In chapter 5 of Graham, there is a quote from Nelkin that says “social factors, such as social class, wealth or poverty, environment, lifestyle and diet are far more influential (than genes) in influencing morbidity and mortality rates, as successive surveys have shown.” I am curious as to how statistics like these are gathered and interpreted, and also how it is possible to know what it will be like if we do in fact make vast improvements in our understanding of genes through the Human Genome Project. To me, pushing the boundaries of science seems like a better long-term option for solving poverty and suffering than any alternatives.
In humanity’s past, the biggest societies usually had a couple of elites with the majority of the wealth while everyone else was dirt poor. With the rise of the middle class, it may seem as if everyone should be able to live like us, after all, it is only fair. Yet we seem forget that most of the world has lived in complete poverty (according to our standards) for as long as humans have walked the earth until recent years. Is it fair that we are born into better circumstances than others? No, but its never been fair in the past either, so we must temper our expectations as we move towards this goal. Sure, it would be great if everyone could live as luxuriously as we do, but as it stands, this is simply not possible (we are already running low on natural resources as it is!). That’s why I think that massive scientific undertakings such as the Human Genome project are a potential cure for some of the major issues of the world, and therefore so what if it is marketed to the public as having nearly infinite potential? Even if it’s not infinite, it undoubtedly has a lot of potential. I think it is great that they are able to obtain so much funding for furthering our scientific knowledge. Graham seems to take issue with the fact that “the financial rewards will more than repay the research movement.” But what do you expect? Those working on the project are among the brightest minds in the world so of course they will need incentive to work on this project or else they would just move to a job less beneficial to humanity that paid more. The fear of corporations having complete domain over everyone feel overblown to me. Worst-case scenarios such as the post-3 war society in Stone Gods are simply that — worst-case scenarios, and I find potential futures such as these to be extremely unlikely. Ultimately, I think that holding reservations and challenging research such as the Human Genome Project is necessary and good, but at the same time we mustn’t forget that this type of research is (and will be) extremely beneficial to humanity as a whole.