information on your DNA public? What concerns do you have? Why? Explain!

It seems as if in the very near future, DNA screening will become routine for doctors. It appears they will send your blood away for testing blood sugar, cholesterol, etc, and also for SNPs. What do you think about your doctor having access to this information?

This blogsite posting will come due Monday morning March 15, 2010 at 8:00 a.m.

THE "PGP 10"

"The first ten participants in the PGP, called the 'PGP-10', have volunteered to share their DNA sequences, medical records, and other personal information with the research community and the general public (see here)."

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