First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

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First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby ShawnMiller » Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:39 pm

Please write at least 300 words about one of the following topics. This is due by Sunday, Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m. If you write on either prompt two or three, it will not appear until sometime Monday.

  • Write anything related to your (intended) Writing Project, which isn't due until the end of the quarter. (You don't have to have run anything by me regarding your topic to do this prompt. You can just try out ideas.)
  • Critique some (specific) aspect of Renato Dulbecco's argument in favor of doing the HGP using the concepts and ideas from Elisabeth Lloyd's Normality and Variation article. Then imagine (and record in writing) how Dulbecco might respond.
  • Walter Gilbert, circa 1992, said: “The information carried in the DNA, that genetic information passed down from our parents is the most fundamental property of the body [so much so, in fact, that] one will be able to pull a CD out of one's pocket and say, ‘Here is a human being; it's me!’” In the 2014 interview we read, he said, "I support the cause of personalised medicine. I believe that it has two underlying themes – each one of us has different metabolism and each one of us has a different manifestation of the same disease." Do you think his 1992 views are consistent with his 2014 views or is there some sort of tension? Defend your answer.

twilliams
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby twilliams » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:23 pm

There does not seem to be any tension between Gilbert’s statement in 1992 and 2014. Gilbert’s main point in his 1992 statement was that a person’s genes is the most fundamental property of their body. In his statement in 2014, Gilbert stated that personalized medicine (which he supports) considers one’s metabolism and the particular aspects of their disease. In emphasizing the importance of one’s metabolism in the 2014 statement, Gilbert is being very consistent with his statement in 1992, for one’s genetic makeup heavily influences one’s metabolism. Thus in both statements, Gilbert is putting an emphasis on the importance of one’s genetics in determining the traits of one’s body, including how they should be treated for disease. This common theme of the importance of genetics should be clear.

It is possible to argue that by emphasizing the importance of the particular aspects of a disease in his 2014 statement, Gilbert is being inconsistent with his views in 1992. The reason for this is because the particular aspects of a disease one has is (usually) not determined by one’s genes, or at the very least, there are many diseases that are not effected by one’s genetic makeup. Furthermore, since metabolism can also be affected by environmental factors, Gilbert is also putting an emphasis on environmental factors, and not just genetic factors. However, any such apparent conflict does not actually exist. It is important to note that Gilbert did not state that one’s genetic makeup is the only property of one’s body, nor did he say it is the only important property. Gilbert’s point in the 1992 statement was that one’s genes is the most fundamental property, which implies other properties can exist; this allows room for his 2014 statement in relation to metabolism and disease.

It could be argued that this is misinterpreting his 1992 statement, because in that statement, Gilbert proposed one’s genetic code written on a CD is equivalent to a human being. This would imply that genetic code is the only property of the body that matters. However, this was clearly hyperbole. Even if the sole property of one’s body is one’s genes, copying that code onto a CD does not make that CD a literal human being; this is because the CD is not made of adenine, guanine, cytosine, or thymine. All that CD would have is a bunch of symbols that represent those molecules, but it would not be those molecules themselves. Thus calling the CD a human being would be absurd. It seems highly improbable that Gilbert could not come to this conclusion, which is why the CD comment should be interpreted as hyperbole.

fdtran
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby fdtran » Fri Aug 14, 2015 12:51 am

For my writing project, I’d like to do an analysis of a scientific paper by critiquing the author’s premises and arguments, similar to what we have been doing in class this week. I am also thinking about perhaps taking multiple scientific papers regarding the same topic and comparing their perspectives, arguments and premises; this would be similar to comparing the Dulbecco, Lloyd, and Gilbert readings.

I have not yet decided on a particular topic that I’d like to analyze. I know that I am interested in the ethics and morality debate in philosophy of science and I’d like to discuss it in my writing project. However I feel that I do not have a good enough understanding of biology. I was wondering if the writing project is supposed to be strictly about biology or could we use other fields of science and look at them in the same philosophical perspective as we’ve done with biology so far. If it is possible to do other fields of science, I would perhaps like to analyze papers on environmental issues such as climate change or papers on space exploration and the discussion of extraterrestrial lifeforms. If it is strictly about biology, I think I would perhaps expand on what I’ve learned from Gilbert’s interview, specifically talking about the controversy between pharmaceutical companies and personalized medicine.

I think that some of the difficulties that I could encounter is how to find the right article. I’ve often tried to use search engines such as Bing or Google for research papers and not many results show up. Another problem I could run into is talking about contemporary scientific phenomenon that haven’t been thoroughly studied so far and that could lead to holes in my analysis on these scientific papers.

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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby eridolfi » Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:38 pm

For my writing project, I have decided to write a series of six word stories related to the ethical issues related to mental illness. The premise of a six word story is to create the most impact in the fewest amount of words. For example: for sale, baby shoes, never worn. Sounds creepy, doesn’t it. One could just imagine what the meaning of this story is. While my six word stories will most likely not be as clever or upsetting, I hope to capture many of the issues related to mental illness. Of my goal of 100 stories, I have written 58. My topics so far are: public stigma, what is normal/abnormal, autonomy, criminalization, access to health care, and homelessness. I am still going through the literature and developing additional ideas. If anyone can recommend any resources or topics I could use that would be fantastic! I am currently trying to be neutral and encompass all sides of each issue. Avoiding my own personal bias has definitely been a challenge but this assignment would not be worthwhile if it wasn’t a challenge in some way. Where I especially ran into trouble was with public stigma. Other than in the context of my own self-care, I haven’t researched much on mental illness related topics. I am also trying to make sure that I don’t sound too preachy or patronizing either. The biggest issue I have had so far has been with deciding on if I was going to explore mental illness in general or focus on a specific one. While there are issues that all people with mental illness have some experience with, each person is different. This even happens to people who have the same disorder. I think that lumping people together because they happen to have the same issue is one of the largest sources of much of the stigma. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby ShawnMiller » Fri Aug 14, 2015 6:43 pm

fdtran wrote:I have not yet decided on a particular topic that I’d like to analyze. I know that I am interested in the ethics and morality debate in philosophy of science and I’d like to discuss it in my writing project. However I feel that I do not have a good enough understanding of biology. I was wondering if the writing project is supposed to be strictly about biology or could we use other fields of science and look at them in the same philosophical perspective as we’ve done with biology so far. If it is possible to do other fields of science, I would perhaps like to analyze papers on environmental issues such as climate change...I think that some of the difficulties that I could encounter is how to find the right article. I’ve often tried to use search engines such as Bing or Google for research papers and not many results show up. Another problem I could run into is talking about contemporary scientific phenomenon that haven’t been thoroughly studied so far and that could lead to holes in my analysis on these scientific papers.

The scientific topic that your paper addresses needs to be broadly biological, but the biological sciences encompass quite a lot, including aspects of climate change. You don't have to know a lot about biology prior to the project; by doing the project you will learn something about biology.

As far as finding articles, try searching Google Scholar or the UC Davis Library databases; they have an online how-to.

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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby ShawnMiller » Fri Aug 14, 2015 6:51 pm

eridolfi wrote:The biggest issue I have had so far has been with deciding on if I was going to explore mental illness in general or focus on a specific one.

Generally speaking, more specific is better, though you don't have to pick just one disorder/illness; you can pick a couple or a particular class/type of mental illness. But a discussion of mental illness in general will be too broad for you to say anything incisive.

euriekim
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby euriekim » Fri Aug 14, 2015 9:12 pm

I am still unclear on the details of the writing project, but I would love to write a science fiction short story held in the future. The topic would perhaps be about the effects of the HGP, finding the gene sequences correlated to diseases, and having people determine whether a person is “normal” or “abnormal”. The Twitter-style writing project sounds interesting, but I’m not sure how exactly I would carry that out.
The section of the Lloyd article, about whether people should be allowed to determine what is “normal” and what is not, really interested me and also the conversation about if the patient or the doctor should determine whether or not to undergo treatment for a terminal illness. Social issues interest me. Specifically, whether or not the government should have access to all our information. With all of the recent controversies with the NSA and phone tapping, I think genetic information would be the controversy of the future.
For the short story, I was thinking of writing about a few protagonists in a dystopian setting in the future where all citizens of some country (or maybe even some planet) have their genetic information recorded to the government as soon as they are born. The government then has a general overview of their temperaments, personalities, genetic dispositions, etc. Their careers are also determined by their genetic information. The main protagonist could become irritated or bored with their career and resort to overturning the government. Or maybe the country or planet seems like a Utopia to other countries or planets, but in reality they are horribly corrupt and terminate fetuses with “bad” temperaments or “abnormal” medical predispositions. Thus, on the outside looking in, they look like the “perfect” society, but they’re actually the most corrupt.
I’m still brainstorming my ideas, but I think the short story is what I’ll end up doing. I really enjoyed writing stories previously in high school and hope that it’ll make this project enjoyable not only for myself but to the person grading it! :)

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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby tschristoffel » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:53 pm

For my writing project, I find myself most interested in the debate as to whether or not private organizations should be allowed to patent certain regions of the human genome. My first inclination is that it should not be allowed, but I will leave my mind open in case the arguments in favor are strong enough to change my views.

I have always been interested in issues regarding property and ownership (both physical and intellectual) and this seems like an opportunity to apply my previous general philosophical interests to the philosophy of biology.

One objective for this project will be to look at the policies of various other countries with respect to this issue. Another will be to provide my own opinions on the issue. Also included might be hypothetical (or actual) perspectives through the lenses of notable philosophers; the guest list has yet to be written.

Right now I’m leaning towards a white paper format, but also considering a newspaper-style opinion piece or (if it’s allowed) a socratic dialogue. The latter, of course, is basically the same as a fake forum thread, except the commenters will be having an (un)real-life argument.

My second choice at the moment would be a paper on whether or not the Human Genome Project is as beneficial as its proponents claim. The reason this is not my first option is that it is of little interest to me and has been heavily emphasized in the course already. However, I believe this topic has a large amount of scholarly papers that I could reference. This is admittedly a weakness I have with my first choice—that, at least from what I can tell, there are few scholarly papers I could reference on the subject.

Additionally, I intend to have this project count for 30% of my course grade.

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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby Nancy Galeno » Sat Aug 15, 2015 8:29 pm

I am not exactly yet sure what I want to write about for my writing project. However, I would like to explore and analyze the debate between the ethical/moral viewpoint and the medical/biological viewpoint of the HGP. Some of the things I would like to cover would include the benefits of the Genome Project vs. the religious views against it( for example: It would be like playing God). With this I would then like to lead on to the topic of what is “normal” and “abnormal” and what is accepted. For example the possibility of genetically engineering offspring for medical purposed vs aesthetic purposes. I would also like to cover articles that cover what has already been done in the HGP and also the debate under which circumstances it is “acceptable” for people to undergo treatments that have to do with the HGP. For example, if knowing that you are “prone” to having a particular disease would potentially save a person’s life should it be allowed(in an ethical point of view). I would then like to go on to the topic of whether treatments like this should be allowed, given an economical perspective. Overall, I would like to discuss the ethical/moral vs. the medical vs. economical viewpoints of treatments that have to do with the HGP. However, I am not sure whether this topic may be too broad to discuss in the paper.

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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby herrerajen » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:51 am

For the writing project I intend to write about 2 ideas:

1. I would like to explore the scientific methods that approach to define, research, and categorize sexual orientation. Most importantly, I would like to investigate the implications for such scientific findings. The most used procedure for determining sexuality is the Kinsey Scale, which was invented by Alfred Kinsey in 1948. This "heterosexual-homosexual rating scale" provides a number of questions that ask participants about their sexual desires, behaviors, fantasies, and self identity. Once the participant is finished with the survey, she or he is given a numerical value that determines her or his sexual orientation. The scale ranges from 0-6, where 0 is exclusively heterosexual and 6 is exclusively homosexual. There is also a letter "X" that rates there is no socio-sexual contacts or reactions. The numbers in between offer an intended spectrum of different sexual orientations between the two polarized sexual orientations. For instance, Number 4 on the scale determines that the participant is "predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual."

It is problematic that a numerical value can certify sexual orientation, given that sexuality is fluid (at least in my opinion). There are different levels of attraction--emotional, admirational, sexual and so on, which this scale overlooks. Also, it is important to scrutinize the placement of sexual orientation categories--the fact that heterosexual is placed first means that it is the preferred, normative category, whereas homosexual is the deviant, uncommon identity.

Throughout my Writing Project I would like to look at other sexual orientation scales and not only focus on the ways the research is conducted but also what the findings are. For example, according to the results of the likert scale, women are in between numbers 0-6 whereas men tend to be either at 0 or 6. I would also briefly like to explore why this is.

2. I would also like to explore whether sexual orientation is genetically determined. Oftentimes, when this research question is addressed it is asked whether there is a "gay gene" as opposed to a "hetereosexual" gene or a "sexual orientation" gene. Questions like these are influenced by sociocultural ideologies of normative behaviors. Lloyd briefly touched on this topic in her article, where she mentioned that the "distinction between normality and disease depends on how we envision human life ought to be" (p. 107).

Maybe I could find a way to connect both ideas!

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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby ShawnMiller » Sun Aug 16, 2015 12:16 pm

herrerajen wrote:For the writing project I intend to write about 2 ideas:

1. I would like to explore the scientific methods that approach to define, research, and categorize sexual orientation. Most importantly, I would like to investigate the implications for such scientific findings. The most used procedure for determining sexuality is the Kinsey Scale, which was invented by Alfred Kinsey in 1948. This "heterosexual-homosexual rating scale" provides a number of questions that ask participants about their sexual desires, behaviors, fantasies, and self identity. Once the participant is finished with the survey, she or he is given a numerical value that determines her or his sexual orientation. The scale ranges from 0-6, where 0 is exclusively heterosexual and 6 is exclusively homosexual. There is also a letter "X" that rates there is no socio-sexual contacts or reactions. The numbers in between offer an intended spectrum of different sexual orientations between the two polarized sexual orientations. For instance, Number 4 on the scale determines that the participant is "predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual."

Sounds very interesting! Some resources:

anjames
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby anjames » Sun Aug 16, 2015 2:37 pm

After writing my idea, I would like to discuss how one of the Star Trek tv series (except Enterprise, which I have not watched and likely would not in time) addresses the philosophy of biology concepts that we have discussed. Deep Space 9 (DS9) and Voyager come most readily to mind because I've seen them the most recently. I'd like to do this analysis because there are a variety of ways each series tackles what's normal/abnormal, alien/human, natural/unnatural, healthy/unhealthy, living/dead, sentient/non-sentient etc. It's not unique in that respect, but I think I know each series well enough to analyze them. Though after writing the bit below just about one case from DS9, I might prefer to limit my analysis to just 1-2 examples and one concept.

I'll go through one idea off the top of my head from DS9. DS9, unlike the other Star Trek tv series, takes place on a space station rather than a starship. In my opinion the most standout example of a discussion of the philosophy of genetics has to do with the chief medical officer: Dr. Julian Bashir, who was illegally genetically modified/enhanced around age 6. Genetically modifying a human for anything other than a serious defect is illegal on Earth (other Federation planets might similar views). Why would you make such a thing illegal if humanity is clearly so far along that it can do everything perfectly? Because it turns out it is not that easy to genetically modify someone without side effects and Earth kinda had a dark time with eugenics that no one wants to revisit. This calls into question whether or not we can know enough about the human genome. Someone decided in the Star Trek universe humans haven't/won't, but there are other species with different/broader knowledge, so maybe it's not considered impossible.

Back to DS9, the side effects of genetic modification are seen in a group of arguably brilliant but strange mutants. They're determined to be incapable of functioning in society, so they're largely isolated. They behave as if they're above everyone else. To some extent it's because they've reasoned through why they can't be around "normies". Someone being/acting superior is typically off-putting to people, so the isolation only seems to make the situation worse. I think there's room for doubt about them being really unable to function in society, which is addressed in the show in a couple episodes. Anyway, before they're brought back into the show for other purposes, they're primarily used as examples for why to not risk genetically modifying your child. Why would a parent risk their child becoming part of a group like that? Julian's parents decided to have him modified, despite the risks medical and legal, because he wasn't smart which would put a limit on his contributions to society, and because he was struggling socially as he couldn't keep up with other kids and felt different in a bad way. He did not suffer any negative side effects of the augmentation, allowing him to excel. He and his parents keep this a secret but are ultimately unsuccessful at keeping it a secret. Thereafter other characters poke fun at the previously loquacious Julian for holding back (like a Vulcan does; Vulcans are often "annoyingly" precise) or thinking he's superior.

Julian's case brings up a few questions: if we decide to draw a line for genetic modification, where do we draw it? How do we take social interactions into account? Which social stigma is worse: being genetically modified or being not smart to the point of not being able to tell a dog from a cat (a particular example Julian cites)? Did Julian's parents allow for the modifications to go too far? Or put another way, if you can augment a person, how far should you go?

eugenekim
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby eugenekim » Sun Aug 16, 2015 3:25 pm

For my writing paper, I want to focus on the legal aspect of medicine and how things such as the FDA, big pharma, would affect its future such as the possibility of things such as "personalized medicine". I think that this would be an interesting topic because there is a lot of complications due to the expensive process of getting medication approved by the FDA. It is an incredibly expensive and complicated process that I don't believe a lot of people understand. There seems to be tension among the consumers and the big Pharma due to this misunderstanding. Although the initial process is not terrible, it costs literally millions of dollars to get through the trials and numerous testing on people, with a high turnover rate for failure, which leads to expensive drugs that insurance companies have trouble covering. Furthermore, another false belief that many consumers seem to believe is that Big Pharma should not be “greedy” and be producing generic drugs. It is these sorts of misunderstandings that lead to complications, which I want to research to understand the implications of how medication and understanding the human body will be in the future in terms of legality.

Although I don’t know the exact details yet, the first part of my paper will be emphasizing the complicated process of manufacturing new medicine and the process involved. The latter portion will delve into what kind of complications that will arise as a result of changing the process and if that were to change, the possibility of medication in the future. Finally, the last part of my paper, will focus on how the role of genetics and how the contemporary understanding of genetics will play a role in shaping how not only we understand treatment but also how things like “personalized medicine” will do. In my conclusion, I’m planning to focus specifically on what these new types of medication will be and what could possibly in store for the future with regards to FDA approval.

dianalee
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby dianalee » Sun Aug 16, 2015 3:58 pm

Walter Gilbert’s views of human genome from 1992 is consistent with his 2014 views but there is a little bit of tension in the sense that environmental influences were not implied in circa 1992. In circa, Gilbert expressed the genetic information that one inherited from his/her parents is the most fundamental property of the body. Genetic information is very crucial for development of every human but it’s not the only factor. Environmental influences are also necessary to consider. For example, if I show up at a hospital and pull out a CD that contain my genetic information and ask the doctor to find out on current sickness I am experiencing. The doctor may tell me whether it is genetic disease or not from looking at my DNA CD. If it is not genetic disease, then, the doctor will have to do further testings such as blood tests, ask me the symptoms that I’m experiencing, and a series of questionnaire that may help to diagnose. Once the blood tests result are in, the doctor may be able to diagnose a particular illness that may have caused by the environment influences. Illnesses or diseases that are cause by environmental influences will not be able to detect by the doctors just from looking at personalize genome CD but it will aid in discovering genetic diseases. Gilbert stressed the differences in metabolism and manifestation of the same disease in each person in the 2014 interview. Having one’s own genome sequenced will be helpful in treating patients with specific dosage of medications base on understanding of a patient genome sequence and its functions and properties instead of generalizing treatments. He portrayed the important of different environmental influences in each person internally and externally. And it is a crucial fact to consider in developing personalize treatment for each patients.

nyonan
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby nyonan » Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:28 pm

I have not yet solidified a topic that I plan to write about for the writing project, but I do have a few ballpark ideas that relate towards biology and have interested me throughout my life.
The first I thought about was specifically looking at depression and anxiety in a biological sense. What I mean by that is not only break down what chemicals are involved (as there is extensive research on that already) but also from a sort of evolutionary standpoint. Why is it that depression and anxiety is so rampant now as opposed to hundreds of years ago? Is it a genetic mutation that is somehow perpetuating or is it a side effect purely created due to society? If so, what treatment is there or what biological purpose does it serve?
Along the same lines I wanted to look into societal “norms” and see why such things are done in a psychological and biological perspective. Why do people act the way they do? What drives that biologically? Are people inclined to act a certain way or just naturally have a certain disposition in terms of behavior? Nature versus nurture has been long since debated and I believe it is a combination of the two that truly drive people's behaviors, but why? What is happening in the minds of people when they do what they do? Why are many unaware of why they do what they do, and act merely out of innate response? What drives that response biologically?
It's funny how these questions have a foot in the realm of psychology, sociology, biology, and philosophy all at once. I find it amusing because a lot of people seem to prefer making all the aforementioned areas of study their own islands, separated from one another, when in fact they all work together to aid in a greater understanding of our world.

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KelseyBS
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby KelseyBS » Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:40 pm

I have not chosen a medium for my writing paper, but I do want to write about how the Human Genome project will affect us personally and culturally.

How will our privacy and insurance change? Will people avoid sequencing their genomes to prevent their insurance company from raising their rates? Will newer insurance companies require their clientele to sequence their genome before offering them insurance?
Will certain genes become a prerequisite to certain job positions?
How many companies will sell genome sequencing under the table for those who don't want their insurance getting a hold of it?
How many companies will not even sequence genomes, but sell fake sequences?
Will genome sequencing find its way onto social media? Rather than Facebook's status box asking "What's on your mind?" will it ask "What's in your genes?"
Will genome sequencing be like cell phones among children in grade school? Those who have done it will flaunt their personal genetic knowledge to their peers and those who have not will be jealous and beg their parents to sequence their genomes: "Please Mom and Dad!!! Everyone else's parents have sequenced their genomes!"
Will there be a Build-a-Baby Workshop, where couples can take their sequenced genomes and decide which of their collective genes their child will have? Will parents' nagging phrases begin to include, "Jimmy! I gave you that superior intellect! You will not use it against me or so I will take it back and demand a refund!"
Will Philosophers begin to discuss our cultural tendency to pick superficial genes that have no effect, or even negative affect on our evolution as a species?
Will our jokes about Fathers being aggressively overprotective with their daughters change to jokes about girls being ugly because their overprotective father gave them the ugly gene for protection?

On second thought I think I might turn all of these questions into several short comedic stories.

JustinN
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby JustinN » Sun Aug 16, 2015 7:59 pm

For my writing project, I intend to discuss how genetic discoveries in the scientific community have influenced popular culture through its depiction in entertainment. I want to do an assessment of how realistic and feasible the gene concepts that appear in popular culture are. I believe that a good deal of stories of the dystopian future genre have been built upon the fear that humans will someday fully unlock the genome and carry out many forms of eugenics, or human enhancement.
As of right now, I plan on looking at films, television, and books as my sources. I think examples such as; Gattaca, Brave New World, Star Wars, X-Men, Heroes and Jurassic Park reflect some form of fear of future technology that is present in most people today. Dystopian futures such as Gattaca and Brave New World show a certain view of genetic determinism in which people are placed in different social and economic standings from birth. Some stories, such as X-Men and Heroes, are set in the present day where random mutations have presented people with extreme enhancements. I think these stories accurately display people’s fears of being “left behind” as a species and I want to discuss the concept of mutants being the theoretical next step in human evolution. Also, I want to discuss films based on similar premises to Jurassic Park. I think the idea of a group of mad scientists recreating extinct species is realistic and I believe it reveals our society’s fear of “playing god,” and creating some monster that we as humans could never begin to control.
Since I am only brainstorming, I have not paid much attention to an overarching focus of the paper. I want to get as many different perspectives into this paper as I can without missing depth. Let me know if there is anything worth including or something worth focusing on.

ktoporovskaya
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby ktoporovskaya » Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:28 pm

The topic I choose to write about is genetically modified foods. The reason I chose this topic is because it is something of personal interest to myself. I gathered enough information so I decided to start on the introduction of the paper. I found a few scholar articles, which I can use to write about the philosophical issues I will discuss in the body paragraphs. The issues that will be discussed is labeling foods, health effects and risks, patenting the genetic code of the seeds, and major biotechnological companies. I am going to use the Wikipedia style format with titles that are subject to philosophical discussion. Here is what I have so far.

Genetically Modified Foods

As the population grows we find new ways to sustain our food supply. The newest way is genetically modifying it. World Health Organization defines genetically modified (GM) foods as foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism (1). According to GM Watch the number one seed company is Monsanto, it is estimated that Monsanto's biotech seeds and traits accounted for 87% of the total world area devoted to genetically engineered seeds in 2007(2). With the changes in the food industry come philosophical concerns such as consumer rights, health impacts, labeling and effect on organism diversity. Many parties such as farmers, biotechnology companies, government, scientist and general public are all affected by the outcomes of regulations we create. Government organizations including Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture and Environmental protection Agency all monitor and regulate genetically modified foods attempting to oversee everyone’s best interest. It is a difficult task because each party has an agenda that might not necessarily serve the best interest of other parties.


References:

http://www.who.int/topics/food_genetica ... fied/en/(1)

http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-firms/10558-t ... s-nature(2)

jjquintanilla
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Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby jjquintanilla » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:09 pm

With regards to the writing project, I would like to write on religion and its its views on biology, evolution, and general science. Specifically, I wish to focus on Genetically Modified Organisms and I want to analyze the conservative view of how religious groups feel about the fact that humans now have the ability to create foods in laboratories and enhance their properties. The reason I feel that this would be a good topic is because it brings into question the role of "God" and whether or not such entity still remains relevant in society. Primarily, the issue behind this is the fact that humans are now able to "play god" and in some sense perhaps dehumanizes the appreciation of nature and convert it simply as a disposable tool rather than a source of aesthetics and knowledge. However, I would also like to explain the benefits that genetically modified foods have brought to human society; especially in developing countries, and bring into question whether the benefits of these GMOs outweigh conservative views and also if it is more unethical to let people suffer hunger or to play god in a Laboratory. Also, perhaps this topic of Genetically modified organism can also tie well together with the topics of Creationism and Evolutionism because again it emphasizes on the notion that Humans have reached a new plateau. Such plateau again also dehumanizes humans as a species because humans have genetic evidence of the ancestral relationship between ourselves and other primates, which again fosters a position of concern among religious groups and their perception of humans a as divine beings. Such topic of creationism and evolution will bring into light the various social and political conflicts which have arisen over time which in turn will reflect the complex and continuous perplexity of Science and Religion.

pkshah
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 11:59 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby pkshah » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:57 pm

For my writing project I would like to write a short science fiction piece. I have an idea of something along the lines of a dystopian society, based in the future, where the genetic makeup of an individual is what is used in order to determine quality of life that person has. The rich stay rich because they are able to afford genetic manipulation, in vitro fertilization, and a variety of other tools for determining biological superiority. However, the poor stay poor because they cannot afford genetic engineering and as a result, would not be able to compete with their biologically superior counterparts. As society trudges through time, the dichotomy between the two societies would grow and grow.

The protagonist in this story would be an individual who has gone through a stage of natural human evolution (without the use of genetic manipulation). His abilities would surpass those of the biologically engineered humans. However, the protagonist is born into a poor family who cannot afford the means to nurture him to reach his potential.

This would be a rags to riches story of struggle against the structure that has been created in order to facilitate the dichotomy of the classes. Furthermore, it would be about the benefits and the dangers of genetic manipulation. However, the main point of this piece would be to draw attention to the detriments of a class distinction through segregation of things like superior genetics. Moreover, I would attempt to make this piece a bit of a hyperbolic and cautionary tale regarding the foreseeable future regarding genomics

When thinking about a science fiction piece that I would like to write I think a lot about books like Ready Player One, Next, 1984, I Robot, and Brave New World. The common theme of all of these fantastic works of science fiction is their dystopian implications of a world that relies too heavily on technology. I am not one to succumb to a naturalistic fallacy; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t suspect that heavy reliance on technology might have devastating implications.

pkshah
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 11:59 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby pkshah » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:59 pm

For my writing project I would like to write a short science fiction piece. I have an idea of something along the lines of a dystopian society, based in the future, where the genetic makeup of an individual is what is used in order to determine quality of life that person has. The rich stay rich because they are able to afford genetic manipulation, in vitro fertilization, and a variety of other tools for determining biological superiority. However, the poor stay poor because they cannot afford genetic engineering and as a result, would not be able to compete with their biologically superior counterparts. As society trudges through time, the dichotomy between the two societies would grow and grow.

The protagonist in this story would be an individual who has gone through a stage of natural human evolution (without the use of genetic manipulation). His abilities would surpass those of the biologically engineered humans. However, the protagonist is born into a poor family who cannot afford the means to nurture him to reach his potential.

This would be a rags to riches story of struggle against the structure that has been created in order to facilitate the dichotomy of the classes. Furthermore, it would be about the benefits and the dangers of genetic manipulation. However, the main point of this piece would be to draw attention to the detriments of a class distinction through segregation of things like superior genetics. Moreover, I would attempt to make this piece a bit of a hyperbolic and cautionary tale regarding the foreseeable future regarding genomics

When thinking about a science fiction piece that I would like to write I think a lot about books like Ready Player One, Next, 1984, I Robot, and Brave New World. The common theme of all of these fantastic works of science fiction is their dystopian implications of a world that relies too heavily on technology. I am not one to succumb to a naturalistic fallacy; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t suspect that heavy reliance on technology might have devastating implications.

SamGarcia25
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:17 am

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby SamGarcia25 » Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:33 pm

Although the decision is not yet final, for my writing project I plan to write a typical term paper discussing some potential social and economic consequences of making the human genome conveniently cheap to sequence. In the eyes of many geneticists, the Human Genome Project has been determined as the next big leap of progress for scientists in treating disease. For philosophers, it may shed light on the mysteries of mankind such as helping to measure how much of the things we do that are out of our control, and other knowledge that would expand how much we know about ourselves. These ideas concerning the proposed accomplishments of the Human Genome Project create hope but can be idealistic. From time to time the public learns about small advances in the project and genetics whose findings tend to be exaggerated by the media. Because not everyone has background knowledge of genetics and this Human Genome Project, it may be difficult for some to distinguish bad science from what has truly been found.
This mentioned absence of biological knowledge prevalent in society may be a hindrance for future customers of companies who are in the business of sequencing human genomes. Although the government may strive to set standards and regulations for ensuring the customer is informed and not taken advantage of, one pursuing genome sequencing may not know how well these rules will be enforced unless they have read about them. The big claims made by particular geneticists in terms of the successes of the Human Genome Project can be seen as dangerous and misleading. These claims manifest false hope and promises that may not be kept. In science, published misleading information can signify fines and jail time, emphasizing the importance of making sure these claims can be heavily supported. Especially, if the media manipulates what is published, devious companies may use ‘bad science’ to feign ignorance if confronted. It would be interesting to research other consequences such as these that will directly affect the public and may have to be discussed among policymakers and scientists.

SamGarcia25
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:17 am

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby SamGarcia25 » Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:37 pm

Although the decision is not final yet, for my writing project I plan to write a typical term paper discussing some potential social and economic consequences of making the human genome conveniently cheap to sequence. In the eyes of many geneticists, the Human Genome Project has been determined as the next big leap of progress for scientists in treating disease. For philosophers, it may shed light on the mysteries of mankind such as helping to measure how much of the things we do that are out of our control, and other knowledge that would expand how much we know about ourselves. These ideas concerning the proposed accomplishments of the Human Genome Project create hope but can be idealistic. From time to time the public learns about small advances in the project and genetics whose findings tend to be exaggerated by the media. Because not everyone has background knowledge of genetics and this Human Genome Project, it may be difficult for some to distinguish bad science from what has truly been found.
This mentioned absence of biological knowledge prevalent in society may be a hindrance for future customers of companies who are in the business of sequencing human genomes. Although the government may strive to set standards and regulations for ensuring the customer is informed and not taken advantage of, one pursuing genome sequencing may not know how well these rules will be enforced unless they have read about them. The big claims made by particular geneticists in terms of the successes of the Human Genome Project can be seen as dangerous and misleading. These claims manifest false hope and promises that may not be kept. In science, published misleading information can signify fines and jail time, emphasizing the importance of making sure these claims can be heavily supported. Especially, if the media manipulates what is published, devious companies may use ‘bad science’ to feign ignorance if confronted. It would be interesting to research other consequences such as these that will directly affect the public and may have to be discussed among policymakers and scientists.

lksalinero
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:01 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby lksalinero » Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:44 pm

Renato Dulbecco bases his argument in favor of the Human Genome Project on the potentially valuable discoveries the HGP would yield, specifically, a molecular definition of cancer. Dulbecco argues that after trying so many other strategies for understanding cancer, the best course of action is to seek to identify the genes important in cancer malignancy through an orchestrated effort like the HGP. He even goes so far as to anticipate a potentially imminent “completion of our knowledge about cancer” as a result of the HGP.

However, Elizabeth Lloyd argues that diseases and disorders, cancer included, are not as easily defined as Dulbecco might like to believe, writing “presenting…abnormal gene-function as self-announcing is unjustified.” Here Lloyd hints at the fact that the goal of the
HGP has only ever been to produce a list of some 3 billion A’s, T’s, C’s and G’s. What is done with this list is up to the scientific community. Using this complete genome (as well as others), it would be possible to compare this “list” to others and identify differences between genomes; however, any judgment of normal and abnormal or healthy and diseased is left to us as a society to define. In this way, the HGP cannot define cancer molecularly as promised by Dulbecco; rather, the best it could hope to achieve is to give scientists and medical professionals another level on which to decide “normal” for themselves. Put simply, Dulbecco argues that the HGP will allow us to understand disease, yet Lloyd proposes that “disease” is not defined outside of human constructs, and therefore the HGP can provide no insight into the definition of disease.

In response to this critique, Dulbecco might concede that the HGP cannot define cancer on its own. However, the fact remains that the HGP delivered new information that likely could not have been discovered any other way, and this information can be used to fine-tune our socially-established definition of cancer.

Michelle Tarango
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:59 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby Michelle Tarango » Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:57 pm

For my writing project, I want to compare and contrast the different views presented in the articles we read throughout the class sessions. Already, the readings have shown multiple views about the human genome project, and I feel that the future readings will also have contrasting views to be able to open up our minds to multiple sides of the issues. I think the hardest part of this proposal would be narrowing down which articles I would choose to examine. For this reason, I think it would be most helpful for me to focus on the Human Genome Project and one or two of the other topics that most interest me throughout the summer.

I also want to discuss how these issues will affect us in the future and what ethical concerns may need to be addressed as the Human Genome Project and other biological discoveries become more accessible to the population at large. I am particularly interested in the debate on genetic testing, especially concerning how much information the testing companies should be able to provide to the consumers who are paying for these services. I think it will be very interesting to be able to delve more deeply into the particulars of the topics I am most interested in as well.

The format of my paper would be an academic style essay, as I feel that would be the best choice given the topics I want to write about. In addition, it is also the style I feel most comfortable with. Because of this, I feel that I would have the easiest time organizing my thoughts into a well-translated piece. As this assignment also allows for a less rushed completion than the take home final, I am leaning toward making it worth 30% of my grade.

msnelmida
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 1:41 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby msnelmida » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:08 pm

I do not have a specific article in mind but I want to write for the writing project the topic regarding ethical issues and overall progress of creating GMO products especially food.

The questions are if there are ethical issues at all as historically all we had been doing with the products we used to reach at this level is alter the genetic information of some products with various methods although it is indirectly. Is this even comparable to the actual GMO products today? One example I can think of us that historically we produced different strains of the wild mustard plant

lgomez
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Aug 10, 2015 1:13 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby lgomez » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:24 pm

I've been thinking over what I might write for my project, and I think I've decided to write an op-ed on science advocacy and communication with the public. I feel that often times results and their implications are poorly communicated with the general public, much to the detriment of their perception of scientists. Often times people will have negative views of scientists and scientific discovery, especially having difficulty trusting in advances in different fields being beneficial. For example, one of my mentors pointed out that the "Mad Scientist" trope is extremely common in children's and adult TV. This seems to indicate to me that it is well accepted that scientists can often be malicious and not cognizant of the moral implications of their work, which I believe to be flat out wrong. Often times, scientists are the first and foremost critics of the extent of inquiry that people pursue. I intent to write a piece that discusses the best way to communicate that. I would most likely target this piece to scientists in the field of genetics or reporters for science news websites, specifically about the HGP or perhaps ENCODE. I am unsure of who yet. It would slightly change the focus of the piece Hopefully I would be able to either interview some experts in the field or somehow have someone who has experience in writing to the public to offer some insight. I might also be able to point people in the direction of a few well written pieces for the sake of example and guidance.

Bowen Tan
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:57 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby Bowen Tan » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:25 pm

For my writing project I would like to write an analysis of determinism and biology. There is an interesting report that people whose major is biology may be lack of religious beliefs. I think the question behind this report is, how does biology affect religious beliefs, or what is the distinction between biology and religious beliefs? From a view of determinism, the human genome theory may explain human behaviors, diseases and reproduction consistently with the determinism. It seems that the reason for all of those things happening has already been written in one’s genome. One’s genes determine one’s longevity, appearance and behavior, whether suffering from disease, even when the one will die. And one of the goals for HGP is to understand the information carried by human beings genome. One of those anticipations is to predict what is going to happen through testing one’s genome. It looks like we have already open a gate toward deciphering human beings. Then it becomes popular for philosophers who favor determinism to cite this as a complementary.

Although there are some progresses being made on investigating genes, there is still lack of sufficient proofs which can exactly prove genes as a whole determinant factor for everything. It is difficult to exclude environmental effects, and the environmental effects also can’t be attributed as one determinant for their random. Here comes the controversy. If one’s gene determines one’s life, then who determined the gene? Even from the heritability aspect, we can regard it from parents, however, where does the first generation’s gene come from? In another word, the one who determines the first generation’s gene can be the one who determines everything. But the debate is, if existing such a one who can determine everything, is the one can determine the things beyond human beings? If there are not human beings on the earth, it means no one can truly feel those things existing, then the question should be whether the things which are determined beyond human beings really exist. If they don’t, how could we confess there is a one who can determine everything.

From another view, it is valuable to consider one’s future from the genome. If we can know fully about one’s genome as well as its meaning, could we assert one’s future life? The answer is yes as the determinism. But the controversy is, the time we start knowing one’s life in contrast to we don’t know, will this change one’s life? Since it is determined, it should have been determined already the time one’s genome is known. But since the time to know one’s genome is determined, why should we keep trying to do HGP? Why don’t we just wait for the time?

sarahsilverman
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:59 am

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby sarahsilverman » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:47 pm

For my writing project, I would like to write a short story about a person who suffers from OCD. In the story, there will be two important encounters: one in which the protagonist meets with a team of medical professionals (psychologist, geneticist, psychiatrist) to discuss his condition, symptoms, possible treatments and prognosis, and another in which he meets with a philosopher to discuss similar topics. Through these two interactions, I hope to play out the differences between a philosophical view of a mental illness and a biological view of the same illness.

Some of the issues that will be addressed in the writing project are: When does a habit become an obsession (on the biological and philosophical level)? What does it mean to have agency over one's thoughts and actions? Is it an evolutionarily hinderance to engage in self-destructive behavior? Why do we sometimes do things that do not benefit ourselves or other people? Are neutral (non-harmful) obsessive actions normal or pathological?

I will specifically explore the main character's obsession with pulling out his hair. There have been many scientific explanations for this "OCD-spectrum disorder" which is called trichotillomania. One of the explanations is that the behavior is an out-of-control version of the "grooming" behavior which is present in all mammals. Another explanations is that for some people, dopamine is released when hair is pulled out, creating a pleasurable sensation and prompting the person to continue the behavior. Pulling out hair thus becomes a method of dealing with stress, because the physiological response is calming or soothing. I will explore the philosophical backdrop to these biological explanation, and also explore the social experience of people who suffer from OCD/trichotillomania. Lastly, in the course of the story, I will discuss how commonly used phrases such as "I am so OCD about my desk, " and "it makes me want to pull my hair out," do and do not represent the actual experiences of people with OCD.

Selestine
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:15 am

First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby Selestine » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:54 pm

For my writing project I would like to focus much on how the human genome project will offer significant benefits to medicine and scientific research. Also I want to relate how the benefits that will be contributed to medicine and scientific research by the human genome project will help in solving most of the diseases that are faced by the third world countries.

There some diseases that I would like to write on my paper that would be linked to the human genome project. One of those diseases is malaria, in most parts of the African countries, malaria has been killing most of the children who are aged between 3 and 6. Also it has been a very dangerous disease to some of the adults. So I would like to research further on how the human genome project can contribute significantly to the eradication of malaria.

Also, cancer has been a disease that most of the people in the third world countries can’t beat. As an example, in early July/2015 I visited Muhimbili national hospital located Tanzania (East Africa). I talked to one of the doctors working in the hospital and he told me that 95% of the people who have cancer end up dying since the cost of treating cancer are too high. So I would like to also research on how the human genome project could help in providing better and cheap ways to treat cancer in the world countries.

pattyt
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:00 pm

Re: First prompt (due Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.)

Postby pattyt » Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:57 pm

In response to the third prompt, I believe Walter Gilbert's views are consistent. His views have not radically changed in the 12 year gap. Gilbert still believes in sequencing DNA as an option for helping cure diseases. In the quote from 1992, Gilbert believes that sequencing DNA will give a snapshot of a person allowing them to have a digitized code that represents them. The interview from 2014 does not differ if not refines the statement from 1992. The genetic information given to each individual from each parent creates a genetic sequence that is unique to that individual and allows the use of personalized medicine in a more effective manor. As we would all essentially have “a CD” that is representative of one's self, then that data could only be relevant when pertaining to that person. That specific individualized information may be similar to others making it possible to create a generic template, but the key differences would make it difficult to completely help each individual with a product that is not created with their specific coding in mind. On the other hand, those key markers that make each person different could be the key to creating a product that specifically helps that person because it is created for that person. It is good to create a base formula, but using each person's genetic sequences, the formula could be modifies and improved based on each case. Essentially Gilbert is arguing not only for sequencing genetic code but also using it to our advantage to get ahead of the diseases that are so hard to eradicate. Each person has different DNA that when analyzed can greatly advance research and the creation of better and more effective medicine.


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