Monday, December 15, 2014
Reading remarks about Bill Nye's take on human-manipulated DNA, it's easy to forget that Darwinism isn't about genetic modification, which is a term used to define mutation done via manual manipulation rather than the randomness of nature, upon whose whims one could wait until all life is extinct before it came up with a modification that would function in the actual god-given environment, howsoever you may define god. All I mean by it is the actual existing environment into which the modified seed is distributed and of which, although it is never brought up (that I've witnessed) in the GMO debate, that second part of Darwinism that the pro-GMO side of the debate is as silent on as any Bible-thumping, idiot-by-choice, Christian evolution-denier.
Manipulation of the genetic code is something that irradiation and meiotic cell division accomplishes without any interference by humans, but most of those mutations end up in a dead end once they are disseminated into the environment and prove themselves unable to proliferate with said mutation, and so that particular mutation becomes nonviable and the existing organism goes on unmodified. The mutations that are created by humans, although you'd never know it to judge by the arguments made in favor of GMO's, are subject to this same dynamic.
Now, whereas you can forgive Creationsists for their ignorance, since it is not only professed, but proudly stated, all their thoughts being based on an unquestioning faith instead of facts, those of a more scientific bent are not so easily forgiven, because since their manipulations can't be done without it, they base the very existence on science, so their purposeful ignorance is more starkly profiled as a purely propagandist's ploy using misinformation and manipulated data so as to further an agenda that is hidden behind a cloak of scientific objectivity.
But it isn't objective at all. Anyone with the sophistication to manipulate a gene, even using the relatively low-tech methods of Mendel, know that genetic manipulation is only the first part of the equation and that the second part of Darwinian theory is based on natural selection. Ignoring the second half isn't Darwin's Theory of evolution at all but is gene-tinkering, a process by which one would have to create, or allow to be created, an entire different world with entirely different factors at work to produce an outcome that is pre-ordained as opposed to one that is ongoing and based on the survival of the fittest not only in the current environment, but able to mutate to accommodate itself to an ever-changing environment.
The term that's often used to describe this phenomenon is "playing God". However, as the less rabid of religious people will readily admit, that is not an accurate term by any means. The vast majority of God-fearing humanity actually agrees with the Darwinian view of the world, which of course, means that the mechanism the Almighty put into place to allow life to not only exist, but to adapt to the ever-changing world in which it exists, is, as close as we can figure it, Darwinism. So that when scientists who genetically modify an organism to do what they want it to do, are in fact NOT playing God, who found it much more convenient to set it and forget it, ie, put in place a dynamism that could continue its existence in a world in flux without divine intervention being needed every time the planet's volcanoes decide to blanket the earth in a suffocating cloud of CO2, but can rejuvenate itself from the genetic code already in place.
When the genes are man-made, but the environment into which they are expected to grow is not, the results, given the reality of climate change, anthropogenic or not, are of the kind referred to as a disaster in the making. Robbing our food plants of their ability to mutate and respond to the most rapidly-changing environment in human history isn't just asking for trouble: it's guaranteeing it.
GMO is the plant equivalent of sci-fi fantasies that envisage mankind creating a breathable atmosphere on another planet, a la "Total Recall", even as we destroy the only atmosphere capable of sustaining life anywhere in the known universe: our own. Analogously, even as we destroy the topsoil, the aquifers, the pollinating insects required for earth-based agriculture, we think we can tinker with a few genes and then, in our human-twisted view of reality, make it all right again. But of course, we can't. Not because we're stupid, but because we are unable to know the future, and therefore unable to create diversity in a world in which all we want to do is canonize specialization. But specificity denies mutability, and such denial fosters vulnerability, much the same way that optimal efficiency creates non-dynamic networks and robs them of true robustness; although requiring less resources to implement, they are nonetheless more prone to failure of a concatenating, catastrophic nature, than less efficient, but more robust designs that require redundant resources be left idle, or underutilized, in order to accommodate unforeseen, but inevitable, strains on the infrastructure.
But as the number of humans increases geometrically, as Malthus predicted it would, the need for increases in agricultural yield becomes more dire, and our demand for a growth that in every way resembles cancerous growth, goes on unabated, our desperation blinds us to the trap we're building for ourselves using our unbendable hubris for its bars. It's probably no coincidence that just as we are destroying diversity in our political structures and economic institutions, we have taken aim at destroying it in nature as well, replacing it with a hoped-for increase in yield that will make us look oh-so-clever for awhile before it implodes. The hope being that we can bask in our own resplendence before the edifice of idiocy crashes down around our ears (of corn?).
Meanwhile the debate will rage on ignoring the fact that mutation without natural selection is a pseudo-debate because they can refer to Darwin's theory of evolution as half-baked since all they use in their arguments is half of the theory.
As a corollary;
This cartoon uses much of the same illogic: it denies reality in order to make an argument for a position, by deliberately using a false analogy. Although the male sperm is often referred to as 'seed', it is not the same as what we usually refer to as seed in, for example, a GMO'd plant. Sperm, unlike a real seed, bears more of a resemblance to the ova in the female, as it is produced via meiosis, not mitosis, and therefore contains only half the DNA needed to create a viable entity. It would be far more accurate if it said, "If blowjobs are cannibalism, then menstruation is murder", because in both cases a nonviable cell is disposed of without having been afforded the opportunity to mate. Saying that you find the statement that abortion is the same as murder is a statement you don't agree with is one thing, and that can be argued on the basis of its philosophical underpinnings, but to make the above ridiculous statement does nothing for your argument because by its very nature it presupposes a certain amount of ignorance in those you hope to convince. Not to mention, of course, that it presupposes that everyone who gives blowjobs swallows the resultant cumload, something that reveals more about the person using this analogy than about anyone believing abortions are murder.
But this is the nature of so-called debate in this new millennium's first century, where facts are purposely obfuscated with blarney and people who should know better just cross their fingers and hope no one will notice. But dishonesty in science is not science at all, it is dogma in disguise, and that makes, not for a better world, but for a meaner nastier one where debate is simply a means to spread your preferred propaganda and facts are whatever you deem malleable to your purpose. We should demand more of our media, our writers, and our journalists. Not because we hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves, but because we deserve to have the truth so we can make our own decisions based on unmanipulated data, not half-truths and jerry-rigged theories.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 12:48 PM