Jay Robinson

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We may not need to genetically modify ourselves to evolve, and to reach our ideal.

There is an idea today that with genetic modification we can "improve" our genetics, becoming stronger, longer living, smarter, more creative, etc. I also have observed that the leading counter-point to this idea is ethical: "How dare we fiddle with nature?"

I don`t necessarily think that it`s wrong to tamper with nature. I don`t see humans as other than natural, and if it is in our nature to do any of the things we do, then they too are natural. That we are self-aware and can make decisions out of free will doesn`t make those decisions any more or less natural. Nature is essential.

But I would ask, Why do we need to improve our genetics? I don`t think it is what we as individuals or a global society needs. Before we become strong, long lived, intelligent, creative people, our will must be tuned toward acts of love, kindness, goodness, peace, productivity, and community. These are not genetic qualities, but human qualities. These are qualities that one cultivates consciously through the use of will in one`s life.

I wonder what all of the powerful sociopaths who run their lives from a place of greed and mistrust would do with this biotechnology at their disposal? For surely this kind of technology would be available, at least to begin with, only to the super rich.

You might say, if we could have super-strength, super-intelligence, super-memory, we could build a harmonious society where we didn`t need as much, and where we could all work together towards a utopian society.

To this I would whisper a bit of Sufi wisdom, which directs our attention to the snail, who has no arms, and no legs, and yet is provided for. I think that we are born with everything that we need to get along in this world, and indeed even more than that. We have the power to shape this world to our fancy, and we have been doing so, whimsically, and often brashly.

Evolution begins with the individual, and it`s a natural process. Change your mind, your life, and evolution will happen.

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    Jan 25 2012: Genetic modification is just another "magic pill", that does absolutely nothing. If you're not happy with who you are now, and you get genetic modification, you still won't be happy with who you are now... It's a biological solution, to a cognitive problem... and those, are really just drug addictions.

    Alcoholics, Drug Addicts, plastic surgery addicts, food addicts, and now, in the near future, the new and improved genetic modification addicts... "I'm taller... Why am I still not happy?"

    Oh, the places we've gone... The progress we've made...
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      Jan 25 2012: That's a good analogy, David.

      I think though that genetic modification isn't a problem (morally speaking, though there may be undesirable side-effects that we're not aware of now that would make it a problem,) but it's a problem if it is used as a psychological crutch or an ego-boost or something like that. Just like alcohol, food, and arguably, drugs, can be beneficial if used with a healthy consciousness. But dependence upon these external things can only be detrimental because it belittles our essential human nature. Already we are doing this with many things. For example, when we get sick, we go see a doctor. So already we are externalizing our personal health. We have created a disconnection between ourself and the health of our own body. Another example is the fitness gym. The people of India know very well that fitness can be gained using no tools whatsoever except the knowledge of the body. But people become very attached to using all kinds of equipment and dietary supplements. They become very strong and healthy but are dependent on these external sources for their health. Wheras the yogi is in-dependently healthy. Of course advice and help is welcome from the outside when absolutely necessary, but a knee-jerk reaction, or addiction to external modification is actually perpetuating weakness, not solving anything.

      Advil does not heal the cause of the headache, it just stops the head from hurting. It's not a bad thing, sometimes there is no sense in just suffering through a headache. But it's important to consider where it came from, and try to change some habits in order to prevent in the future. This is called growth, or learning, and it is what makes humans so beautiful!
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    Jan 28 2012: Your logic it's not too solid : " I don`t see humans as other than natural, and if it is in our nature to do any of the things we do, then they too are natural.'' : it is depending on what you mean by 'natural' : is it natural to destroy the nature ? or is there no such thing as destroying (the matter/energy conserve anyway)?
    When you say that kindness , goodness ..... are human qualities and therefore natural I guess you say the bitterness , hate , killing, immorality .... being human qualities are natural too .
    First: if it is in our nature to do such things it doesn't mean it's correct and normal to do them all , so the idea that the all things are natural has no utility as long as we don't add some more dinstinctions therefore the nature is not entirely essential .
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      Jan 28 2012: Hi Eduard, thanks for your reply.

      When I said that what we do is natural, I was referring to the argument against genetic modification that says it is "unnatural" to do so. In my original post, I tried to convey that I don't believe it is unnatural, but that I nonetheless don't think it should not be an avenue for us to pursue.

      It is not possible to destroy nature, because nature is essential, or inherent. Objects, or forms can be destroyed, but really they are only transformed and their nature gains different qualities. This may be a dispassionate perspective, but it doesn't mean that I don't also like or dislike certain things. I would entertain the idea of preserving certain things, like our environment. I am quite passionate about it actually. However even if our environment in it's current form is completely destroyed, it would be "natural," in that it would be a function of the universe that involves the earth, mankind, and all of the other beings that inhabit this planet. We can choose not to do that though, and I really wish we make that choice.

      Saying that something is "natural" is not the same as saying that it is "inevitable." This is a fatalist perspective, and it's a bit like giving up. "It's in our nature to be destructive," may be a true statement, but it is not unchangeable. Nature changes. A broken umbrella's nature is not to protect from rain, but if it's fixed then the nature fundamentally changes. We can consciously change our nature from destructive to loving, from hoarding to sharing, and so on to the benefit of our exploration of living. Thus would our genes be modified and our nature would change for the good. With super powers, our destructive nature would only be intensified. We must start as individuals to change our own human nature, from the inside out, if we want change to happen. However if we want to speed up the processes that are currently activated from our twisted nature, we should artificially enhance our abilities to do so.
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        Jan 30 2012: Hi Jay:

        It's true the nature is essential/inherent for us (I talk about nature using the common meaning of it = the physical nature).

        The argument against genetic modification rest on narrow interpretation of what's that natural , I think it is more about the idea that natural means the current state of existence of the objects or the objects in the form we know them , for example it's normal thinking when you have a bucket of ash (from an incinerated body) or a body in the way we know it (with limbs...) that the body is 'natural'. Of course the ash and the body are both made up from atoms and in this way we can tell they are both natural but it doesn't help (in this case we just say a banality: the nature is natural) , we need more and this argument against genetic modification using the narrow meaning of the word 'natural' says us more ; it is being related to moral considerations . Personally I agree with this argument .

        I don't know but for me is hard to judge the inevitability , there are too many players .