Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Spontaneous mutation-random thoughts

I've been reading about eugenics lately. No, this is not one of my new fields of study, but it has been prominent (or mentioned) in two books I've read, and it got me thinking.

The idea behind eugenics is that you can "breed out" certain undesirable things by controlling how people procreate. That way you could eliminate obvious things, like genetic disease, but you may be able to prevent things like "anti-social behaviors" (excessive violence, alcoholism, etc.) by sterilizing people or passing sterilization laws. This actually happened in the US in the 20s and 30s--almost half the states had some sort of "voluntary" sterilization laws.

Here's the problem. It doesn't work. Genetics aren't something you can breed out, because the genetic code is always changing. Scientists call it "spontaneous mutation." We adapt. (See Jurassic Park. Remember when they made the dinosaurs all girls so they couldn't breed, and then some changed sex? Human genetic code modifies, too.)

My CF is a case of spontaneous mutation. There is no history on either side of the family, and we looked. No one, that we know of, died early or of anything that could have been CF, but was missed back in the day.

What does this have to do with anything? I'm not sure. But it's something I've been thinking about. In one of the books I read (Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult, which was really good), a character is a genetic counselor, and her clients don't want to pass on things like CF and hemophilia to their kids. So they have embryos tested, and Meredith (the counselor), tells them what embryos are good for implantation. (aka, the "normal" ones) You can bet how I feel about this. There's this idea that a life with a genetic disorder isn't worth having. I hope through my writing I've done my best to show that, even though it's not always a picnic, life is a good thing. If we all wanted a perfect, pain-free life, we'd never get out of our cradles.

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