Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ethics

Just watching Chef At Home, and the guy is poaching a piece of salmon in olive oil, with lemon zest and rosemary. You can poach things in oil?! That is one thing I totally have to try one time.

Adding on to yesterday, another point to my List of Things to Improve the Quality of My Life... well, goddamn it. I was at work a few hours ago, and thinking about it, and I was trying to remember it so I could come home and write it down. Oh well.

And there was totally something else I was talking about...

Ah, yes. Radiolab. Listening to another show the other day called "(So-Called) Life", and my mind was blown by the stories that they told.

So there's this woman. In 1995, she is told that if she does not get a new kidney immediately, she will die. So, they take some of her blood, and test her husband and her sons. A few days later she gets a not so positive phone call, saying that there is something going on that the doctors have never seen before.

She is not the mother of her sons. They tested it, and her DNA doesn't match up. She tells them that's impossible. She remembers giving birth to them, and: her husband is definitely the father.

So they try and think of possible answers, and the doctor says "Well, we only tested your blood. Let's collect some more samples of DNA from other places." So they take saliva samples, hair samples, tissue samples, anything they can think of. And by doing this, they discover that she has two sets of DNA.

You see, this woman was a twin. Her egg and her twin sisters egg were floating around in the womb, when they kind of just bumped into each other. And fused. But instead of growing up with a weird lump on her body, and then having doctors cut into it one day to discover that it was her own twin joined to her body, they simply became one person. Essentially, she is two people in one body. Because her DNA has been split. Like, the woman's blood is her own DNA, but other things like her kidneys and her eggs are her twin sisters. Essentially, this woman is a plural, not a singular being.

I could not believe my fucking ears at the end of this story. Turns out that this woman is a chimera, one of the coolest sounding genetic disorders ever. Also, if she and her twin sister had not fused together within 4 days of being conceived, they would have been siamese twins.

From this awesome story they went on to talk about genes, and where do you draw the line between human and animal? Their either are, or going to be, cows that produce human blood instead of their own cow blood. "Why the hell would anyone do that?!" you may ask. I suppose for blood transfusions. We get the blood normally used for blood transfusions when people donate their own blood. This way, there's no need for that. You simply go to the Blood-Cow Farm, request a couple packs of Type-Whatever blood, and bingo. Hundreds and thousands of lives are saved.

Somewhere in the Middle East, there is a mouse with a tiny, functioning human kidney.

Scientists want to do experiments where they inject human brain cells into the brains of mice. Again, why? Just for laughs, maybe. But they have said that they would stop the experiment if the mice started to show any human signs development, like improved memory or problem-solving abilities, they would end it.

I don't know how I feel about experimenting and manipulating the genetic structure of animals like this. On one side, saving lives is awesome. But the way we go about saving lives is sometimes questionable.

Now, I have no problem with using the organs from a person in a vegetative state, so long as they are definitely not coming back. If they have written down "Yes, I would like my organs to be donated after my body is no longer of use to me", right on. Now, if they haven't written their express desire for their organs to be used, I have no problem with using those organs anyway. If you have to appeal to the family. Hopefully that person would have been a decent enough person in life that they would understand and have no problem with it. But when you start to use animals for this purpose, I get a little uneasy.
Maybe it's because they are just animals, and they would have no concept of what we were doing to them. Now, born into it, they might not know any better, but that makes it even sadder. They believe that their entire existence is devoted to producing blood and have people taking it from them. But is that any crueler than killing them for food?

See, now I've confused myself. In a way it is, but that may just be because it is something unnatural. Now, we've been killing and eating animals for eons. But when you start to do something like change the genetic structure of a being, things get a little tricky.
I can't decide if I'm for it or against it. What does make an animal human? What if it's insides are all human, but it's outside is all animal? They do say that's it's not what's on the outside that counts, but what's on the inside. Is an animal considered human when it speaks? Loves? Laughs? Does it's molecular structure count towards humanity? If we bleed the same blood, is a cow and myself related?

I'll leave you with that to ponder.

PS. For dinner (a very late dinner, because I had a nap from 5:30 to 8) I sauteed some mushrooms, onion, kalamata olives and pine nuts, and tossed it in with some plain spaghetti with a little olive oil. I tried an experiment where I tossed in three chili peppers with the boiling pasta to see if it would make the pasta spicy. Unsuccessful. Next time, I will make little cuts in the peppers, so the spiciness can leak out. Despite that, it was freaking delicious.

2 comments:

  1. That's definitely very thought provoking. Especially when you consider that we already use animals for food, so how can one argue that using them for genetic materials is wrong? Interesting debate, though I'm not sure which side I'd be on. On instinct, I'd say farming animals for human organs is wrong, simply because we're messing with DNA, basically the fabric of the living universe. Then again, we farm animals to KILL them, so it's hard to draw a line and say what's wrong. In all truth, I don't think I'd have a problem with it, but as a human species, we've developed a sort of unwritten code of morality that defines what we're allowed to mess with and what we're not. I think people on a more spiritual side of life would be against it, while people less so and with a more scientific view of the world would simply see it as a means to survival of the fittest. We have (or potentially could have) the means to use animals for the survival of our own species, so we should use it.

    Wow, that was really long.

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  2. We are the most advanced species, and I don't want to say something like, since we're the bosses we can do whatever we like, but it is kind of like that. Sometimes we do bad things, but I'm having trouble seeing this as a bad thing.

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