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Author: Scott Altmeyer (Page 1 of 2)

Rough Draft

Scott Altmeyer

 

Frankenstein, we’ve all heard the story. The novel about, the talented scientist, who artificially creates life in the form of a monster. For centuries this book has allowed its audience to escape their world and enter a completely new one. For readers in 2018, this is no longer the case. As humans have continued to modernize, advancements are becoming similar to those achieved by doctor Frankenstein. While in our society, our technology does not allow us to create life unlike Dr. Frankenstein, parallels can be drawn from that fact that modern advancements blur the line between technology and life.

Gene editing is a new development that illustrates how our understanding of technology and life has been complicated. CRISPR-cas9 allows individuals to alter the genome of an embryo. This process can help prevent detrimental genetic diseases, that otherwise could not be treated. In order to perform this procedure, scientists need to locate the gene sequence causing the disorder sequence and alter it so that the gene would no longer code for the defect. While the result of gene editing, curing a disease, is unquestionably positive, the unknown consequences of the process has sparked heated ethical debate.

In order to fully comprehend objections to gene editing, one must understand the function of DNA. DNA is a coding molecule, which contains numerous genes that provide the instructions for life. These “guidelines” are passed on from one generation to the next. Although this transition is not flawless. Overtime mutations of these molecules occur, altering the instructions for life, and ultimately the life form itself. These mutations, while mostly negative, occasionally provide benefits that are passed on to one’s children. This process of evolution only occurs because of these “mistakes”.

In the minds of skeptics, gene editing allows scientists to play the part of God. Concerns arise around the fact that we are interfering with nature. Opponents of gene editing worry that humans should not try and control everything because unknown consequences of these could be detrimental. Incorrectly altering genome sequences could result in an increased risk of cancer, other unintended effects, and unexpected consequences to future generations.[1] This technology essentially allows humans to control parts of evolution. A process that is fundamental to our species prosperity.

[1] https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/06/18/is-gene-editing-dangerous-4-things-you-should-know.aspx

Science and Democracy

In this weeks lecture, we learned how two very different entities, science and democracy, are, in fact, related. The manner in which a government rules its people can affect how, in that country, scientific processes are carried out. For example, in communist China, the party enforces the sharing of ideas, and inclusion of the masses when conducting experiments. While, in a democracy those strict guidelines do not exist, and intellectuals tend to be profit driven, fame driven or, knowledge driven.

These differences in regimes present different challenges in making scientific advancements. In a communist state, the obligation to involve many people means that not everybody participating in the scientific process will be qualified. For example, in lecture, my group discussed how a geoscientist would conduct research regarding animals and earthquakes. We concluded that in a communist state the geoscientist might have to reach out to village peasants who owned livestock, and rely on these townspeople to provide important observations. The problem with this, is that the peasants likely don’t have a background in science and the geoscientist might receive inaccurate information from them.

On the other hand, in a democracy, there are also political factors that limit scientific advancement. There is a lot of prestige surrounding the field of science, and as a result there is money to be made and fame to be acquired. This leads to the opposite challenge faced in the communist society. Instead of involving too many people, in some cases not enough individuals are involved in important scientific processes. Including additional intellects in one’s studies, could mean that they take from the potential profit and potential glory.

Although science and politics seem like very separate ideas, after looking deeper it becomes clear that they are deeply related. The structure of a government can greatly impact the productivity of scientific achievement.

Women in Science

Historically science has been a field dominated by males. There is no simple explanation to this phenomenon, but the way human society has worked is that men are encouraged to pursue science while women are guided to focus on other areas of academia. On countless occasions women have made significant contributions to science, and although this trend is changing, it remains a male dominated field.  Continue reading

Research Proposal

 

An area of intrigue for me is the line between life and technology. I am curious, as society advances technologically, in what ways have humans started to blur this line today. Questions that I have asked myself are what advancements made today that have life-like behaviors? What technologies are changing what we thought was natural? What foreseeable developments in the future will bridge this gap? Is this an area we need to be careful with, and what precautions do we need to take? Continue reading

Two Cultures

C.P. Snow’s The Two Cultures, highlights the gap between two intellectual communities, science and humanities. His work sparked debate about whether these two disciplines have become so distant that this gap needs to be bridged. Another way of putting this is that scientists should learn the fundamentals of humanities, while those studying humanities should learn important concepts in science. Personally, I believe there is benefit to amassing a strong basis of knowledge for individual growth, but otherwise I do not see value in bridging the gap between these disciplines.

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Darwin

Not only did Darwin’s, The Origin of Species, have an incredible scientific impact, but it also had far reaching societal consequences. While conducting experiments, Charles Darwin’s, goal was to improve human understanding of science, his theory had ramifications that challenged religious views across the globe.  Continue reading

Frankenstein

Frankenstein brings to light many penetrating questions regarding the difference between technology and life. The monster created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein, did not have undergo the biological process that, you, me, or any other animal has gone through. Instead, the creature was artificially created. To myself and many other readers, this raised many questions regarding on how Frankenstein’s creation should be treated. Do humans have the same moral responsibility with artificial beings as with themselves? Would it be considered murder to destroy such a form of intelligence? These are potentially controversial questions, but fortunately, in this day in age, do not have real world repercussions. Although, we are not currently dealing with these problems, these inquiries facilitate interesting philosophical discussion. Continue reading

Scientific Revolution

The scientific revolution marked a time where pseudo-science was no longer accepted truth. For thousands of years, philosophers such as Aristotle and Socrates hypothesized about the modern world, developed theories, and if their ideas gained traction they would later be accepted as truth. After the Scientific Revolution, in order to claim a phenomenon as fact,  observable evidence was needed rather than a simple hypothesis.

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The Complexity of Technology

While we use the word “technology” frequently in our daily life, actually defining it presents an unexpected challenge. In todays world, things like iPhones, televisions, and xboxes are common associations made with technology. Not many people would argue that those aforementioned devices are fair associations, but as we revisit older and older inventions, things that were once considered technologies are now considered tools. When this transition occurs is difficult to pin point, and drawing a distinct line that separates tool from technology may be an impossible task. Continue reading

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