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York University
Natural Science
NATS 1760
Darrin Durant

NATS 1760 DARRIN DURANT/ JAMES ELWICK Monday, February 25, 2013 GENETICS 1: BASICS OF GENETICS & GENOMICS o Two areas are being covered 1) Genetic Engineering as regarding humans 2) Genetic regarding non-human organisms o When we discuss genetic engineering and humans it opens up quite different topics of discussion when compared with genetic engineering of non-human organisms - E.g. people far more comfortable with genetic engineering plants than animals; animals more than humans - Genetic engineering human opens up not only medical issues like disease, but also philosophical notions such as determinism, nature and nurture etc. - Genetic engineering non-human organisms brings up more economic issues, property - Some areas of commonality; unintended consequences, the unexamined notion in Western culture that something ‘natural’ is always better than something ‘artificial’ EXPERTISE FRAMING - Going to focus partly on framing, technical experts on GMOs tend to emphasize technical safety of GMs but then neglect political/economic issues (although this is changing) POWER - Where non-expert geneticists tend to ascribe more power and control to geneticist than they actually have, geneticists tend to be very, very careful  Distance lends enchantment SKEPTICISM/ DOUBT & EXPERTISE - Issue of trust of institutions is intermediate between skepticism and expertise; thus skepticism of institutions and their expert scientists - People don’t mistrust the technology; they mistrust the groups issuing it it or the groups regulating it - Where the crisis (IMO) is in incompetent regulators, or more importantly the appearance of incompetence and thus untrustworthy regulators (revolving doors)  The risk is the chance of something we can imagine happening, and hopefully assign a probability to it  Uncertainty is the change of something we haven’t yet imagined happening, we can’t assign a probability to it  Known unknowns versus unknown unknowns  Can you buy insurance against something happening, or would it be an act of god? RISK & SKEPTICISM/ DOUBT & UNCERTAINITY - Risk emphasized knowledge of possibilities; what we can imagine or expect about the future - Uncertainty emphasizes a lack of knowledge of possibilities; what we can’t know about the future- PLAYS ON FEAR - We can control risk by learning more; we can’t control uncertainty because it appeals to the unknown - Often, claims that GMOs are unsafe appeal to uncertainty, not to risk; basically something bad is going to happen if GM is done, if nothing bad happens then something bad does happen, then you’re seen as a prophet, people listen to you in the future NOT REALLY FITTING INTO THEMES OF COURSE - Underlying technological progressivism of GM technology (Kleinmann)  Non- GMs techniques (e.g. producing food) can sometimes be just as productive, why the rush to enhance GMOs? VOCABULARY o Cell o Nucleus - Inside the cell o Chromosomes - DNA combined together o Mutations o Sequence - Of basis o Replication - Copying o Germ line & somatic genes (difference between) - Implications for genetic engineering
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