Mankind's increasing understanding of the way genes influence behavior and the issue's potential to cause ethical and moral dilemmas is one of the biggest dangers facing society, according to leading scientists. The concerns were voiced as part of an exercise by the Web site magazine Edge, which asked more than 100 scientists and philosophers: "What is your dangerous idea?"
The responses were published online recently.
Craig Venter, founder of the J Craig Venter Science Foundation, said the genetic basis of personality and behavior would cause conflicts in society. He said it was inevitable that strong genetic components would be discovered at the root of many more human characteristics such as personality type, language capability, intelligence, quality of memory and athletic ability.
"The danger rests with what we already know: that we are not all created equal," he said.
It is an idea echoed by Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University.
"The human genomic revolution has spawned an enormous amount of commentary about the possible perils of cloning and human genetic enhancement. I suspect that these are red herrings. When people realize that cloning is just forgoing a genetically mixed child for a twin of one parent, and is not the resurrection of the soul or a source of replacement organs, no one will want to do it," he said.
"Likewise, when they realize that most genes have costs as well as benefits [they may raise a child's IQ but also predispose him to genetic disease], `designer babies' will lose whatever appeal they have," he added.
Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University, said our increased understanding of how our brains work would lead to difficult questions in defining morality.
"As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics," Dawkins said.
"When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software. Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?" he said.
Other scientists chose to focus on people's relationship with the environment. Physicist Paul Davies puts forward the idea that our fight against global warming may be lost.
"The idea of giving up the global warming struggle is dangerous because it shouldn't have come to this. Mankind does have the resources and the technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions. What we lack is the political will." he said.
Samuel Barondes, a neurobiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, is concerned at the march of drugs that can control the behavior of the brain.
Medications such as Prozac have been used successfully for years to treat conditions from depression to more serious psychiatric illnesses.
"Despite the testimonials and apparent successes, the sustained use of such drugs to change personality should still be considered dangerous," Barondes said.
"The real danger is that there are no controlled studies of the effects of these drugs on personality over the many years or even decades in which some people are taking them," he added.
The president of UK science group Royal Society, Martin Rees, said the most dangerous idea was public concern that science and technology were running out of control.
"Almost any scientific discovery has a potential for evil as well as for good. Its applications can be channelled either way, depending on our personal and political choices.
We can't accept the benefits without also confronting the risks. The decisions that we make, individually and collectively, will determine whether the outcomes of 21st century sciences are benign or devastating," Rees said.
Rees argues that the feeling of fatalism will get in the way of properly regulating how science progresses.
The future will best be safeguarded by people who are not too fatalistic, he said.
Local media reported earlier this month that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) criticized President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for referring to China as a “neighboring country,” saying that this is no different from a “two-state” model and that it amounts to changing the cross-strait “status quo.” I find it quite impossible to understand why civilized Taiwan continues to tolerate the existence of such a deceitful group that believes its own lies. The relationship between Taiwan and China is the relationship between two countries, and neither has any jurisdiction over the other — this is the undeniable “status quo.” Those who believe in the
On Thursday, China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a regional economic organization whose 11 member countries have a combined GDP of US$11 trillion. That is less than China’s 2019 GDP of US$14.34 trillion, so why is China so eager to join? China says there are two main reasons: To consolidate its foreign trade and foreign investment base, and to fast-track economic and trade relations between China and member countries of the CPTPP free-trade area. China’s bilateral trade with these countries grew from US$78 billion in 2003 to US$685.1 billion last year, mostly because of China’s 2005
With the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, China has remarketed its East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) concerns. Beijing urged the Taliban to make a clean break with the movement and asked the US to blacklist it again. While some are still debating whether the movement exists, it is not the core of the matter because its existence neither justifies China’s Uighur policy nor sheds light on its concerns after the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. Is China really worried, and if so, is it because of the movement? This question needs to be answered. When Chinese officials first acknowledged
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) talked on the telephone on Thursday last week, the first time the two leaders have done so since Biden assumed the presidency. While each side sought to put their own gloss on the content of the conversation, some common ground did emerge. Biden reportedly said that both sides have a joint responsibility to ensure that competition between the US and China does not spiral into conflict and that there is no reason that the two nations are destined to fall into this trap. The day after the phone call, the Financial Times reported