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Life Sciences => Plant Sciences, Zoology & Evolution => Topic started by: cleanair on 22/04/2019 21:08:21

Title: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 22/04/2019 21:08:21

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A special on Synthetic Biology in The Economist (Redesigning Life, April 6th) predicts that synthetic biology will be the most important thing in science in this century and presents it as a natural and inevitable part of human evolution.

Quote
Remaking life means automating biology

Those given to grand statements about the future often proclaim this to be the century of biology in the same way that the 20th century was that of physics and the 19th century was that of chemistry. ...

Humans have been turning biology to their own purposes for more than 10,000 years. ...

Reprogramming nature is extremely convoluted, having evolved with no intention or guidance. But if you could synthesize nature, life could be transformed into something more amenable to an engineering approach, with well defined standard parts.

The report presents synthetic biology as a unguided practice driven primarily by the short term financial self-interest of companies. Humans (companies) will attempt to control the genetic fabric of nature and are already well on their way.

Quote
Biotechnology is already a bigger business than many people realize. Rob Carlson of Bioeconomy Capital, an investment company, calculates that money made from creatures which have been genetically engineered accounted for about 2% of American GDP in 2017.


Questions

1) Does philosophy have a say in the evolution of humanity in regards to if and how to per sue synthetic biology or GMO for food?

2) Are ethics involved to determine if and/or how GMO will be a part of human evolution or is it purely driven by market (money)?


Ethical considerations

Can life be a 'fixed state'? Basic logic shows that you can't stand above life as being life because when you would try to do so you would create a figurative stone that sinks in the ocean of time.

It may be best to serve life instead of trying to stand above it.

A special in New Scientists showed that evolution is not like Darwin's tree of life and is also horizontal, on the basis of what is consumed. When humans consume food, information is consumed that is used in evolution.


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The source of life is unknown. If it is not known where life came from, it is not possible to claim that what has been observed is limited to what has been observed. The origin of life cannot be factored out because it hasn't been observed.

Overcoming problems is essential for progress in life. When humans would attempt to control genetic evolution from their short-sighted and external perspective, they may hinder a vital core of successful evolution. What may appear as a genetic defect in a given time may be part of a longer term (e.g. 300 year) strategy to achieve evolutionary solutions that are essential for longer term survival.

A basis of respect for nature may be essential for successful evolution.

To summarize:

Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 22/04/2019 22:21:51
Philosophy is bunk.

Ethics is interesting. We have been controlling genetics by selective breeding of every other useful species for at least 50,000 years, so no fundamental issues of principle arise. GMO simply makes the process more efficient by targeting desirable qualities and limiting the quantity of experimental crops needed to prove the value of the product. The ethical question really revolves around patenting and economics:

It is generally considered a Good Thing that GM crops should be sterile and thus unable to contaminate other crop varieties by interbreeding. It is also in the manufacturer's interest to protect his market for GM seed  by ensuring that you can't save this year's crop to plant next year's. Now suppose I have a sterile GM rice X that under all conditions produces 20% more yield than any natural product in the next field. Farmer A uses X and can therefore sell his crop at a lower price than anyone else in his region. So every other farmer either has to use X or eventually go out of business. Within a few years, nobody is growing anything else and banks will not lend money to anyone planting anything other than X, so the overhead of storing native seed becomes a burden and I eventually have absolute control over the price and availability of rice worldwide. I can bankrupt or starve anyone I choose. Is that a Good Thing?

Humans generally have a choice of mate, and those who don't, tend to have a mate chosen for them on some grounds of selection rather than at random. Thus human evolution is to some extent intentional and may eventually lead to species differentiation since tall people tend to marry tall people and vice versa. For the most part, couples want healthy  offspring that resemble themselves to some extent, so the elimination of genetic anomalies at least prior to implantation can't be a Bad Thing, and given that around 30% of human blastocysts abort spontaneously, the deliberate abortion of a distinctly anomalous fetus may not be considered wholly egregious. The ethical question then is whether it is a Good Thing to modify or repair rather than destroy a blastocyst or fetus that would otherwise not live up to its parents' expectations.

Unfortunately the moral waters are muddied by a false retrospect. We can, do, and should care for the sick and disabled, including those born with disease, deformity or disability. Nobody should doubt the value of any human once born. The question is not one of discriminating against extant persons, but of improving the life chances and independence of those not yet born. And I can't see why that is a Bad Thing. "Every child a wanted child" is a popular slogan among people who care about people (and I have no time for anyone who doesn't). "Every child a healthy, independent child" just seems like a logical next step.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 22/04/2019 23:34:37
Quote
the elimination of genetic anomalies at least prior to implantation can't be a Bad Thing, and given that around 30% of human blastocysts abort spontaneously, the deliberate abortion of a distinctly anomalous fetus may not be considered wholly egregious. The ethical question then is whether it is a Good Thing to modify or repair rather than destroy a blastocyst or fetus that would otherwise not live up to its parents' expectations.

You are making a case for embryo selection to improve the human species. It is an interesting aspect of bio-engineering. My arguments where mostly directed at bio-engineering of plants and animals and GMO for food.

MSNBC had a interesting publication about embryo selection:

Would you have allowed Bill Gates to be born?

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But what if I told you it’s possible that Gates has a genetic condition that accounts, in part, for both his tremendous achievements and for his "nerdiness?" Gates is widely reported to display many personality traits characteristic of a condition known as Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger’s is a version of autism, a more serious condition that renders many children unable to talk, be touched, communicate or socialize.

The perils of genetic testing

Source: nbcnews - com

Another example is Albert Einstein. He was kicked out of school and refused at the University Zurich Polytechnic. He was described by teachers as mentally slow, not social and absent in his own stupid dreams. He did not speak a word until he was 4 years old and could not read until he was 7 years old.

Source: thestarphoenix - com

Parents want their child to be healthy, but is their short-term perspective based desire optimal for human evolution?

It seems to me that it would be a practice that is founded in an ideology which is named eugenics, a pseudo-science.

Could embryo selection applied for top-down control of genetic evolution be good for the future of humanity? Would it make humanity stronger? The logic that I provided in the OT shows that it may weaken humanity.

The complex coherence of genes provides in more than humans can possibly see in it (the future can't be foreseen).

Therefor I believe that a basis of respect for nature is essential for successful evolution.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 23/04/2019 00:11:18
I think I can distinguish between eugenics aimed at uniformity or an arbitrary ideal determined by a third party, either of which is distinctly counter-evolutionary, and eliminating or correcting whatever the prospective parents might consider undesirable in their offspring.

Genius "needs further research", as all the worst scientific papers say. Mozart was giving public concerts at an age where, apparently, Einstein could not read.  What genetic property or accident of circumstance made Ramanujan a genius? For the time being, I would be happy if every baby was physically fit and free from any genetic predisposition to disease or disability in later life. We'll work on autism later.

Working back to GM food, apart from a few environmental toxins or mineral deficiencies, I can't think of any evidence that diet strongly affects human evolution. It's arguable that smaller people have an advantage as jungle hunters and foragers, and bigger people might do better hunting on a open plain. It's also fairly obvious that childhood malnutrition retards growth, but that is an individual consequence rather than an evolutoinary one. The statistical evidence would be very hard to find as, by about the third generation, most immigrant communities tend to assimilate to the host nation diet - at least the vegetable part thereof - or, as in the case of Chinese and Indian groups living in the West, profoundly alter that diet. Too many variables and no strong evidence, except perhaps the incidence of breast cancer in women of Japanese descent living in Australia  - but even that seems to be a matter of dietary deficiency and lifestyle rather than genetic change.

All apart, that is, from two characteristics of caucasians: tolerance of dairy produce and alcohol. It is argued that the former gave our ancestors a wider range of possible domestic animals and winter foods, and the latter allowed, through brewing of beer and wine, societies to develop away from sources of fresh water and to travel long distances by sea. 
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 23/04/2019 09:44:46
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eliminating or correcting whatever the prospective parents might consider undesirable in their offspring.

Would the short term perspective of parents for a desirable life lead to a different result than a scientific consensus to clean the human race of weakness and undesired properties?

It seems that laying the choice with parents could be a scheme for scientists to justify their otherwise morally reprehensible eugenic beliefs and practices. They could piggyback on the back of parents who may have factors in mind such as financial worries, their career opportunities and similar priorities that may not be an optimal influence for human evolution.

Quote
Genius "needs further research"

There appears to be evidence that genius can be nurtured using any normal human brain. (NGC: "My Brilliant Brain" series). There are people who have just 20% brain tissue who live an entirely normal life. An example is a man who works as a civil servant who has a wife and two children. His condition was discovered by a random check in a hospital.

Man with tiny brain shocks doctors (New Scientist)


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A man with an unusually tiny brain manages to live an entirely normal life despite his condition, which was caused by a fluid build-up in his skull.

Scans of the 44-year-old man’s brain showed that a huge fluid-filled chamber called a ventricle took up most of the room in his skull, leaving little more than a thin sheet of actual brain tissue (see image, right).

“It is hard for me [to say] exactly the percentage of reduction of the brain, since we did not use software to measure its volume. But visually, it is more than a 50% to 75% reduction,” says Lionel Feuillet, a neurologist at the Mediterranean University in Marseille, France.

Feuillet and his colleagues describe the case of this patient in The Lancet. He is a married father of two children, and works as a civil servant.

The physical can't be the source of itself. The brains may be merely a tool and may not determine who someone is and how intelligent he/she is. It appears that intelligence may arise out of a will to go further than what can be foreseen, thus without a reasonable argument to drive them.


Quote
I can't think of any evidence that diet strongly affects human evolution.

It is named horizontal evolution. Wikipedia: HGT is an important factor in the evolution of many organisms. ...  plants, animals, and fungi, absorbing, carrying, and delivering genes that get incorporated into other genomes.

It is an argument for my statement that GMO as food would be a sort of incest. You would ultimately consume something that has been created from the short term perspective of humans. The food wouldn't contain the potentially vital information about how to be successful in life.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: evan_au on 23/04/2019 11:31:21
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Therefore I believe that a basis of respect for nature is essential for successful evolution.
If we had respect for nature, Columbus would have died trying to swim the Atlantic, and Armstrong would have run out of breath on the Moon.

Humans have traditionally used technology to overcome our limitations.

But if that technology itself has limitations (for example, an inability to shield space travellers from radiation or bone weakness on the way to Mars), then we might turn to biological techniques, for example, selecting astronauts who seem to have some genetic protection against cancer or weakened bones

After all, nature is no guide on how humans could survive space travel.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 23/04/2019 12:09:19
An example is a man who works as a civil servant who has a wife and two children. His condition was discovered by a random check in a hospital.

I consider that to be unnecessarily intrusive use of  exceptionally clever diagnostics. What treatment was offered? 
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 23/04/2019 13:12:39
I consider that to be unnecessarily intrusive use of  exceptionally clever diagnostics. What treatment was offered?

The case has been published in The Lancet.

Philosophy is bunk.

Isn't ethics a branch of philosophy?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 23/04/2019 13:28:57
It is an argument for my statement that GMO as food would be a sort of incest.

That doesn't fit the definition of incest.

Do you have any evidence from a reputable source that demonstrates that humans are capable of acquiring genes from the food they eat?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 23/04/2019 13:38:04
The food wouldn't contain the potentially vital information about how to be successful in life.
Being "suitable food for humans" is a very successful evolutionary strategy. Ask bananas, cows, sheep, maize etc.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 23/04/2019 19:47:41
That doesn't fit the definition of incest.

If horizontal gene transfer is a part of human evolution, it could be considered a sort of inter-species sexual activity. That means that when humans would synthetically construct the genetic fabric of food, consuming it would be a sort of incest.

Do you have any evidence from a reputable source that demonstrates that humans are capable of acquiring genes from the food they eat?

As a forum newbie I am not allowed to post links. You can find studies when you search in Google for "horizontal evolution evidence" or "horizontal gene transfer".
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 23/04/2019 19:48:44
Being "suitable food for humans" is a very successful evolutionary strategy. Ask bananas, cows, sheep, maize etc.

That would assume a limited purpose of existence. What is the origin of 'being' in your sentence?

1) can it be explained by science?
2) can science create it?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 23/04/2019 19:53:40
If we had respect for nature, Columbus would have died trying to swim the Atlantic, and Armstrong would have run out of breath on the Moon.

Humans have traditionally used technology to overcome our limitations.

I don't think that you can compare those examples with top down control of the genetic fabric of nature, i.e. synthetic biology. The essentiality of "respect for nature" in the context of genetic evolution would be related to the purpose of the existence of plants and animals. A purposeful food source may be a stronger foundation for humanity.

But if that technology itself has limitations (for example, an inability to shield space travellers from radiation or bone weakness on the way to Mars), then we might turn to biological techniques, for example, selecting astronauts who seem to have some genetic protection against cancer or weakened bones

After all, nature is no guide on how humans could survive space travel.

Maybe it is not right to heap up genetic modification. Influencing existing beings in the context of their existence may be different from top-down construction, i.e. synthetic biology.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 23/04/2019 19:58:30
What is the origin of 'being' in your sentence?
The same meaning it usually has.
"verb
1.
present participle of be."

That would assume a limited purpose of existence.
That would be a very sensible assumption.
If we are GMing food, we are doing so to make it "suitable food for humans" .

That's, kind of, the point here.
It's possible that someone is trying to make a 2 metre tall purple poodle for some aesthetic "purpose for existence", but it isn't going to be a big scale thing.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 23/04/2019 21:59:08
That means that when humans would synthetically construct the genetic fabric of food, consuming it would be a sort of incest.

That's like claiming that sex between any two random humans is incest. It isn't.

As a forum newbie I am not allowed to post links. You can find studies when you search in Google for "horizontal evolution evidence" or "horizontal gene transfer".

I'm well aware that hortizontal gene transfer takes place and is common among bacteria. What I have yet to see is any verified cases where it has occurred specifically between humans and their food.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 23/04/2019 22:12:59
The same meaning it usually has.
"verb
1.
present participle of be."

That doesn't answer the questions (what is the origin of 'be'? can science create that origin?).

That would assume a limited purpose of existence.
That would be a very sensible assumption.
If we are GMing food, we are doing so to make it "suitable food for humans" .

Besides limited purpose (lack of spirit), it would assume that life can be a fixed state.

The source of life is unknown. The psychical can't logically be the source of itself. That means that the source of life can't be measured and that life can't be a fixed state.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 23/04/2019 22:24:27
That's like claiming that sex between any two random humans is incest. It isn't.

The normal (healthy) situation would be "non-human -> human". Therefor, "human -> human" would be a potential unhealthy deviation, a deviation that is named incest if it were to be "relative -> relative".

As a comparison of a potential unhealthy situation the term may be applicable.

I'm well aware that hortizontal gene transfer takes place and is common among bacteria. What I have yet to see is any verified cases where it has occurred specifically between humans and their food.

A search in Google provides many studies.

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5379729/

Quote
Conclusions
Horizontal gene transfer impacts hundreds of human genes and this study provided insight into potential mechanisms of HGT in the human genome.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 23/04/2019 22:41:31
The normal (healthy) situation would be "non-human -> human". Therefor, "human -> human" would be a potential unhealthy deviation, a deviation that is named incest if it were to be "relative -> relative".

Humans combining genes with each other happens all the time. It's called sexual reproduction. I don't know how you can call that a "potential unhealthy deviation" when that is the normal way the humans share genes with each other whereas horizontal gene transfer from some other species is far less likely to provide any benefit.

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5379729/

That claim is far from settled: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5422933/

Even if such a thing was happening, it must happen very rarely. And when it does happen, it would be akin to a random mutation in the genome (in the sense that it would have an unpredictable effect on the cell's behavior, since the transferred gene could code for anything and be injected anywhere in the human genome, including inside of other genes). So it would be expected that the majority of these events would not be beneficial, even if they happened naturally. Then you have no way of knowing whether natural genes would be good for humans more often than artificial genes would be. It's practically a role of the dice.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 23/04/2019 23:05:38
I think ethics must be divorced from philosophy. It is true that philosophers talk about ethics, but drunks talk about football - it doesn't change the game.

The object of ethical analysis is to decide whether on balance a proposition is likely to do more good than harm. The outcome can be qualified in all sorts of ways but the object is to lay out the grounds for a decision - should we do it? I think defensible ethics should not invoke any unknowables ("what would Jesus do?") but can include unknowns ("what would the man on the Clapham omnibus think?" - we can ask him).

Back to practicalities. It is quite likely that a GM staple crop might not contain something that turns out to be significant. In general, no big deal. If you read a cornflake packet, you will find a whole bunch of ingredients that have been added so that it can be marketed as a food: maize is a very useful industrial feedstock, and once you have extracted all the useful bits, you are left with a crusty matrix that you can either throw away or sell, but food standards agencies won't let you sell it as a foodstuff until you have added some nutritional value. We add calcium carbonate to white bread, not to whiten or stiffen it, but to replace the nutritional calcium that was lost in the refining process. So there's nothing new about enhancing a basic foodstuff once we know what's missing.

The problem arises when an unlikely trace element is missing. I recall in the 1970s a lot of research on a small Chinese population who had all sorts of metabolic dysfunctions, eventually traced to the fact that although their diet was "mainstream Chinese" and plentiful, the local chicken feed was deficient in molybdenum - who would have thought it?

Postmarket vigilance is the key. We monitor "critical groups" who consume certain foods as a staple, mostly to set limits for toxin content, but also to check that they fare no worse than average if they don't eat something - meat being the obvious example. So if a GM wheat became a staple and replaced ordinary wheat in, say, one state, you could compare the incidence of metabolic anomalies and modify one or other product.
   
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: evan_au on 24/04/2019 00:39:30
Quote from: Kryptid
Do you have any evidence from a reputable source that demonstrates that humans are capable of acquiring genes from the food they eat?
I heard of one case where humans in Japan acquired the ability to digest alginate, the structural polysacharide in seaweed. Japanese people tend to eat a lot of seaweed (in sushi, for example).

It is thought that undersea bacteria that live on seaweed and normally eat seaweed were eaten by humans. Horizontal gene transfer resulted in normal human gut microbes common in Japan acquiring the ability to digest seaweed - which of course benefits the human hosting these microbes.

Such a strain of gut microbes would have a significant advantage in the Japanese population.

So, in one sense, "human" includes "human microbiome".

But this case also aligns with the following question:
Quote from: Kryptid
I'm well aware that hortizontal gene transfer takes place and is common among bacteria. What I have yet to see is any verified cases where it has occurred specifically between humans and their food.

See: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-26104-1
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 24/04/2019 05:34:05
Quote from: Kryptid
Do you have any evidence from a reputable source that demonstrates that humans are capable of acquiring genes from the food they eat?
I heard of one case where humans in Japan acquired the ability to digest alginate, the structural polysacharide in seaweed. Japanese people tend to eat a lot of seaweed (in sushi, for example).

It is thought that undersea bacteria that live on seaweed and normally eat seaweed were eaten by humans. Horizontal gene transfer resulted in normal human gut microbes common in Japan acquiring the ability to digest seaweed - which of course benefits the human hosting these microbes.

Such a strain of gut microbes would have a significant advantage in the Japanese population.

So, in one sense, "human" includes "human microbiome".

But this case also aligns with the following question:
Quote from: Kryptid
I'm well aware that hortizontal gene transfer takes place and is common among bacteria. What I have yet to see is any verified cases where it has occurred specifically between humans and their food.

See: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-26104-1

That's admittedly interesting, although it doesn't seem to be what the OP is suggesting. What you have posted is a form of bacteria-to-bacteria horizontal gene transfer. The OP is talking about horizontal gene transfer between eukaryotic organisms like fish and plants. That would presumably be much more unlikely to occur. He also argues that such horizontal gene transfer, if it does occur, is more beneficial if the genes are natural instead of artificial. I guess that means transferring genes from a fish to a tomato should be just fine in his view, since those fish genes are natural?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 24/04/2019 10:56:58
Humans combining genes with each other happens all the time. It's called sexual reproduction. I don't know how you can call that a "potential unhealthy deviation" when that is the normal way the humans share genes with each other whereas horizontal gene transfer from some other species is far less likely to provide any benefit.

The difference lays in the fact that the genetic fabric that would possibly be involved in horizontal gene transfer is constructed on the basis of short term self interest of the human. Such a concept may lead to diversity issues similar to those with incest. It may lead to misguided evolution and other problems.

The foundation for the spirit in genetically engineered plants and animals may be severely disrupted. The effects could span 1000 years so that it is difficult or impossible to see or predict. My intuition says that humans extract vital information from food (not just building blocks / genes, but information for going beyond what exists). Maybe the complex coherence of genes provides in essential information for longer term evolution. I don't think that humans stand disconnectedly and operate purely on the basis of fuel.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 24/04/2019 12:52:35
Various genes get turned on or selected for by environment. I'd not heard about the alginate case before but most caucasians are more tolerant of alcohol and dairy products than other races. It's the word "most" that gives it away: all homo sapiens have 7 cervical vertebrae regardless of environment, some traits provide advantage in some circumstances, but some caucasians do not have those tolerances, so it's more subtle than a distinct species change.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 24/04/2019 17:20:31
The difference lays in the fact that the genetic fabric that would possibly be involved in horizontal gene transfer is constructed on the basis of short term self interest of the human. Such a concept may lead to diversity issues similar to those with incest.

That makes absolutely not sense. The creation of new genes would increase genetic diversity, not decrease it.

It may lead to misguided evolution and other problems.

What is "misguided" evolution? Evolution is trial and error. It isn't a thinking machine with purpose in mind.

The foundation for the spirit in genetically engineered plants and animals may be severely disrupted.

What does "spirit" have to do with anything?

My intuition says that humans extract vital information from food (not just building blocks / genes, but information for going beyond what exists).

Can you actually support that intuition with verifiable evidence?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 24/04/2019 17:58:47
The OP is talking about horizontal gene transfer between eukaryotic organisms like fish and plants. That would presumably be much more unlikely to occur. He also argues that such horizontal gene transfer, if it does occur, is more beneficial if the genes are natural instead of artificial. I guess that means transferring genes from a fish to a tomato should be just fine in his view, since those fish genes are natural?

evan_au argues that bacteria are essentially a part of the human microbiome but there is evidence that horizontally transferred genes from bacteria can transfer into the human genome.

Quote
You—and everyone else—may harbor genes that have jumped from bacteria, other single-celled organisms, and viruses and made themselves at home in the human genome. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which provides some of the broadest evidence yet that, throughout evolutionary history, genes from other branches of life have become part of animal cells.

sciencemag.org /news/2015/03/humans-may-harbor-more-100-genes-other-organisms

There is a human wisdom that claims "You are what you eat".

My argument is that successful (healthy) evolution may not be just about transferring individual genes. It may be more complex than that and it may be that food plays a role beyond fuel.

Filtering out genetic defects and unwanted properties logically results in weakness in evolution.

Overcoming problems is essential for progress in life. Some presumed defects may be a part of a 300 year evolutionary strategy that is essential to acquire solutions for longer term survival. GMO could disrupt such processes and hinder successful evolution.

An example of evidence may be bacteria. When bacteria are fought with antibiotics they become stronger until the antibiotics do not work anymore. Scientists currently fear super-bugs that can pose a threat to human existence.

Quote
The discovery of penicillin in 1928 changed the world: an infection was no longer a death sentence but a minor inconvenience. But over time it has bred an increasing number of superbugs that have become immune to our strongest medicines.

sciencefocus.com /the-human-body/human-extinction-how-could-it-happen/

It may not be wise to filter out 'genetic defects' for the short-term self interest of individual humans or for a controversial ideology (eugenics). An easy life or offspring with genes linked to prosperity (financial, career, intelligence etc) may not be what is good for human evolution.

It may be essential to value what it takes to perform like Stephen Hawking in life. Despite a genetic condition, he has contributed to human existence in ways that few others may have could.

When humans would be driven by culture to fight to overcome problems, to move mountains day after day, like bacteria do to become stronger than antibiotics, they would become "super humans". Normal humans capable of long term survival. Humans that push the limits of what is possible so that next generations will be better equipped to go even further.

It may be best to serve life instead of to attempt to stand above it.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 24/04/2019 18:12:07
An example of evidence may be bacteria. When bacteria are fought with antibiotics they become stronger until the antibiotics do not work anymore. .

Wrong. Antibiotics do not kill all bacteria but more-or-less selectively bring certain species under control. The survivors now have no competition for their environment and nutrition, so the species evolves by Darwinian selection. Bleach always works.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 24/04/2019 19:20:59
A search in Google provides many studies.

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5379729/
And here's what that paper says
"Horizontal gene transfer has been found prevalent in prokaryotes but very rare in eukaryotes"

People are eukaryotes.

So, this process is rare.
More importantly, it has always happened.
And we survived, so there's no good reason to imagine that the (very rare) transfer of genes from GMO to humans would do any harm.

I'm unlikely to be troubled by picking up the gene for glyphosate tolerance .

Then you need to look at the flip side.
It's certainly plausible that one target for GM will be producing fruit that's less susceptible to fungal attack.
Which means two things- less exposure to fungicides (probably not important) and less exposure to foods that are affected by fungi.
Now, given that some of the most toxic and carcinogenic materials known are fungal by-products, it's reasonable to see how GM might reduce the damage to my DNA far more than teh very rare HGT would cause me a problem.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 24/04/2019 19:26:08
sciencefocus.com /the-human-body/human-extinction-how-could-it-happen/
That's disappointing, the BBC are usually better than that.
A moment's thought will show that  even if all the bacteria suddenly became immune to all the antibiotics it wouldn't lead to the extinction of the human race.
Your great grandparents did without antibiotics and so did all their ancestors.
There's no reason why your descendents shouldn't do so too.
People still have an immune system.
It would bugger up humanity, but it wouldn't wipe us out.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 24/04/2019 21:13:37
The creation of new genes would increase genetic diversity, not decrease it.

The source of the genetic structure would be singular. It could be compared with stating that having a large family would increase genetic diversity. It wouldn't resolve the incest issue.

What is "misguided" evolution? Evolution is trial and error. It isn't a thinking machine with purpose in mind.

That statement is based on an assumption. The source of life is unknown. It is not possible to claim that life has no purpose when it is not yet known what life is.

What does "spirit" have to do with anything?

Spirit is the source of life within a plant or animal. It is not plausible to assume that life is limited to what can be seen. Therefor it is not possible to state that the evolution of plants and animals has no purpose.

Can you actually support that intuition with verifiable evidence?

No. I simply don't believe that humans stand disconnectedly and operate purely on the basis of fuel.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 24/04/2019 21:44:28
evan_au argues that bacteria are essentially a part of the human microbiome but there is evidence that horizontally transferred genes from bacteria can transfer into the human genome.

So how would the bacteria get the genes out of, say, fish cells in our stomach and then transfer those genes into our eukaryotic genome? Has this process ever actually been observed in humans?

For the sake of argument, let's say that this does indeed happen. Now the question becomes "what difference does it make where the genes come from?" To give one particular example, let's consider a genetically-modified tomato that has genes incorporated from blueberries in order to allow them to make anthocyanins, turning them blue. How can it possibly be more harmful to eat these blue tomatoes than it would be to eat regular tomatoes and blueberries at the same time? The genes involved are identical in both scenarios.

The source of the genetic structure would be singular. It could be compared with stating that having a large family would increase genetic diversity. It wouldn't resolve the incest issue.

A gene is a sequence of nucleotides. The cell has no way of telling the difference between a naturally occurring anthocyanin gene (like in blueberries) and an identical one that was introduced via genetic engineering (like in the blue tomato I mentioned earlier). Their genetic sequence is the same and the resulting proteins produced must also be the same. Where those genes came from is completely irrelevant.

That statement is based on an assumption.

No it isn't, it's based on observation. The majority of mutations are either neutral or deleterious. It's up to natural selection to get rid of those that don't benefit the survival of organisms. You don't have to add intelligence of any kind in order to make it work. Evolution simulators on computers have demonstrated this. You don't have to program an AI in.

The source of life is unknown.

I never said anything about where life came from.

It is not possible to claim that life has no purpose when it is not yet known what life is.

I never said that life has no purpose. I said that evolution is not an intelligent process. It works by trial and error.

Spirit is the source of life within a plant or animal.

Evidence?

It is not plausible to assume that life is limited to what can be seen.

Why not?

Therefor it is not possible to state that the evolution of plants and animals has no purpose.

That does not follow. Whether or not animals or plants have spirits is irrelevant to how evolution works (evolution acts on tangible things like genes anyway) or whether or not evolution has a purpose. Even if one assumes that evolution does have a purpose, that doesn't change the fact that evolution itself is not intelligent nor does it create with purpose in mind. A good example of this would be genetic algorithms on computers. The computer programmer makes the programs specifically so that computational evolution will produce superior designs over time. In that case, the digital evolution could be said to have a purpose because the programmer created it with a purpose. However, that doesn't mean that the evolutionary process itself is intelligent or creates with a sense of purpose on its own. It's still trial and error.

No. I simply don't believe that humans stand disconnectedly and operate purely on the basis of fuel.

Then please recognize that such is your belief and we are under no obligation to share it. Don't get me wrong, the chemicals in food can definitely have an effect on us. But that's not the same as claiming that genes from our food can enter our DNA (at least not at rates that would cause us concern).
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 24/04/2019 22:07:24
Spirit is the source of life within a plant or animal.
No
That idea was ruled out in the 19th C by Wohler
(I realise you probably won't understand this)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C3%B6hler_synthesis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitalism
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 25/04/2019 00:40:08
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitalism

"Soul" and "spirit" can easily be interpreted as vital force.

...

"not a trace of separable soul to be found."

The source of life or spirit cannot be measured because the physical cannot be the source of itself. The argument that no trace of a spirit can be found is therefor no evidence for a claim that life is limited to what can be measured, i.e. support for the naturalism belief.

what difference does it make where the genes come from?

What I've tried to argue is that the information within the complex coherence of genes may be vital as well.

A gene is a sequence of nucleotides. The cell has no way of telling the difference between a naturally occurring anthocyanin gene (like in blueberries) and an identical one that was introduced via genetic engineering (like in the blue tomato I mentioned earlier). Their genetic sequence is the same and the resulting proteins produced must also be the same. Where those genes came from is completely irrelevant.

It would be the creation as a whole. When taken to an extreme, it's genetic construct would be limited to the short term self interest of the human. It would essentially be a sort of human offspring that is consumed. That may not be healthy (in regards to diversity).

That statement is based on an assumption.

No it isn't, it's based on observation. The majority of mutations are either neutral or deleterious. It's up to natural selection to get rid of those that don't benefit the survival of organisms. You don't have to add intelligence of any kind in order to make it work. Evolution simulators on computers have demonstrated this. You don't have to program an AI in.

Your next message essentially refutes your claim. If it is not known where life came from, it is not possible to claim that what you have observed is limited to what has been observed. The origin of life cannot be factored out because it hasn't been observed.

I never said anything about where life came from.

Spirit is the source of life within a plant or animal.

Evidence?

The spirit is a direct exponent of the source of life. The evidence for this is that you cannot perceive the perceiving as perceiver while you perceive.

It is not plausible to assume that life is limited to what can be seen.

Why not?

The physical cannot be the source of itself.

Therefor it is not possible to state that the evolution of plants and animals has no purpose.

That does not follow. Whether or not animals or plants have spirits is irrelevant to how evolution works (evolution acts on tangible things like genes anyway) or whether or not evolution has a purpose. Even if one assumes that evolution does have a purpose, that doesn't change the fact that evolution itself is not intelligent nor does it create with purpose in mind. A good example of this would be genetic algorithms on computers. The computer programmer makes the programs specifically so that computational evolution will produce superior designs over time. In that case, the digital evolution could be said to have a purpose because the programmer created it with a purpose. However, that doesn't mean that the evolutionary process itself is intelligent or creates with a sense of purpose on its own. It's still trial and error.

Before the source of life is known, it is not possible to make claims regarding intelligence being a part of it or not. External observation of a process would not suffice.

No. I simply don't believe that humans stand disconnectedly and operate purely on the basis of fuel.

Then please recognize that such is your belief and we are under no obligation to share it. Don't get me wrong, the chemicals in food can definitely have an effect on us. But that's not the same as claiming that genes from our food can enter our DNA (at least not at rates that would cause us concern).

I came to this forum with a simple question whether philosophy and ethics play a role in the synthetic biology revolution. I may not be the right person to defend philosophy or ethical arguments for or against such a practice.

The report in The Economist literally communicated that the synthetic biology revolution is unguided and has no intent while business revenue from GMO is already at 2% of US GDP. I therefor also wondered what users on this forum would communicate in that regards. Is it wise to let companies on the loose if the future of humanity is at stake?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 25/04/2019 06:18:54
What I've tried to argue is that the information within the complex coherence of genes may be vital as well.

And what is the evidence for this? In particular, how would that possibly have any effect if the anthocyanin gene is taken from a genetically-modified blue tomato than it is from a blueberry? The nucleotide sequence that ends up inside of the cell is the same in either case.

It would be the creation as a whole. When taken to an extreme, it's genetic construct would be limited to the short term self interest of the human. It would be human offspring that would feed itself. That may not be healthy (in regards to diversity).

That didn't come even remotely close to addressing what I said. How can your body tell the difference whether it received an anthocyanin gene from a blue tomato or a blueberry if the two genes are identical in nucleotide sequence?

Your next message essentially refutes your claim. If it is not known where life came from, it is not possible to claim that what you have observed is limited to what has been observed.

One does not need to know where life came from in order to know how it behaves and functions any more than one has to know what store you bought baking soda and vinegar at in order to study the resulting acid-base reaction between the two.

The spirit is a direct exponent of the source of life.

What does that even mean?

The evidence for this is that you cannot perceive the perceiving as perceiver while you perceive.

I can't make sense of this sentence, but it's probably a non-sequitur.

The physical cannot be the source of itself.

Based on what reasoning? Where physical matter came from is also irrelevant to what its observable properties are. The atoms in a living animal are the same as those in a dead animal. The only difference is how they are arranged.

Before the source of life is known, it is not possible to make claims regarding intelligence being a part of it or not. External observation of a process would not suffice.

Then what you have done is create a non-falsifiable, and therefore non-scientific, hypothesis. One could just as easily claim that you can't rule out the possibility of gravity being intelligent because observations can't determine whether an intelligence is there or not. If we don't need an intelligence in order to explain a process, why should we bother complicating our models by unnecessarily adding one to it? It isn't parsimonious.

I came to this forum with a simple question whether philosophy and ethics play a role in the synthetic biology revolution.

It certainly does play a role, seeing as how there are already laws against some forms of genetic engineering.

The report in The Economist literally communicated that the synthetic biology revolution is unguided and has no intent while business revenue from GMO is already at 2% of US GDP. I therefor also wondered what users on this forum would communicate in that regards. Is it wise to let companies on the loose if the future of humanity is at stake?

If one is to bring up concerns about the possible risks of genetic engineering, they'd better be able to support those claims with good reasoning and evidence. "Genetic engineering is like incest" and "genes absorbed from GMOs are bad while genes absorbed from non-GMOs are good" is not an example of either one.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 25/04/2019 07:48:13
It is not possible to claim that life has no purpose when it is not yet known what life is.

As I said earlier, philosophy is bunk.

You have introduced a word, stated that you don't know what it means, and with a brilliant non sequitur, asserted that nobody else can prove it has no purpose. And you can't excuse this as philology because tortured logic does not equate to a "love of words".

Let's try some logical analysis:

Life is the common property of the set of living things.  There is no evidence of a universal purpose since many living things live by killing other living things. Except perhaps for the ultimate purpose of selecting the final living thing that has killed all the others. Interestingly, if it is to continue living, it must  then do so by consuming nonliving things, so the only logical purpose of life is to develop a toxic plant.

This will come as a shock to anthropocentric religions.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: evan_au on 25/04/2019 10:04:03
Quote from: cleanair
there is evidence that horizontally transferred genes from bacteria (in food) can transfer into the human genome (emphasis added)
We are still waiting for that evidence to be provided....

There are a couple of reasons I am skeptical:
1. Food passes through the gastro-intestinal tract, where it is exposed to assorted enzymes, acids and bases which are optimised to break down proteins and nucleic acids into their component pieces for digestion. There isn't enough left to transfer a new gene into human cells (apart from a few micro-organisms and parasites which are optimised to live in the gut, and are protected by a tough shell or spores that survive this arduous journey, freeing the organism to grow in its preferred environment)

2. The cells lining the gastro-intestinal tract are exposed to food pathogens and the same corrosive chemicals and enzymes, so they tend to die quickly (after few days) and get replaced by living cells from underneath. Even if some foreign genes did get incorporated into the genome of these GI cells, they would be dead and shed into the GI tract within a few days. It wouldn't affect the whole human.

3. Even if it spread beyond the top layer of cells, it would only affect that human, not all of humanity.

4. The only way to be passed on to the next generation would be for the non-human DNA to be incorporated into the egg or sperm cells of a human, in which case, the next generation would have a copy of this gene.

5. Most genes inserted into a random place in the DNA don't do anything, plus they sometimes disrupt an existing gene or control region, and do something negative. It won't spread through the human population unless it does something positive.

6. The most likely way for foreign DNA to make it into egg and sperm cells is for it to be carried there by viruses, some of which do insert new genes into human DNA. In fact, it is estimated that around 44% of human DNA is derived from viruses, in the form of transposons. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposable_element#Discovery

7. The most likely way for DNA of food or other species to find its way into human DNA is for the virus to infect this other species, and then for the virus to accidentally incorporate some of the host DNA into a virus particle. That virus particle then carries it into a human egg or sperm cell, which now carries some animal or plant DNA.

8 So we are looking for retroviruses which infect humans and food species, and are transmissible between this other species and humans.
- There aren't very many viruses that infect plants and humans - we are just too different
- There are some viruses like influenza in which certain strains can infect humans as well as birds, pigs or camels. So that is a potential vector
- However, influenza is not a retrovirus, so a payload of pig DNA won't find its way into the human germline.
- And even if there were such a retrovirus, I can't imagine one which is specific to genetically-engineered animals, and to which non-engineered animals are immune
- In fact, the 150-odd stretches of foreign DNA reported to be in the human genome (see link above) are probably mostly viral DNA.
- Transfer of DNA from other species is possible, but requires a sequence of events which renders it a rare event
- Transfer of DNA from food is even less likely, IMHO.

So I don't see how eating genetically-engineered food is a form of incest, and I don't see how it will change the human genome any more than eating normal food.

That's an entirely different story than someone genetically engineering a retrovirus to carry some DNA into the human genome - this has already been tried in genetic therapy for blindness, immune deficiencies and cystic fibrosis. But international conventions currently forbid therapy which would change the human germline.
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_therapy#Background
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 25/04/2019 10:13:53
And what is the evidence for this? In particular, how would that possibly have any effect if the anthocyanin gene is taken from a genetically-modified blue tomato than it is from a blueberry? The nucleotide sequence that ends up inside of the cell is the same in either case.

The issue with your argument is the underlying assumption that evolution is a unguided mechanism. As long as the source of life can't be explained, that can't be considered an established fact. Therefor it is not possible to use it as a basis for conclusions and it would make it contentious to use it as a basis for a synthetic biology revolution.

That didn't come even remotely close to addressing what I said. How can your body tell the difference whether it received an anthocyanin gene from a blue tomato or a blueberry if the two genes are identical in nucleotide sequence?

What would be the ultimate state of what it is that is consumed? The genetic structure would serve a concept that should be as it is, i.e. it would be a 'fixed state'. That state is directly produced by the short term self interest of the human that consumes it.

Your next message essentially refutes your claim. If it is not known where life came from, it is not possible to claim that what you have observed is limited to what has been observed.

One does not need to know where life came from in order to know how it behaves and functions any more than one has to know what store you bought baking soda and vinegar at in order to study the resulting acid-base reaction between the two.

It appears that the problem with your thinking is that you assume that nature is limited to what can be perceived. The fact that the source of life can't be explained provides evidence that such a assumption may not be valid.

The spirit is a direct exponent of the source of life.

What does that even mean?

If the source of life is considered a factor involved in existence, the spirit within plants and animals would be a direct exponent of that factor.

The evidence for this is that you cannot perceive the perceiving as perceiver while you perceive.

I can't make sense of this sentence, but it's probably a non-sequitur.

Following the logic in the previous argument, in humans, perception would be a direct exponent of the spirit and therefor of the source of life. When you would examine the concept by considering to perceive the perceiving as the perceiver while perceiving you could make it evident by logic that it is not possible to determine the source.

The physical cannot be the source of itself.

Based on what reasoning? Where physical matter came from is also irrelevant to what its observable properties are. The atoms in a living animal are the same as those in a dead animal. The only difference is how they are arranged.

It is simple logic.

Before the source of life is known, it is not possible to make claims regarding intelligence being a part of it or not. External observation of a process would not suffice.

Then what you have done is create a non-falsifiable, and therefore non-scientific, hypothesis. One could just as easily claim that you can't rule out the possibility of gravity being intelligent because observations can't determine whether an intelligence is there or not. If we don't need an intelligence in order to explain a process, why should we bother complicating our models by unnecessarily adding one to it? It isn't parsimonious.

I don't agree with the unnecessariness of being able to explain the source of life when you would intend to 'redesign' life. It can't be compared with randomly assigning intelligence to something else of which the origin is yet unknown.

This topic isn't intended to provide arguments against GMO or synthetic biology but to discuss the fact that it is a unguided practice.

The report in The Economist literally communicated that the synthetic biology revolution is unguided and has no intent while business revenue from GMO is already at 2% of US GDP. I therefor also wondered what users on this forum would communicate in that regards. Is it wise to let companies on the loose if the future of humanity is at stake?

If one is to bring up concerns about the possible risks of genetic engineering, they'd better be able to support those claims with good reasoning and evidence. "Genetic engineering is like incest" and "genes absorbed from GMOs are bad while genes absorbed from non-GMOs are good" is not an example of either one.

Wouldn't a valid argument be that it should be guided, i.e. think before you act?

The fact that the synthetic biology revolution is officially unguided (driven by companies on the loose) may be a red flag that indicates that something may be wrong with the underlying theory and assumptions.

If there were to be valid theory, journalists of The Economist who crafted the report for "the world" would likely have mentioned it instead of literally communicating that it is unguided and without an intent.

If there were to be valid theory, it would likely be that the revolution would be guided into the optimum direction.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 25/04/2019 17:21:06
The issue with your argument is the underlying assumption that evolution is a unguided mechanism.

Can you show that there is any need for such guidance?

As long as the source of life can't be explained, that can't be considered an established fact.

That does not follow. You don't have to know the source of life in order to study how inheritance and mutation work.

What would be the ultimate state of what it is that is consumed?

A combination of nutrients absorbed by the body and wastes excreted from the body.

Quote
The genetic structure would serve a concept that should be as it is, i.e. it would be a 'fixed state'. That state is directly produced by the short term self interest of the human that consumes it.

Genes are not fixed. Mutation and genetic recombination insure that.

You keep dodging the question. How does the body know whether an anthocyanin gene came from a blue tomato or a blueberry? If it can't tell the difference, then whether the gene came from a GMO or not can't possibly have an impact on the body's functioning.

It appears that the problem with your thinking is that you assume that nature is limited to what can be perceived. The fact that the source of life can't be explained provides evidence that such a assumption may not be valid.

That is the argument from ignorance fallacy.

If the source of life is considered a factor involved in existence, the spirit within plants and animals would be a direct exponent of that factor.

What I'm not understanding is your use of the word "exponent".

Following the logic in the previous argument, in humans, perception would be a direct exponent of the spirit and therefor of the source of life.

I still don't know what you mean by "exponent".

When you would examine the concept by considering to perceive the perceiving as the perceiver while perceiving you could make it evident by logic that it is not possible to determine the source.

I can't make sense of this sentence either.

It is simple logic.

That isn't an answer.

I don't agree with the unnecessariness of being able to explain the source of life when you would intend to 'redesign' life.

That doesn't explain why we should assume that something unnecessary is actually there.

Wouldn't a valid argument be that it should be guided, i.e. think before you act?

Yes, and genetic engineering should be done with care.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 25/04/2019 19:22:43
The spirit is a direct exponent of the source of life. The evidence for this is that you cannot perceive the perceiving as perceiver while you perceive.
You will need to clarify those two sentences before you can get ny further.
As they stand, I'm fairly sure they are both wrong.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 25/04/2019 19:59:14
"Guided" agriculture has led to the overt disasters of Lysenkoism, the Chinese slaughter of sparrows (and the resulting crop infestations of insects), the Irish Potato Famine, the sterilisation of the North Sea, the utter economic failure of EU-mandated linseed crops, the scandal of setaside payments, and the mortal sin of food denaturing.

Amartya Sen received a Nobel prize for pointing out that there has never been a famine in a democracy. The combination of capitalism and democracy  produces progress mitigated by public demand - the economic equivalent of evolution. Let's have more of it.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 25/04/2019 20:25:24
there has never been a famine in a democracy.
That depends on how many foodbanks you count before you accept there's a fundamental problem
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 25/04/2019 21:15:37
This topic isn't intended to provide arguments against GMO or synthetic biology

So what would you consider to be a good use of GMOs?

Do you think something bad would happen to me if I ate a blue tomato every day of my life that would not happen to me if I had been eating a regular tomato and blueberry every day of my life instead?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 26/04/2019 00:33:13
there has never been a famine in a democracy.
That depends on how many foodbanks you count before you accept there's a fundamental problem
Sen was writing before the present UK government came into office. But the point remains: there is plenty of food, it's just that the poor must be punished for taking low-paid jobs. If we fed them at the taxpayer's expense, what incentive would their children have to do better? For heaven's sake, if people can't be bothered to manage their trust funds and make sensible overseas investments, why should the government bail them out? Public funds are for bankers' bonuses, railway shareholders' subsidies, and Carillion directors' salaries, not for wasting on the undeserving losers who will probably vote Labour whatever we do for them. Who needs food banks anyway? Fortnum's shelves are full and there will be plenty of Big Macs at the next State banquet.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 26/04/2019 10:27:33
So what would you consider to be a good use of GMOs?

As a science it is certainly important.

When paired with an ethical and theoretically sound foundation it may have important applications for human survival.

Do you think something bad would happen to me if I ate a blue tomato every day of my life that would not happen to me if I had been eating a regular tomato and blueberry every day of my life instead?

Effects of consuming genetically engineered food may be subtle and may go unnoticed due to lack of an ability to compare outcomes.

Genes are not fixed. Mutation and genetic recombination insure that.

You keep dodging the question. How does the body know whether an anthocyanin gene came from a blue tomato or a blueberry? If it can't tell the difference, then whether the gene came from a GMO or not can't possibly have an impact on the body's functioning.

The concept in which the genes would be structured would be fixed. It would be a product for a defined result that should remain as it is.

There may be vital information within the coherence of genes that is impossible to see from an external perspective because it reaches into the future. A top down construction of food may therefor not be healthy.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 26/04/2019 17:29:35
When paired with an ethical and theoretically sound foundation it may have important applications for human survival.

Can you give a specific example?

Effects of consuming genetically engineered food may be subtle and may go unnoticed due to lack of an ability to compare outcomes.

And what do you think those effects would be? Using existing scientific terminology and accepted mechanisms, what would cause those effects to be different from eating normal food?

Quote
The concept in which the genes would be structured would be fixed. It would be a product for a defined result that should remain as it is.

What do those sentences even mean?

There may be vital information within the coherence of genes that is impossible to see from an external perspective because it reaches into the future. A top down construction of food may therefor not be healthy.

How could that make any difference when the genetic sequence is identical? If an anthocyanin gene ended up in human DNA, the coherence of the genes would be the same whether it came from a blue tomato or blueberry. So if a blue tomato is unhealthy, then regular tomatoes plus blueberries must also be unhealthy. You can't have it both ways.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 27/04/2019 14:03:41
When paired with an ethical and theoretically sound foundation it may have important applications for human survival.

Can you give a specific example?

If there were to be a valid theory about the origin of life, among other things, it would be possible to determine an optimum which could guide the applications of GM technologies and may improve chances of human survival.

An important question is: what is the origin of life? And if there is no answer yet, would it be wise to let companies on the loose to drive a synthetic biology revolution?

Effects of consuming genetically engineered food may be subtle and may go unnoticed due to lack of an ability to compare outcomes.

And what do you think those effects would be? Using existing scientific terminology and accepted mechanisms, what would cause those effects to be different from eating normal food?

It may be that humans are connected to nature is a more complex way. It would be logical that humans retrieve vital information about successful evolution. Not just from a past perspective or for short term results, but also for reaching far into the future.

Quote
The concept in which the genes would be structured would be fixed. It would be a product for a defined result that should remain as it is.

What do those sentences even mean?

Science is essentially looking back in time. It is an attempt to define. Creating a plant or animal on the basis of such would therefore produce a fixed result that should remain as it is.

There may be vital information within the coherence of genes that is impossible to see from an external perspective because it reaches into the future. A top down construction of food may therefor not be healthy.

How could that make any difference when the genetic sequence is identical? If an anthocyanin gene ended up in human DNA, the coherence of the genes would be the same whether it came from a blue tomato or blueberry. So if a blue tomato is unhealthy, then regular tomatoes plus blueberries must also be unhealthy. You can't have it both ways.

I intended to point at the total: all genes together that are part of a tomato plant as "creature".
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 27/04/2019 15:40:00
If there were to be a valid theory about the origin of life, among other things, it would be possible to determine an optimum which could guide the applications of GM technologies and may improve chances of human survival.

An important question is: what is the origin of life? And if there is no answer yet, would it be wise to let companies on the loose to drive a synthetic biology revolution?

What does the origin of life have to do with any of that? Whether life came into existence billions of years ago from a natural chemical pathway, completely random chance or divine help doesn't change what we know about its behavior.

It may be that humans are connected to nature is a more complex way. It would be logical that humans retrieve vital information about successful evolution. Not just from a past perspective or for short term results, but also for reaching far into the future.

(1) That doesn't tell me what you think the specific effects of eating GMOs would be.
(2) That doesn't use existing scientific terminology and mechanisms to explain how it works.

Science is essentially looking back in time. It is an attempt to define. Creating a plant or animal on the basis of such would therefor be fixed. It would produce a result that should remain as it is (or grow within the boundaries of that same fixed concept).

Even GMOs can mutate and evolve.

I intended to point at the total: all genes together that are part of a tomato plant as "creature".

That still doesn't explain how the body can tell the difference between an anthocyanin gene from a blue tomato or one from a blueberry. If I happened to have an anthocyanin gene in my DNA, do you propose that there is an experiment that could determine whether that gene came from a GMO or natural organism? How would the experiment work?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 27/04/2019 19:08:49
Science is essentially looking back in time. It is an attempt to define.
a bizarre definition. Science is no more or less than the iterative process of observe, hypothesise, test. Engineering is the business of using what we know (mostly through science) to make  stuff that people want. Agriculture is a very old branch of engineering.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 27/04/2019 23:17:49
Science is essentially looking back in time. It is an attempt to define.
a bizarre definition. Science is no more or less than the iterative process of observe, hypothesise, test. Engineering is the business of using what we know (mostly through science) to make  stuff that people want. Agriculture is a very old branch of engineering.

(knowledge from) the careful study of the structure and behaviour of the physical world, especially by watching, measuring, and doing experiments, and the development of theories to describe the results of these activities:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/science

Knowledge is a concept that resides within a historical context. Before knowledge is present, it requires actions to have taken place: observing, testing and describing (i.e. defining) the results. The outcome of such is history.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 27/04/2019 23:25:32
What does the origin of life have to do with any of that? Whether life came into existence billions of years ago from a natural chemical pathway, completely random chance or divine help doesn't change what we know about its behavior.

If you consider to alter the fabric of it's essence, then empirical evidence does not suffice for a valid theoretical foundation. It may be possible to create a robot or AI that mimics life's evolution but that would not mean that it is serving the purpose of existence in a good way.

(1) That doesn't tell me what you think the specific effects of eating GMOs would be.
(2) That doesn't use existing scientific terminology and mechanisms to explain how it works.

It has been established that the origin of life is unknown and that is an indication that much else that is related to the evolution of life (for example what would be optimal) may also be unknown.

Even GMOs can mutate and evolve.

Yes, but it would be a human construct based on knowledge of the past. Considering such evolution as a healthy concept would be based on the assumption that successful evolution is driven by random chance.

I intended to point at the total: all genes together that are part of a tomato plant as "creature".

That still doesn't explain how the body can tell the difference between an anthocyanin gene from a blue tomato or one from a blueberry. If I happened to have an anthocyanin gene in my DNA, do you propose that there is an experiment that could determine whether that gene came from a GMO or natural organism? How would the experiment work?

If a complex coherence of genes would contain vital information about successful evolution into the future, then a blueberry gene in a tomato plant (or maybe when taken to a more extreme, when the genetic fabric is more severely modified) may result in influences that in a very complex total (e.g. 1000s of similar influences) could offset processes within human evolution that could have disastrous effects.

My main concern is: plants have a will to go further than what exists, to reach into the future. When humans would attempt to control the genetic construct for a concept that should remain as it is, they would undermine what is essential for the plant to have been able to come into existence.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 27/04/2019 23:40:04
If you consider to alter the fabric of it's essence, then empirical evidence does not suffice for a valid theoretical foundation.

I don't see why not. Evidence is better than non-evidence or speculation.

It may be possible to create a robot or AI that mimics life's evolution but that would not mean that it is serving the purpose of existence in a good way.

How are you defining "good"?

It has been established that the origin of life is unknown and that is an indication that much else that is related to the evolution of life (for example what would be optimal) may also be unknown.

If a complex coherence of genes would contain vital information about successful evolution into the future, then a blueberry gene in a tomato plant (or maybe when taken to a more extreme, when the genetic fabric is more severely modified) may result in influences that in a very complex total (e.g. 1000s of similar influences) could offset processes within human evolution that could have disastrous effects.

You say the word "may" a lot. Do you have any actual scientific evidence to support your claims or is it all speculation?

Yes, but it would be a human construct based on knowledge of the past.

All genes are based on what happened in the past.

Considering such evolution as a healthy concept would be based on the assumption that successful evolution is driven by random chance.

Do you have evidence that anything more than random chance (within a limited use of the term "random", as some mutations are known to be more likely than others) is necessary to explain the existing scientific knowledge about evolution? Merely saying "maybe" is not evidence, it is just speculation. More importantly (and I really want to know the answer to this question), what is the mechanism that you propose causes non-random evolution? Has it been detected yet?

My main concern is: plants have a will to go further than what exists, to reach into the future.

I'm going to need a link to a reputable source for you to support that statement.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: evan_au on 28/04/2019 04:36:36
Quote from: cleanair
When humans would attempt to control the genetic construct for a concept that should remain as it is, they would undermine what is essential for the plant to have been able to come into existence.
Could you perhaps be talking about the loss of genetic diversity that occurs when humans propagate one inbred strain of a crop, at the expense of the wide variety of strains that exist in the wild?

These widely-planted monocrops are more likely to be wiped out by some pathogen to which they have no immunity, while a diverse wild population would be minimally affected by such a pathogen.

Biologists are aware of this risk, and this is one of the drivers for the creation of seed banks, where seeds of many wild strains are stored. These seed banks can be searched for protective genes that could be bred into high-yield strains used in agriculture.

If this cross-breeding is required on a short timescale, then insertion of the gene via genetic engineering techniques will be much faster than waiting many years for traditional cross-breeding.

Since the "green revolution (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution)", it has only been factory-scale agriculture that has kept ahead of the increase in human population (at a cost to many other species).

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed_bank
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 28/04/2019 14:06:45
If you consider to alter the fabric of it's essence, then empirical evidence does not suffice for a valid theoretical foundation.

I don't see why not. Evidence is better than non-evidence or speculation.

It is not a foundation for a claim that life's evolution is driven by random chance.

It may be possible to create a robot or AI that mimics life's evolution but that would not mean that it is serving the purpose of existence in a good way.

How are you defining "good"?

The argument is essentially that it would only be possible to define 'good' when the origin of life can be explained.

You say the word "may" a lot. Do you have any actual scientific evidence to support your claims or is it all speculation?

A lack of answers to fundamental questions about life simply means that it is not possible to make assumptions. Speculation could give direction for research and discovery of answers.

I may not be the right person to defend philosophy or ethical thinking. I am just a regular user who originally joined to forum to search for feedback/information regarding a solution to prevent air pollution for bike users. I noticed that this forum intended to connect the public with science and that it was accessible for anyone so I was hoping that it could lead to new insights that would also help the purpose of this forum (making science easy to consume for non-scientists).

I initiated this topic to learn new perspectives, not to present my own idea's/theory although I did try to provide an example of arguments to give the topic a start.

I wondered what users on this forum may think of the synthetic biology revolution. E.g. scientists who work in nature conservation and have a direct connection with nature on a daily basis. What do they believe that would be the result of top-down re-structuring of the fabric of plants and animals?

Yes, but it would be a human construct based on knowledge of the past.

All genes are based on what happened in the past.

That may not be true. The complex coherence of genes may contain information that reaches into the future.

Considering such evolution as a healthy concept would be based on the assumption that successful evolution is driven by random chance.

Do you have evidence that anything more than random chance (within a limited use of the term "random", as some mutations are known to be more likely than others) is necessary to explain the existing scientific knowledge about evolution? Merely saying "maybe" is not evidence, it is just speculation. More importantly (and I really want to know the answer to this question), what is the mechanism that you propose causes non-random evolution? Has it been detected yet?

The source of life is unknown. If it is not known where life came from, it is not possible to claim that what has been observed is limited to what has been observed. The origin of life cannot be factored out because it hasn't been observed.

Logically, the physical can't be the source of itself. That may explain why it hasn't been observed. It also means that I have no evidence for an alternative to random chance.

Maybe it would be possible to provide evidence with philosophy.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 28/04/2019 14:09:58
Quote from: cleanair
When humans would attempt to control the genetic construct for a concept that should remain as it is, they would undermine what is essential for the plant to have been able to come into existence.
Could you perhaps be talking about the loss of genetic diversity that occurs when humans propagate one inbred strain of a crop, at the expense of the wide variety of strains that exist in the wild?

No, I was pointing at the concept as a whole that would be limited to information of the past (a fixed state).
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Bored chemist on 28/04/2019 14:21:02
No, I was pointing at the concept as a whole that would be limited to information of the past (a fixed state).
As opposed to what?
do you think other stuff relies on reading the future?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 28/04/2019 18:09:45
It is not a foundation for a claim that life's evolution is driven by random chance.

Why not?

The argument is essentially that it would only be possible to define 'good' when the origin of life can be explained.

So then you don't even know what counts as "good" and can't say whether any given action is good or not. Why bother trying to say what we should or should not do with GMOs when we can't even know what the "good" thing to do in the first place is?

A lack of answers to fundamental questions about life simply means that it is not possible to make assumptions. Speculation could give direction for research and discovery of answers.

Speculation devoid of evidence isn't grounds for saying what we should or should not do.

What do they believe that would be the result of top-down re-structuring of the fabric of plants and animals?

That depends on what is done specifically.

That may not be true. The complex coherence of genes may contain information that reaches into the future.

Aliens "may" have bases on the Moon. Claiming that DNA has some kind of psychic ability to know what the future holds is just as extraordinary of a claim as that one. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Where is the extraordinary evidence?

The source of life is unknown. If it is not known where life came from, it is not possible to claim that what has been observed is limited to what has been observed.

Non-sequitur.

Logically, the physical can't be the source of itself.

What exactly do you imply by bringing this up anyway? That physical things must have spirits or what? Rocks are physical objects. Do they have spirits?

It also means that I have no evidence for an alternative to random chance.

Enough said.

Maybe it would be possible to provide evidence with philosophy.

If such evidence isn't testable then it isn't scientific.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 29/04/2019 07:27:23
No, I was pointing at the concept as a whole that would be limited to information of the past (a fixed state).
As opposed to what?
do you think other stuff relies on reading the future?

As opposed to a being that came into existence by itself.

In regards to the relevance of the 'future'. If a person has a desire, a striving, for example to marry the (wo)man of his/her dreams, it will result in a process that reaches into the future. When looking at species level, or even one step higher, on a complex interconnected natural system level, there may be something similar at play.

Some essential processes may span thousands of years.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 29/04/2019 07:30:56
It is not a foundation for a claim that life's evolution is driven by random chance.

Why not?

Because there is a major unknown involved. Believing in random chance would be similar to believing that a God created the universe.

The argument is essentially that it would only be possible to define 'good' when the origin of life can be explained.

So then you don't even know what counts as "good" and can't say whether any given action is good or not. Why bother trying to say what we should or should not do with GMOs when we can't even know what the "good" thing to do in the first place is?

Philosophy and ethics may provide a foundation for a concept of "good" in a context in which the origin of life is unknown or can't be known.

Using the inability to explain the origin of life for a belief that evolution is driven by random chance is similar to religions using that same inability to make people believe in a God.

My position is essentially to not pick sides. Not an atheistic belief, no God belief, and not factoring out potentially immeasurable factors.

A lack of answers to fundamental questions about life simply means that it is not possible to make assumptions. Speculation could give direction for research and discovery of answers.

Speculation devoid of evidence isn't grounds for saying what we should or should not do.

I disagree in regards to the 'do not do' part. It could be an argument that more research is needed BEFORE an (unguided) "scientific revolution" is initiated.

That may not be true. The complex coherence of genes may contain information that reaches into the future.

Aliens "may" have bases on the Moon. Claiming that DNA has some kind of psychic ability to know what the future holds is just as extraordinary of a claim as that one. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Where is the extraordinary evidence?

The evidence that you seek is physical. Logic shows that what is pointed at as a potentially crucial but yet unknown factor can't be physical in nature because the physical can't be the origin of itself.

Logically, the physical can't be the source of itself.

What exactly do you imply by bringing this up anyway? That physical things must have spirits or what? Rocks are physical objects. Do they have spirits?

It provides an argument for why it may be possible that the origin of life hasn't been observed yet and that there is no justification to rule out it's potential importance in evolution.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 29/04/2019 21:07:05
Because there is a major unknown involved. Believing in random chance would be similar to believing that a God created the universe.

There are unknowns involved in literally everything. You can always add any number of additional pieces of unfalsifiable complexity to any theory in existence. But why should we bother? What do we gain from it?

Philosophy and ethics may provide a foundation for a concept of "good" in a context in which the origin of life is unknown or can't be known.

So then we don't need to know how life originated in order to know what is good.

Using the inability to explain the origin of life for a belief that evolution is driven by random chance is similar to religions using that same inability to make people believe in a God.

It would be nice if you could explain how the origin of life would impact the way evolution works and do so by using terms and mechanisms that are accepted by modern science.

I disagree in regards to the 'do not do' part. It could be an argument that more research is needed BEFORE an (unguided) "scientific revolution" is initiated.

Haven't you already said that evidence for non-random evolution can't be detected? If so, then how could you ever do the needed research in the first place?

The evidence that you seek is physical. Logic shows that what is pointed at as a potentially crucial but yet unknown factor can't be physical in nature because the physical can't be the origin of itself.

This sounds like a case of, "DNA might be psychic, but any evidence for that can never be detected."

It provides an argument for why it may be possible that the origin of life hasn't been observed yet and that there is no justification to rule out it's potential importance in evolution.

What would that impact on evolution be and more importantly, can it be detected even in principle?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 30/04/2019 23:55:37
Because there is a major unknown involved. Believing in random chance would be similar to believing that a God created the universe.

There are unknowns involved in literally everything. You can always add any number of additional pieces of unfalsifiable complexity to any theory in existence. But why should we bother? What do we gain from it?

My argument is mainly that there must be a reason that The Economist states that the synthetic biology revolution is unguided. It could be a red flag that something is wrong.

A human wisdom is "think before you act".

@alancalverd called philosophy bunk.

It appears that the "unguided" nature of synthetic biology may be intentional for what at most can be described as a belief that evolution is driven by random chance, i.e. the belief that life is meaningless.

Is there a scientific consensus? Or might it be that a contentious practice is being forced for financial motives?

Philosophy and ethics may provide a foundation for a concept of "good" in a context in which the origin of life is unknown or can't be known.

So then we don't need to know how life originated in order to know what is good.

That would be something to be discovered.

A belief that evolution is driven by random chance may result in the idea that thinking isn't needed and that anything random will count as "good".

Using the inability to explain the origin of life for a belief that evolution is driven by random chance is similar to religions using that same inability to make people believe in a God.

It would be nice if you could explain how the origin of life would impact the way evolution works and do so by using terms and mechanisms that are accepted by modern science.

As long as the origin of life is unknown there is likely no evidence available. It would be something to be discovered.

I disagree in regards to the 'do not do' part. It could be an argument that more research is needed BEFORE an (unguided) "scientific revolution" is initiated.

Haven't you already said that evidence for non-random evolution can't be detected? If so, then how could you ever do the needed research in the first place?

No. I suggested that the physical cannot be the source of itself, but that does not mean that no evidence can be discovered to prove that life is not driven by random chance.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 26/09/2019 16:00:30
There is a lot unknown about plants and animals. Some claim that plants are intelligent beings who can develop a love relationship with animals and humans.

What would love mean in such a relation? Would it be based on the past or based on a (shared) future? If the future, how could science be a guiding principle for evolution?

Quote
Evolutionary ecologist Monica Gagliano insists that plants are intelligent, and she’s not speaking metaphorically. “My work is not about metaphors at all,” Gagliano tells Forbes. “When I talk about learning, I mean learning. When I talk about memory, I mean memory.”

Gagliano’s behavioral experiments on plants suggest that—while plants don’t have a central nervous system or a brain—they behave like intelligent beings.

Gagliano, who began her career as a marine scientist, says her work with plants triggered a profound epiphany. “The main realization for me wasn’t the fact that plants themselves must be something more than we give them credit for, but what if everything around us is much more than we give it credit for, whether it’s animal, plant, bacteria, whatever.”

Source: https://qz.com/1294941/a-debate-over-plant-consciousness-is-forcing-us-to-confront-the-limitations-of-the-human-mind/

What is the origin of 'love'? Similar to the origin of life, the origin of love is not yet known. Love may be a guiding principle that reaches into the future and that's essential for successful evolution.

With regard to the relevance of the 'future' for evolution. If a person has a desire, a striving, for example to marry the (wo)man of his/her dreams, it will result in a process that reaches into the future. When looking at species level, or even one step higher, on a complex interconnected natural system level, there may be something similar at play.

Some essential processes may span thousands of years.

BBC: Plants can see, hear and smell – and respond

Quote
Plants, according to Jack C Schultz, "are just very slow animals".

This is not a misunderstanding of basic biology. Schultz is a professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and has spent four decades investigating the interactions between plants and insects. He knows his stuff.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170109-plants-can-see-hear-and-smell-and-respond

Science is looking back in time. The product of science is history and research has shown that paradigm shifts in science are often based on social values instead of what's actually true.

An example is the Big Bang theory which may indirectly be at the basis for some of the idea's for a synthetic biology revolution.

Big Bang theory wrong? Star older than Universe discovered - threat of ‘scientific crisis’

Quote
The Big Bang theory has been thrown into question after scientists discovered a star which appears to be older than the Universe itself – and it could lead to a “scientific crisis”.

Source: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1162808/big-bang-theory-how-old-is-universe-physics-news-astronomy-space-2019

Big Bang theory wrong: Black hole found that's so big and old it makes Big Bang impossible

Quote
Astronomers have spotted a black hole that is as old as the universe itself, putting a huge question mark over the Big Bang theory.

Source: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/889405/black-hole-big-bang-theory-wrong-big-bounce-universe-space

No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning
https://phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html

The Big Bang was invented by catholic priest Georges Lemaître from Belgium for "a day without a yesterday". Lemaître was a personal friend of Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein initially criticized the theory but ultimately yielded to his friend's theory.

Albert Einstein was socially involved. In his time, society was very unstable. He called his own theory for the cosmological constant his "biggest blunder" while recent evidence has proven it to be correct.

Einstein's 'Biggest Blunder' Turns Out to Be Right
Source: https://www.space.com/9593-einstein-biggest-blunder-turns.html

Even the fundamental laws of physics are merely an assumption and recent evidence has shown that the laws of physics can change in time, indicating that the Universe may be infinite and has no beginning.

Laws of physics may change across the universe

Quote
Another author on the paper, Michael Murphy of Swinburne University in Australia, understands the caution. But he says the evidence for changing constants is piling up. “We just report what we find, and no one has been able to explain away these results in a decade of trying,” Murphy told New Scientist. “The fundamental constants being constant is an assumption. We’re here to test physics, not to assume it.”

...

"The discovery, if confirmed, has profound implications for our understanding of space and time and violates one of the fundamental principles underlying Einstein's General Relativity theory,"

The findings may also imply the Universe is much larger than our observable part of it, possibly infinite.

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100909004112.htm

Considering these developments, even if quality knowledge could provide a foundation for a synthetic biology revolution, it may not be wise to per sue it with the current state of human science/knowledge.

Further. It appears that the synthetic biology revolution is primarily driven by companies on the loose, for a short-term financial interest. Companies are proven to be corruptible and the corruption for financial motives goes far. Some time ago it was revealed that the publisher of The Lancet (Elsevier) published 6 fake scientific journals for pharmaceutical companies, to mislead scientists and doctors.

Quote
Reputational damage for medical publisher Elsevier, which publishes The Lancet, among others. Last week the Dutch-English company admitted that from 2000 to 2005 it had published six fake journals that were issued for scientific journals. In reality, they were marketing magazines paid for by pharmaceutical companies. The papers published in Australia had names such as Australasian Journal of General Practice and Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint Medicine. The magazines look solid, also because the name Elsevier is prominent on the front page and the sponsor's name is not.

There have been many scandals in which side effect have been kept hidden. Complete medical practices have been proven to be based on fraud.

Effectiveness of antidepressants: an evidence myth constructed from a thousand randomized trials?
prof. John P. A. Ioannidis (Standord University)
Source: https://philpapers.org/rec/JOHEOA-2

Imagine the endeavor to corrupt science in such profound way just to make billions of USD in profit.

Companies have a simple mindset: "if you don't do it, another company will. Either take a billion USD extra or lose the fight to survive.". In this case humans are involved (medicine) and there may be pretty strong ethical forces at play, although obviously not (yet) efficient enough to prevent profound corruption.

What if companies are let on the loose for a synthetic biology revolution? Who will speak for the plants and animals? The potential for damage may be much greater as there will logically be less control and oversight.

To return to the question of the topic: is the synthetic biology revolution purely driven by market (money) or is it based on philosophy / sound theories in the interest of humanity?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 26/09/2019 16:33:30
Fortunately, applied biology, whether as medicine or agriculture, has nothing to do with philosophy. It is always about  maximising something: health, profit, yield, whatever. Philosophy is about vanity.

Now and again we eliminate a species. Pity about the dodo, but nobody wept for smallpox.

The object of a company is to maximise the financial yield to its shareholders. There may be legal and ethical constraints on how it does so, but the directors can be disbarred and prosecuted for failing in their primary duty. Sadly, not enough shareholders seem to know this, and it is usually only small business directors who get disbarred: the top executives of Carillion, Thomas Cook, and just about every bank you have heard of, can rob their clients, suppliers and shareholders blind as long as they lend the occasional yacht to a politician.   
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 26/09/2019 19:05:28
Philosophy is about vanity.

According to Cambridge Dictionary:

Quote
the search for knowledge and truth

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english-german/philosophy

It would imply that scientists practice philosophy.

The object of a company is to maximise the financial yield to its shareholders. There may be legal and ethical constraints on how it does so, but the directors can be disbarred and prosecuted for failing in their primary duty. Sadly, not enough shareholders seem to know this, and it is usually only small business directors who get disbarred: the top executives of Carillion, Thomas Cook, and just about every bank you have heard of, can rob their clients, suppliers and shareholders blind as long as they lend the occasional yacht to a politician.   

That's a perspective on ethical human behavior in relation to companies, however, what if the future of humanity is at stake? Are company leaders to be held accountable, or humanity?

In the case of a synthetic biology revolution, who let's the companies on the loose? (if it were to be the case, it is the question in this topic).

If a pharmaceutical company withholds information about potentially fatal side effects to maximize profits, are individual company leaders at fault or might it be the underlying principle that humans have allowed a company to make money on disease and thereby created an incentive (a reward system) to promote disease?

Chronically ill is the most profitable situation for a pharmaceutical company. Healing a disease generates the most money, not "having cured" or "prevented a disease from ever occurring".

Who is responsible?

It has been the reason to start this topic, to learn if / how philosophy and ethical thinking may play a role in guiding correct practices in the interest of humanity. In the case of synthetic biology, a lot is at stake.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 27/09/2019 10:47:08
You may describe philosophy as a search for knowledge and truth. That is indeed vanity. Science is about the acquisition of knowledge, and most scientists avoid the use of "truth", preferring "repeatability" as more in line with our requisite humility in the face of observation.

As an occasional company director, I know exactly what I am required by law to do, thanks. It is arguable that the greatest advances  in human health and happiness came about by capitalists organising limited companies to make stuff like railways and penicillin (though sewage, the greatest boon to mankind, seems to be a matter of public finance building the infrastructure then handing over the operating profit to private speculators). The best definition of industry I ever heard was "organising men, machines, materials and money, to make things that people want", and if you are going to speculate on a revolutionary product, it's best to do it with private capital.

General, established ethics may be encapsulated in the law of the land, and where an endeavour involves subjecting humans to novel physical and chemical challenges, most civilised countries require prior scrutiny by specialist ethical committees. Sadly, although there are voluntary censorship codes within the industry, the general ethics of "computer games" and "antisocial media" escapes scrutiny and vast numbers of human lives are wasted or damaged thereby. But it makes an untaxable profit, so that's OK.

The future of humanity is bleak. Rational thought is doomed, because religion is easier and AK47s are cheap.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 27/09/2019 18:05:24
You may describe philosophy as a search for knowledge and truth. That is indeed vanity. Science is about the acquisition of knowledge, and most scientists avoid the use of "truth", preferring "repeatability" as more in line with our requisite humility in the face of observation.

Is it not that formulating a perspective on how science ought to function is called philosophy?

Philosophy lays at the basis of science. First philosophy, then science. (human wisdom: think before you act).

As an occasional company director, I know exactly what I am required by law to do, thanks. It is arguable that the greatest advances  in human health and happiness came about by capitalists organising limited companies to make stuff like railways and penicillin (though sewage, the greatest boon to mankind, seems to be a matter of public finance building the infrastructure then handing over the operating profit to private speculators). The best definition of industry I ever heard was "organising men, machines, materials and money, to make things that people want", and if you are going to speculate on a revolutionary product, it's best to do it with private capital.

General, established ethics may be encapsulated in the law of the land, and where an endeavour involves subjecting humans to novel physical and chemical challenges, most civilised countries require prior scrutiny by specialist ethical committees. Sadly, although there are voluntary censorship codes within the industry, the general ethics of "computer games" and "antisocial media" escapes scrutiny and vast numbers of human lives are wasted or damaged thereby. But it makes an untaxable profit, so that's OK.

You appear to be talking about innocent SMB's. But what about "Big Business"?

There is a consolidating process ongoing. Increasingly, global revenue and power goes to a smaller amount of big companies. This isn't just an idea by a 99% movement. It is communicated as a major problem by business professors.

Quote
Rethinking efficiency
Business thinkers have steadfastly regarded the elimination of waste as management’s holy grail. but what if the negative effects from the pursuit of efficiency eclipse the rewards?

The Growing Power of the Few
Since 1997 a strong majority of industries in the United States have become more concentrated. Many are now what economists consider “highly concentrated.” This tends to correlate with low levels of competition, high consumer prices, and high profit margins.

Source: https://hbr.org/2019/01/rethinking-efficiency

If "Big Business" initiates a synthetic biology revolution for short term financial interest (e.g. in an attempt to maintain high growth as a big business) it can have profound implications for nature.

Besides the potential for disaster and harm, would it serve humanity?

Note: the topic started with a question whether ethical thinking / philosophy is at the foundation of the synthetic biology revolution. The question is not yet answered. The report by The Economist suggested that synthetic biology is unguided and primarily driven by market (money).
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 28/09/2019 11:42:12
Philosophers always pretend that their work is important and fundamental. It isn't even consistent. You can't build science on a rickety, shifting, arbitrary foundation. It is arguable that Judaeo-Christianity catalysed the development of science by insisting that there is a rational plan to the universe, but we left that idea behind a long time ago because there is no evidence for it.

Obviously, anyone with enough money is exempt from the law. 'Twas always thus. And anyone with enough votes is exempt from ethics, likewise.

The concentration of capital is as inevitable as the accretion of space dust into planets.

I have pointed out earlier the potential disaster from anyone producing a sterile, high yield rice. That's all it takes to dominate the world without firing a shot.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 06/10/2019 14:55:08
Philosophers always pretend that their work is important and fundamental. It isn't even consistent. You can't build science on a rickety, shifting, arbitrary foundation. It is arguable that Judaeo-Christianity catalysed the development of science by insisting that there is a rational plan to the universe, but we left that idea behind a long time ago because there is no evidence for it.

Science may not be able to provide some answers.

Science is looking back in time. It is an attempt to define.

Quote
Cambridge Dictionary: (knowledge from) the careful study of the structure and behaviour of the physical world, especially by watching, measuring, and doing experiments, and the development of theories to describe the results of these activities:

Knowledge resides within a historical context. Before knowledge is present, it requires actions to have taken place: observing, testing and describing (i.e. defining) the results. The outcome of such is history.

If nature isn't fixed (see topic Laws of physics may change across the universe (https://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=77779.0)) that has implications. History and thus science may not be valid in a different time or region of the Universe. And thus, it may be that besides learning from the past, i.e. science, something else is needed. It could be philosophy: thinking.

What is the cause that religions could have existed? Why do even scientists and highly intelligent people tend to stubbornly hold on to dogma's?

Philosophy may be vital for progress in the future.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 06/10/2019 15:42:16
Science may not be able to provide some answers.
You can always ask an absurd question, like "why are we here?" You can use science to determine how living things work, but the presumption of a prior purpose is not based on observation.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 06/10/2019 18:40:24
presumption of a prior purpose is not based on observation.

If the Universe is to be considered infinite, how would humans explore across the boundaries of what can be observed?

Using a dogma and waiting for the next paradigm shift is one way, but how would that scale when investigating an infinite Universe? Philosophy may provide a solution to figuratively speaking try thousands of dogmas in the same time.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 10/10/2019 09:47:29
the presumption of a prior purpose is not based on observation.

That may be incorrect according to recent discoveries that indicate that the Universe may be conscious.

Panpsychism

Quote
This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail, the “panpsychist” view is increasingly being taken seriously by credible philosophers, neuroscientists, and physicists, including figures such as neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Roger Penrose.

Philosophers at NYU, home to one of the leading philosophy-of-mind departments, have made panpsychism a feature of serious study. There have been several credible academic books on the subject in recent years, and popular articles taking panpsychism seriously.

https://qz.com/1184574/the-idea-that-everything-from-spoons-to-stones-are-conscious-is-gaining-academic-credibility/

Is the Universe a conscious mind?

Quote
Cosmopsychism might seem crazy, but it provides a robust explanatory model for how the Universe became fine-tuned for life.

It turns out that, for life to be possible, the numbers in basic physics – for example, the strength of gravity, or the mass of the electron – must have values falling in a certain range. And that range is an incredibly narrow slice of all the possible values those numbers can have. It is therefore incredibly unlikely that a universe like ours would have the kind of numbers compatible with the existence of life. But, against all the odds, our Universe does.

Example: The strong nuclear force has a value of 0.007. If that value had been 0.006 or 0.008 life would not have been possible

https://aeon.co/essays/cosmopsychism-explains-why-the-universe-is-fine-tuned-for-life

Early philosophers have considered the Universe to be moved by mind. It has been explored in Aristotle's De Anima.

https://books.google.nl/books?id=MSE9AAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA25&ots=DAr09ws4nI&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false

Imagine: thousands of years ago philosophy may have explored concepts that only today are becoming visible in science. Philosophy can walk ahead in a way that may enable to get results faster than for example a religion or dogma could provide.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 10/10/2019 10:44:00
Philosophy may provide a solution
Wrong. It never has. But it has obstructed the march of science and the growth of understanding.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 10/10/2019 10:47:00
The strong nuclear force has a value of 0.007. If that value had been 0.006 or 0.008 life would not have been possible
But it is .007, so life is inevitable. Incidentally, .007 of what units?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 10/10/2019 15:27:41
Wrong. It never has. But it has obstructed the march of science and the growth of understanding.

I do not agree and I believe that such an attitude towards philosophy (a search for truth by thinking) could lead to stubborn defense of dogmas. In order to optimally serve the search for the truth, being open to various perspectives that extend beyond the status quo, or beyond what is predictable with science, may be essential.

The strong nuclear force has a value of 0.007. If that value had been 0.006 or 0.008 life would not have been possible
But it is .007, so life is inevitable. Incidentally, .007 of what units?

I cited the text from https://aeon.co/essays/cosmopsychism-explains-why-the-universe-is-fine-tuned-for-life It does not mention a unit.

The Universe may be conscious, say prominent scientists

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cosmos-quantum-and-consciousness-is-science-doomed-to-leave-some-questions-unanswered/

With regard to the topic: when fundamental questions about nature and the Universe are unanswered, would it be wise to pursue a human perspective based synthetic biology revolution? Based on the cited articles it can be stated that the perspective of humans (the current state of science) could be flawed.

A (unguided) genetic engineering revolution in nature could have a profound impact on the fundament that makes human life possible. As mentioned by the report in The Economist, genetic engineered creatures already amount for about 2% of the GDP of USA. It is 400 billion USD in revenue per year and those businesses will pursue growth.

Therefor I simply intended to pose the question: are the ideas behind the practice well thought out or is it purely driven by market (money)? If the latter, what are the perspectives on such by scientists / people with interest in zoology / plant science.

Until now the question has remained unanswered.

If the Universe is conscious then nature may serve a purpose that reaches beyond what humans could possibly foresee because it reaches into the future.

Science is looking back in time. Using science as a guiding principle for evolution would be based on the idea/belief in uniformitarianism. Such a concept may have downsides that could damage or weaken human evolution.

Philosophy can test whether scientific beliefs / ideas or methodologies are plausible, and/or if they remain so upon new developments / discoveries. Philosophy can investigate questions that span multiple fields and connect the dots to find valuable insights that could be essential for determining what is "good" for the future of humans.

In the same time philosophy can be responsible. It will listen to scientists and anything they pose can be challenged with no sort of dogmatic resistance. The rickety nature of philosophy that you mentioned could also be a quality for flexibility and the prevention of dogma's. Instead of holding on to ideas, it can be changed if you can convince that it should.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: Kryptid on 10/10/2019 16:27:53
a search for truth by thinking

How does one test to see if their thinking is accurate?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 10/10/2019 17:49:41
How does one test to see if their thinking is accurate?

It's their profession to discover methods. There is actually a field called philosophy of science. The scientific method is a product, it's a philosophy for science.

https://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 10/10/2019 18:03:13
 
There is actually a field called philosophy of science. The scientific method is a product, it's a philosophy for science.
No it isn't! It's a retrospective discipline, trying to extract something that philosophers consider important from what scientists have done (not what scientists think - scientific writing is usually intellectually dishonest!). Science is a process, not a philosophy. Even the simplest linguistics confirms this: we "do" science, nobody "does" philosophy.


a search for truth by thinking
Please define truth. It's impossible to find something if you don't know what you are looking for - at best, you might trip over it without noticing!

stubborn defense of dogmas.
Worth looking at the Inquisition's defence of Aristotelian philosophy and papal dogma in the face of Galileo's simple thought experiments. The whole point of science is to question anything that might smell of dogma (or bullshit).
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 10/10/2019 18:41:07
I cited the text from https://aeon.co/essays/cosmopsychism-explains-why-the-universe-is-fine-tuned-for-life It does not mention a unit.
Then it is bullshit, not science. One acquires a nose for these things.


Quote
genetic engineered creatures already amount for about 2% of the GDP of USA.
or 100% of the Danish bacon market, or Crufts. The only difference between selective breeding and genetic engineering is speed and accuracy.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 10/10/2019 21:46:18
Science is a process, not a philosophy. Even the simplest linguistics confirms this: we "do" science, nobody "does" philosophy.

The idea that science is a process that can operate independently from philosophical concept is based on a belief in uniformitarianism.

My other topic (https://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=77779.0) with regard to evidence that the laws of physics can change in time is an example that the assumption of uniformitarianism could be incorrect.

How would science continue without a belief in uniformitarianism to legitimize a blind practice?

The human wisdom "think before you act" may be applicable. Science "does" and gets results but although humans started figuratively speaking out of a cave and any progress was almost by definition of value, it may be that ultimately thinking about what is actually done may become essential.

With regard to the scientific method being a product of philosophy. It was invented by philosopher Francis Bacon. It was 'created' using philosophy.

The practice of investigating and evaluating the history of science serves as a foundation for creating new ideas or to enhance practices of science. If something similar as the scientific method is ever created, it would be based on valid research of science's history.

a search for truth by thinking
Please define truth. It's impossible to find something if you don't know what you are looking for - at best, you might trip over it without noticing!

I cannot answer that question. The Cambridge dictionary describes it as following:

Quote
the search for knowledge and truth, especially about the nature of man and his behaviour/behavior and beliefs

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english-german/philosophy

It is a interesting question of which the meaning may differ based on context. In that case thinking about the meaning of truth before science is practiced may be essential for accurate results (or for efficiency if you would calculate in brute force attempts to get results).

stubborn defense of dogmas.
Worth looking at the Inquisition's defence of Aristotelian philosophy and papal dogma in the face of Galileo's simple thought experiments. The whole point of science is to question anything that might smell of dogma (or bullshit).

Your defence for the scientific method (by stating that it is to be considered valid as a definition) is essentially comparable with any other defence that abuses philosophy for an application.

Philosophy is not a religion. It is a search for, among other things, proper human behaviour, such as science. The creation of the scientific method is an example. That you practice it however, would be a belief in it.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 11/10/2019 07:49:21
Well, you have redefined philosophy several times in the above, but that is of no consequence.

Science is no more or less than the application of the process of observe,  hypothesise, test, repeat. There's no suggestion of belief, philosophy or validity, any more than there is in the rules of cricket or the instructions on a bottle of shampoo: it's what distinguishes cricket from football, and how we wash hair. The value of science is in its utility. Philosophy is something else.

I haven't defended the scientific method by stating that it is "valid as a definition". I merely stated what it is. I don't need to defend cricket, but I can define it as "the game in which eleven players etc...…" You may use science, you may enjoy cricket, but they don't need defending.

I think you will find the scientific method to be a lot older than Francis Bacon. He was certainly a noted experimentalist, a perceptive observer, and an excellent writer, but the development of the bow and arrow, or the boomerang, can be traced to much earlier and more widespread scientific processes. And as I reported elsewhere, I have seen a gorilla investigate gravitation scientifically without having read Bacon. Interestingly, Wikipedia credits both Bacon and Galileo with having invented the scientific method. Fact is that historians, biographers and philosophers often fall into the soft trap of ascribing invention to the earliest author they have read, which implies that Moses invented language, which is obviously untrue - but I'm using the scientific method here, so you won't believe me.

I can't accept your excuse for not defining truth. If you use a word to denote what you are looking for, you must be able to describe its characteristics sufficiently that a person "skilled in the art" would recognise it when he finds it. If philosophers spend their days looking for something that cannot be defined, or whose definition can vary arbitrarily, they are by definition wasting their lives - and mine, if I  listen to them!
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 11/10/2019 22:46:08
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil (http://www.lexido.com/EBOOK_TEXTS/BEYOND_GOOD_AND_EVIL_.aspx?S=7) (Chapter 6 - We Scholars) shared the following perspective on the evolution of science in relation to philosophy.

Quote
The declaration of independence of the scientific man, his emancipation from philosophy, is one of the subtler after-effects of democratic organization and disorganization: the self- glorification and self-conceitedness of the learned man is now everywhere in full bloom, and in its best springtime - which does not mean to imply that in this case self-praise smells sweet.  Here also the instinct of the populace cries, "Freedom from all masters!"  and after science has, with the happiest results, resisted theology, whose "hand-maid" it had been too long, it now proposes in its wantonness and indiscretion to lay down laws for philosophy, and in its turn to play the "master" - what am I saying!  to play the PHILOSOPHER on its own account.

According to him, when practicing science independently, scientists are essentially fulfilling the role of a philosopher. Logically, that would be based on a belief or dogma (uniformitarianism) that legitimizes autonomous application of science (i.e. without further thinking about whether it is actually 'good' what is being done).

Recent developments (e.g. the evidence that nature may change in time) may show that such a belief is not justified.

Science is no more or less than the application of the process of observe,  hypothesise, test, repeat. There's no suggestion of belief, philosophy or validity, any more than there is in the rules of cricket or the instructions on a bottle of shampoo: it's what distinguishes cricket from football, and how we wash hair. The value of science is in its utility. Philosophy is something else.

You mention value. Who determines that value? In relation to what is that value defined?

I haven't defended the scientific method by stating that it is "valid as a definition". I merely stated what it is. I don't need to defend cricket, but I can define it as "the game in which eleven players etc...…" You may use science, you may enjoy cricket, but they don't need defending.

I think you will find the scientific method to be a lot older than Francis Bacon. He was certainly a noted experimentalist, a perceptive observer, and an excellent writer, but the development of the bow and arrow, or the boomerang, can be traced to much earlier and more widespread scientific processes.

Discovery of utility or learning is not the same as science when following your description of a process that can be compared with rules of a game or instructions on a shampoo bottle, as a distinguishing factor.

I can't accept your excuse for not defining truth. If you use a word to denote what you are looking for, you must be able to describe its characteristics sufficiently that a person "skilled in the art" would recognise it when he finds it. If philosophers spend their days looking for something that cannot be defined, or whose definition can vary arbitrarily, they are by definition wasting their lives - and mine, if I  listen to them!

Words can have a different meaning depending on the context. As such, it may require to involve matters that range from time, perspectives, available knowledge and more to be able to describe a concept of "truth".

When nature can change in time, a definition of truth in physics based on scientific observations could change in time.

Truth could be an agreement. Truth could be based on a belief in the scientific method and uniformitarianism (a religion or dogma). Truth could be a taste or a emotion. Truth could be fashion.

If the Universe is to be considered infinite then any concept of truth would necessarily be dependent on a perceived state of nature in time. It would be by definition a perception on history. Whether meaning is to be derived from that history, that would be dependent on the context and could change in time.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 12/10/2019 00:33:20
I repeat, if you can't define truth, you can't suggest that science (or philosophy - I forget which) is a search for truth. No sane man would set out on a search without knowing how he would recognise his goal when he found it, and most of the scientists I know are sane.

Life is a lot simpler if you stick to the definition of scientific knowledge as the residue of testable hypotheses that have not been disproved. This allows for the requisite flexibility in the face of new discoveries and does not presume any constancy in nature.

I do occasionally drink with sinners. One of my favorite philosopher friends presented his opus vitarum lecture to our physics department. His thesis was that the theory of relativity created moral panic and intellectual Armageddon among physicists, with tortured minds immolating themselves like characters in Hieronymus Bosch's vision of Hell as their world turned inside out. At the end of a couple of hours of stony silence, a physics lecturer said "No. If v << c then it all degenerates to newtonian physics, and as v → c it explains a number of observed anomalies. Relativity is a solution, not a problem."   

Quote
You mention value. Who determines that value?
The customer, of course. At one end, we can use the scientific method to cure disease or avert a disaster; at the other, folk are intrigued or entertained in a planetarium. Cash or applause are always welcome.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 14/10/2019 20:30:54
I repeat, if you can't define truth, you can't suggest that science (or philosophy - I forget which) is a search for truth. No sane man would set out on a search without knowing how he would recognise his goal when he found it, and most of the scientists I know are sane.

A philosophers task may be to construct a concept of truth that is used to make suggestions for proper human behaviour. Science is an example of supposed proper human behaviour. Philosophy would first construct a concept of truth (e.g. "the result of a process of rigorous testing and re-examination of data") and with that, it could construct a method for achieving results, the scientific method.

This theoretical construction process could be described as a search for truth. Ultimately however, "truth" in this example remains merely a philosophical concept.

With regard to the synthetic biology revolution. What is life? How could you responsibly or intelligently start to "redesign" life without being able to answer the basic question what life is?

It appears that the assumption that there is nothing more than the truth that the scientific method can prove, could be at the basis of the synthetic biology revolution.

I shared the following argument in the OT:

"If it is not known where life came from, it is not possible to claim that what has been observed is limited to what has been observed. The origin of life cannot be factored out because it hasn't been observed."

Truth with regard to the origin of life may be of a different nature then the outcome of the scientific method can logically provide (non-physical). Thus, it may need a new philosophical concept for truth.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 14/10/2019 21:06:47
Quote
You mention value. Who determines that value?
The customer, of course. At one end, we can use the scientific method to cure disease or avert a disaster; at the other, folk are intrigued or entertained in a planetarium. Cash or applause are always welcome.

Philosophy could be a more robust approach to testing the validity of ideas with regard to a definition of value in its context.

An example: moral outrage. On the one end: a clear demand (value as defined by the emotions of people). In philosophy the subject could be examined from a more outsiders perspective to weigh in other factors that may be relevant in order to determine the best path forward for humanity. It doesn't instruct people to do things, it merely provides theoretical constructs (concepts) that could be accepted into the human realism. Science is an example of a philosophical construct that is accepted into the human realism.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 14/10/2019 23:02:43
Philosophers have indeed determined the best path forward for humanity. Every religion, communism, free market capitalism, Nazism, indeed every ism under the sun, all had their roots in philosophy, and have led to everlasting conflict and suffering. A philosopher can only make a living by disagreeing with everyone else, so what do you expect?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 15/10/2019 09:26:12
Philosophers have indeed determined the best path forward for humanity. Every religion, communism, free market capitalism, Nazism, indeed every ism under the sun, all had their roots in philosophy, and have led to everlasting conflict and suffering. A philosopher can only make a living by disagreeing with everyone else, so what do you expect?

You can add science to the list. Philosophy doesn't instruct people to do things. It is merely an attempt to add intelligence to human behaviour such as the practice of science.

In the hands of a scientist, philosophy may have a good effect for humanity.

You may be correct that philosophy can be abused. In essence, the synthetic biology revolution may also be based on a philosophical concept.

The question in this topic is: what is the philosophical concept (intelligent idea) behind the synthetic biology revolution?

(repeated) The Economist reports that the synthetic biology revolution is 'unguided', apparently purely driven by market (money). What is the 'good intention' of such a practice while considering that, while in its infancy, it is already at 400 billion USD per year in revenue in the US.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 15/10/2019 12:20:35
OK, let's assume that, since philosophers assert that all intellectual and anti-intellectual endeavour is a branch of philosophy, philosophy is the root of all evil. So what?

Merely putting "intelligent idea" in brackets does not confer any merit on a philosophical concept. Looking back at the geocentric universe, transubstantiation, eugenics, and a thousand other philosophical concepts, I don't see much evidence of intelligence. Arrogance, in spades.

It is also worth noting that economists claim that all human activity is economic. Like philosophers, they are rarely in agreement and never right.

Yes, genetic engineering is driven by economics. If you can produce a disease-resistant, glyphosate-tolerant edible crop that doesn't rot or sprout in storage, you can feed the world and make a profit for your investors. I can't think of any ethical objection to either, unless you think that pension funds are a Bad Thing.

By "unguided" I assume you mean "free from the interference of ignorant busybodies". I'm sure that the scientists and accountants who are running the business have a pretty good idea of what they are doing, and why. My only concerns are the repeated failure of gene therapy - a humanistic problem of raised and dashed expectations - and the potential for global food monopoly (imagine Monsanto being as successful as Microsoft). I haven't met an economist or a philosopher who had a sensible solution for either, but doctors and farmers are worth talking to.   
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 17/10/2019 11:03:19
OK, let's assume that, since philosophers assert that all intellectual and anti-intellectual endeavour is a branch of philosophy, philosophy is the root of all evil. So what?

Philosophy is an attempt to define what may not be definable. It could serve human behaviour by providing a concept for intelligence. The result (philosophical concept) would be an estimate based on a perspective on humans in time. It could be based on values that change over time.

What is value? It may be that in modern times humans may be better equipped to weigh relevant matters to provide an ethical meaning to value.

In essence it could also be argued that humans would return to an ancient wisdom: think before you act.

Yes, genetic engineering is driven by economics. If you can produce a disease-resistant, glyphosate-tolerant edible crop that doesn't rot or sprout in storage, you can feed the world and make a profit for your investors. I can't think of any ethical objection to either, unless you think that pension funds are a Bad Thing.

What I am missing is an intelligent argumentation or idea (a philosophical concept) that clearly advocates that pursuing a synthetic biology revolution is essential for human progress.

It appears that it is a dumb practice (unguided) that coincidentally enables to generate massive amounts of money for bio-tech companies, an industry that sprung out of Big Pharma of which the ethical foundation for existence has been questionable.

Making money on disease creates an incentive to promote disease with chronic disease as the ideal situation. Essentially, with their massive often ill gotten funds, Big Pharma invested into bio-tech to secure further growth. The origin of the bio-tech industry may be corruption for a large part.

As mentioned before, humans figuratively speaking started out of a cave and when weighing the potential for natural disaster against not making progress sufficiently fast could be in favor of the latter by definition. I can see from a political perspective that simply enabling Big Pharma companies to create research capacity sufficiently fast by any means would be in favor of humanity. In the case of a major species threatening event, the capacity of Big Pharma can be 100% dedicated to solving the problem.

At present times however, an argument could be that humans should evolve and put intelligence before practice.

The potential for exponential growth could heighten the risk of letting it run dumb. A mistake can potentially cause a disaster for the human species or even nature on earth.

Therefore the question in this topic: what is the intelligent idea or driving force behind the synthetic biology revolution? (if there is any, considering that The Economist reported it to be "unguided")

This forum has changed my perspective on genetic engineering a lot, but the question has remained unanswered and I haven't seen any valid arguments or theoretical concepts to advocate for a synthetic biology revolution.

Feeding the world population is cute but it is not a philosophical concept or an intelligent argumentation that justifies the root of the practice. It would merely be a proposed side effect that could be beneficial to some poor people in the world, as if Big Pharma would care for them.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 17/10/2019 11:59:28
Philosophy is an attempt to define what may not be definable.
This is more commonly known as intellectual masturbation.

Quote
It could serve human behaviour by providing a concept for intelligence.
We have a perfectly good definition: the ability to use information. Or even better: the ability to surprise an observer.

Quote
What I am missing is an intelligent argumentation or idea (a philosophical concept) that clearly advocates that persuing a synthetic biology revolution is essential for human progress.
Farming, medicine. You might argue that medicine in the long term takes humanity backwards by improving the survival of the least fit, but a fair slice of Nazism already rests on that philosophical foundation, so the job has been done and recorded.

Philosophically guided biology has led to mass starvation (Lysenko - wheat, Mao - sparrows). Suit yourself, but Amartya Sen has a very different perspective on famine: it has never happened in a capitalist democracy.

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Making money on disease creates an incentive to promote disease with chronic disease as the ideal situation.
Not sure what you mean by "promote disease" - I'm not aware of anyone advocating or intentionally spreading more disease. Anyway, in a free society you are at liberty to refuse treatment. Your cancer, your choice. Most people prefer to pay for research and treatment. Obviously I'm biased as my pension fund is partly invested in chronic diagnostics and if people with back pain or lung disease all decided that suicide was preferable, I'd be a bit short of cash. 

 
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think before you act
Not merely ancient but current wisdom. In fact I've never heard anyone advocating anything else. Politicians may appear to act without concern for the harm they may do, but your death is inconsequential if it leads to their re-election, and that is always carefully planned. 

Frankly, you are a bit late on the scene. What you call synthetic biology has been going on for at least 40,000 and possibly 200,000 years. It's just in the last 100 years that we have got a lot better at it, with far less waste and suffering involved. The intelligent idea behind most human progress is "more" or "better". But The Economist won't sell many copies if they only contain two words.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 17/10/2019 20:27:03
Philosophy is an attempt to define what may not be definable.
This is more commonly known as intellectual masturbation.

The validity of that analogy would depend on the concept of truth. As mentioned before, the origin of life, of the human mind and of the Universe may need a new concept of truth, other than 'the result of the scientific method'.

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It could serve human behaviour by providing a concept for intelligence.
We have a perfectly good definition: the ability to use information. Or even better: the ability to surprise an observer.

To what would a mere "ability to use information" lead humanity to? And how can that result be declared "good"? There may be more to intelligence then a mere use of information, it may also be about how to use information and for that aspect philosophy could add an intelligent structure. (an attempt, but verified by among others, you/scientists).

Philosophy would become in effect when it is accepted into the human realism. Before that happens, you would need to accept it as a reality, like you essentially have done with the scientific method.

A quote from Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil (http://www.lexido.com/EBOOK_TEXTS/BEYOND_GOOD_AND_EVIL_.aspx?S=7) (Chapter 6 - We Scholars) that I mentioned before:

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The objective man, who no longer curses and scolds like the pessimist, the IDEAL man of learning in whom the scientific instinct blossoms forth fully after a thousand complete and partial failures, is assuredly one of the most costly instruments that exist, but his place is in the hand of one who is more powerful He is only an instrument, we may say, he is a MIRROR - he is no "purpose in himself"

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Making money on disease creates an incentive to promote disease with chronic disease as the ideal situation.
Not sure what you mean by "promote disease" - I'm not aware of anyone advocating or intentionally spreading more disease. Anyway, in a free society you are at liberty to refuse treatment. Your cancer, your choice. Most people prefer to pay for research and treatment. Obviously I'm biased as my pension fund is partly invested in chronic diagnostics and if people with back pain or lung disease all decided that suicide was preferable, I'd be a bit short of cash. 

It is about the incentive, the reward system, and it's logical effectuality. The mindset is basically "if you don't do it, another (company) will.". It's either take that grey area billion USD extra or lose the fight to survive.

If chronic illness is the money maker, why wouldn't companies naturally pursue that result?

There is a ton of evidence by the way but that may be more suitable for a topic dedicated on the subject.

Frankly, you are a bit late on the scene. What you call synthetic biology has been going on for at least 40,000 and possibly 200,000 years. It's just in the last 100 years that we have got a lot better at it, with far less waste and suffering involved. The intelligent idea behind most human progress is "more" or "better". But The Economist won't sell many copies if they only contain two words.


The Economist did mention corporate corruption on the cover. May it have been a hint (for thinking)?

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I do not agree with the argument that a market driven synthetic biology revolution could be compared with humans selecting plants or animals for farming and thereby influencing the natural evolution of parts of nature for their advantage.

The primary question is: what is life? How can you responsibly or intelligently start to "redesign" life without being able to provide an answer to the basic question what life is?

It appears that the assumption that there is nothing more than the truth that the scientific method can prove (uniformitarianism) could be at the basis of the synthetic biology revolution.

A multi-trillion USD endeavor is hard to undo or change.

With the risks introduced by exponential growth, a mistake can potentially cause a disaster for the human species or even nature on earth. Therefor it may be extra important to think before you act instead of letting companies run dumb.

From Big Pharma's perspective. Maybe all that they want at the root is to continue growth, to repeat it's history by being allowed to uncontrollably pursue maximum progress for science?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 18/10/2019 01:04:05
As mentioned before, the origin of life, of the human mind and of the Universe may need a new concept of truth, other than 'the result of the scientific method'.
Baffling set of words. The scientific method produces scientific knowledge. Truth is undefined. There is a useful concept of "true value" in metrology but nobody ever claims to have found it!

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To what would a mere "ability to use information" lead humanity to? And how can that result be declared "good"?
It has got us to where we are, rather than where philosophy would have left us, at every stage in the evolution of society. Whether it is "good" depends on your assessment of the status quo, but I think most people would prefer to be here and now rather than in the stone age, pre-human Africa, or in any corrupt theocracy (hint - they are all corrupt).

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If chronic illness is the money maker, why wouldn't companies naturally pursue that result?
It is, and they do. Are you suggesting that there is something morally wrong with treating cancer?

What do  you have against billion-dollar companies? Would you prefer to see drug trials abandoned or scaled down to a few animal experiments only (remember thalidomide - perfectly safe when tested on rabbits). It costs millions to bring a drug to market and 90% never make it. Nobody is going to invest in R&D at that level of risk unless there is a potential profit at the end, and enough capital at the beginning to carry the program through.  The objective of investment isn't to beat your competitor, but to make an ethical profit: in most industries the guy who comes second makes the most money because he has funded fewer mistakes.

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How can you responsibly or intelligently start to "redesign" life without being able to provide an answer to the basic question what life is?
Straw man. AFAIK nobody is trying to redesign life or even define it. You can make a faster car without defining convenience, and you can breed a fatter pig without defining life.

Uniformitarianism is an absurd philosophical and religious concept with no relationship to science. We have not observed any change in the laws of physics over the short time that we have been looking, but it is obvious that the timeless laws we have invented are incomplete (they don't describe what happened before the Big Bang) and only tested over a short distance (the observable universe).

Your argument becomes increasingly (exponentially?) incoherent as it progresses, but we can agree that growth is not necessarily a Good Thing. Problem is that economists and politicians can't think of anything else that is measurable. I resigned from a government-backed initiative some years ago. I had set up a club for manufacturers to collaborate in bringing their products to fruition, but government funding redefined our mission: to make a region of the EU "competitive". Competitive with what? Another region, of course. And if we achieved our objective, our citizens would have to pay more tax to support an initiative in the other region, ad infinitum. Bollocks.
 
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 19/10/2019 13:29:39
Baffling set of words. The scientific method produces scientific knowledge. Truth is undefined. There is a useful concept of "true value" in metrology but nobody ever claims to have found it!

Maybe the term validity of concept would be more appropriate. Could the scientific method result in a definition of validity of a concept for the origin of life, for the human mind or for the Universe?

It has got us to where we are, rather than where philosophy would have left us, at every stage in the evolution of society. Whether it is "good" depends on your assessment of the status quo, but I think most people would prefer to be here and now rather than in the stone age, pre-human Africa, or in any corrupt theocracy (hint - they are all corrupt).

As mentioned in a previous post, humans figuratively speaking started out of a cave and any progress was almost by definition of value. It may be that ultimately thinking (philosophy as a science) about what is actually done may become essential BEFORE major endeavors such as a synthetic biology revolution are initiated.

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If chronic illness is the money maker, why wouldn't companies naturally pursue that result?
It is, and they do. Are you suggesting that there is something morally wrong with treating cancer?

What do  you have against billion-dollar companies?

It is nothing personal. I am pointing at a reward system that may be flawed. If chronic disease is the money maker then I don't think that you have to try to defend how ethical companies or it's leaders can be. Massive amounts of profound corruption scandals over the years have provided an insight that we should look at the consequences of the reward system with the assumption that no ethical behavior of companies can be expected. The outcome doesn't seem to serve humanity.

It is Big Pharma that is fueling the synthetic biology revolution.

Big pharma raises bet on biotech as frontier for growth

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In the past month (January 2019) Big Pharma spent almost $100bn on acquisitions in bio-tech.

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/80a21ca2-136b-11e9-a581-4ff78404524e

$ 100bn per month is $ 1.2 trillion USD per year of funds from Big Pharma funneled to bio-tech that funds the synthetic biology revolution.

The Economist reported that synthetic biology, while in it's infancy, is at $ 400 billion USD revenue per year (2% of US GDP).

It is a unimaginable large force that directly impacts the well-being of animals and plants on a very large scale. The $ 1.2 trillion USD investment (per year) will boost the impact in the next years, potentially resulting in new exponential growth related risks.

The biggest problem may be that the synthetic biology revolution out of sight from people. Big Pharma operated on humans with families that provided a level of oversight and scrutiny. Major corruption still happened but there was some level of ethical scrutiny that (hopefully) could prevent catastrophic forms of corruption.

When Big Pharma-like companies operate out of sight on nature that cannot speak for itself, what could the consequences be?

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How can you responsibly or intelligently start to "redesign" life without being able to provide an answer to the basic question what life is?


Straw man. AFAIK nobody is trying to redesign life or even define it. You can make a faster car without defining convenience, and you can breed a fatter pig without defining life.

That's not in correspondence with what can be extracted from the report in The Economist:

Reprogramming nature is extremely convoluted, having evolved with no intention or guidance. But if you could synthesize nature, life could be transformed into something more amenable to an engineering approach, with well defined standard parts.

The report presents the practice as an attempt to redesign life (nature) to serve human interests. Primarily the interests, as it appears, of Big Pharma like companies.

Synthetic biology is a step further than introducing genetic changes to for example a pig. With Big Pharma investing +$1 trillion USD per year in bio-tech, what will the effect be on plants and animals?

Your argument becomes increasingly (exponentially?) incoherent as it progresses, but we can agree that growth is not necessarily a Good Thing. Problem is that economists and politicians can't think of anything else that is measurable. I resigned from a government-backed initiative some years ago. I had set up a club for manufacturers to collaborate in bringing their products to fruition, but government funding redefined our mission: to make a region of the EU "competitive". Competitive with what? Another region, of course. And if we achieved our objective, our citizens would have to pay more tax to support an initiative in the other region, ad infinitum. Bollocks.

I am not into politics. This post wasn't started to argue what's right or wrong or how the world should be. It was merely started to ask a question to gather insights with regard to a practice that appears to have no intelligent concept to justify it. Before I started it, I didn't know what type of arguments there could be in favor of a synthetic biology revolution.

On other forums the defense had generally been: why care? There is no evidence that it causes harm, so why not do it? I hoped to discover more intelligent arguments with regard to the motive to start such a great endeavor.

With regard to it being right or wrong.

There is a worldwide movement among young people towards veganism. People are increasingly paying attention to animal welfare and meat consumption is falling fast.

Millennials Are Driving The Worldwide Shift Away From Meat

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A global reduction in meat consumption between 2016 and 2050 could save up to eight million lives per year and $31 trillion in reduced costs from health care and climate change. (National Academy of Sciences).

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelpellmanrowland/2018/03/23/millennials-move-away-from-meat/#210b03f3a4a4

The choice seems simple. Is it still justified to eat animals if a plant-based diet provides greater vitality and therefore a better chance of survival for humans?

Developments in Animal Ethics provide an increasing basis for empathy and understanding for animals and therefore the ability to formulate ethics for animals.

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Another reason for scientists to engage with the philosophy of animal ethics is that it might help them confront topics that have been traditionally off-limits: in particular, the notion of animal minds. While minds are difficult enough to talk about in humans, this difficulty is exacerbated when it comes to non-human animals.

https://cosmosmagazine.com/society/animals-science-behaviour-and-ethics

In the meantime, however, a GMO practice is underway that could cause unprecedented greater damage and suffering to nature than the meat industry has ever caused in its entire existence.

It seems strange.

The Economist calls the synthetic biology revolution (GMO) an unguided practice. That is a red flag (a warning).

What effect will the $ 1.2 trillion USD of Big Pharma investment for 2019 have on plants and animals?
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 19/10/2019 14:49:10
validity of concept
More meaningless words! If by "concept" you mean "hypothesis", then science is all about testing the validity of hypotheses. There are some concepts such as energy, that have significant utility. Linguistic precision is important. The "definition of a concept for the origin of life" is meaningless, but a sound hypothesis for the primordial evolution of living things would be interesting.

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thinking (philosophy as a science) about what is actually done may become essential
I've never knowingly done an experiment or developed a product or process without thinking about it first, and my clients, shareholders colleagues and regulatory authorities think about it too, when necessary. What are we trying to measure/demonstrate/build? Why? And more importantly, why not? "Fishing" is only undertaken in very restricted circumstances. George Bush Senior (not the idiot son) explained his Balkan strategy thus: "No President should commit ground troops unless he can tell them who they are fighting, what they are fighting for, how they will know they have won, and what will happen when they go home." Pity GW and the British Arselicker didn't listen, but I've never met a scientist who didn't apply the same criteria to any planned venture.

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$ 100bn per month is $ 1.2 trillion USD per year of funds from Big Pharma funneled to bio-tech that funds the synthetic biology revolution.
'Twas ever thus, and ever should be. Individual  genius tends not to flourish in big corporations - you can spend more time in the boardroom than on the workbench. But venture capitalists are always looking to sponsor small companies with big ideas, and once the pioneers have demonstrated the feasibility of their idea, it's time to sell out to a corporation with enough muscle to put it into production. I've just done it twice in a year, and I'm delighted to get on with the next invention and not have to worry about Phase 3 clinical trials, packaging and marketing.

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life could be transformed....
meaningless journalese. The nearest anyone has come to a definition of life is "the abstract property that distinguishes living things from non-living things". You can't modify an abstract by combining physical entities.

The world shift away from meat is illusory. Meat consumption in China is rising faster than it is falling in the West. However www.iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/2058-7058/18/7/46/pdf (http://www.iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/2058-7058/18/7/46/pdf) is an article I wrote 14 years ago that explains why it would be useful to reduce the population of farm animals as a test of the carbon dioxide global warming hypothesis. My thesis was developed for the World Bank by a couple of American economists and is now part of UN and UK longterm policy. I'm pleased to see the NAS* is now on board.  Watch out for a film "Eating ourselves to Extinction" which should be out next year (it was promised for this year - I hope they haven't edited my scene out!)

It is absurd to suggest that other species do not have minds like ours. Only a priest or a philosopher could promulgate such ignorance of the obvious facts. Indeed priests are proven guilty by eliminating the "nefesh" of other species from the christian translations of Genesis. Why? Because there was money in bear-baiting! So economics is guilty too.

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What effect will the $ 1.2 trillion USD of Big Pharma investment for 2019 have on plants and animals?
None, compared with the effect of 7 - 8 billion people eating them. Or killing each other in order to acquire land to grow more. 

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I hoped to discover more intelligent arguments with regard to the motive to start such a great endeavour
I answered that some way back. "More" or "better" is the motive for any endeavour, and in an honest marketplace, a better product earns more money. Stormzy is worth a lot more than Mozart ever was, QED.


*As this was the organisation that told the Wright Brothers "there is no conceivable use for the airplane", maybe it's not such a good endorsement - but we all make mistakes.


Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: cleanair on 20/10/2019 12:36:43
Watch out for a film "Eating ourselves to Extinction" which should be out next year (it was promised for this year - I hope they haven't edited my scene out!)

9 million cows in the US may soon be unable to re-produce. A disaster.

The way we breed cows is setting them up for extinction

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“Inbreeding is accumulating faster than it ever has,” Dechow says.

https://qz.com/1649587/the-way-we-breed-cows-is-setting-them-up-for-extinction/

A mistake by flawed science of the past that in this case could wipe out the cow. It is an example why caution with a synthetic biology revolution may be essential.

It is absurd to suggest that other species do not have minds like ours.

A Dutch saying is "What you don't know, doesn't bother you". 

Many people appear to consider animals as meaningless humps of nutrients. Many people truly believe that for example the purpose of a cow is to be food for humans. The problem may be knowledge. A lack of ability to understand a potential problem with how they perceive and treat animals.

The field animal ethics of philosophy could make a change in the way humans perceive animals. The knowledge that it creates can fuel a culture shift in science and humanity.

It is essentially very simple: animal minds have been considered a "black box" by science. It wasn't given attention and thus people in general didn't know anything about it and cannot understand a problem with treating animals in a specific way (i.e. without respect).

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Another reason for scientists to engage with the philosophy of animal ethics is that it might help them confront topics that have been traditionally off-limits: in particular, the notion of animal minds. While minds are difficult enough to talk about in humans, this difficulty is exacerbated when it comes to non-human animals.

... animal minds and consciousness have been consigned to a “black box”, an entity too complex or confusing to delve into, but whose inputs and outputs become the object of study.

https://cosmosmagazine.com/society/animals-science-behaviour-and-ethics

Recent developments in animal ethics provide an increasing basis for empathy and understanding for animals and therefore the ability to formulate ethics for animals.

Animal ethics evolves on the basis of advancements in intelligence and empathy. It could be an argument that humans should choose wisely if they have the capacity to do so. A greater capacity in intelligence and empathy for animals may come with new responsibilities.
Title: Re: Does philosophy/ethics play a role in the "GMO or synthetic biology revolution"?
Post by: alancalverd on 20/10/2019 16:18:20
9 million cows in the US may soon be unable to re-produce. A disaster.
Not for the cows, many of which suffer greatly during calving. Nor for the environment. Bit of a bummer for the farmers, perhaps, but there's plenty of choice of subspecies.

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A mistake by flawed science of the past that in this case could wipe out the cow.
No, just those breeds that can't. They are all derived from wild species, so there's still a decent gene pool available.

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Recent developments in animal ethics
Philosophical arrogance. The RSPCA was founded in 1824, American Humane in 1877. Time to catch up with reality!