Bad Spellers of the Science World, Untie
If I am going to die of cancer in twenty-three years because one of my strands of DNA is misspelled, I would rather not know about it right now. I’m all about progressive thinking and technological advances, but until science has it all figured out, I’m just going to keep on living. Even though our knowledge of DNA and mutation is growing, the difference between identifying a problem and fixing it remains as vast as ever.
In 2001, NOVA published the documentary “Cracking the Code of Life.” This two-hour special tells heart-wrenching story after heart-wrenching story of children and families subjected to tragic disorders that were discovered when the genome project was completed. The stories are inspiring right up until the end of each, when reality brutally returns, leaving the parents as carriers of the mutated gene, and the children diseased.
Admittedly, there was great reason for excitement in 2001 when the genome project was newly completed. The scientists in the documentary are realistic about the future of genetic research, but I believe that they would have hoped for more progress within 11 years of completing the project. According to Evolution News and Scientific American (see http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/11/the_human_genome_project_ten_y040311.html) the genome project has led to some discovery, just nothing revolutionary.
My sense from the documentary is that the largest help of the genome so far is its ability to indicate disease, even if there is still no hope of curing it. To be aware but to have nothing to do but worry seems worse to me than to have no knowledge at all. As soon as science allows for a cure after the discovery, I will be first in line to have my DNA sequenced, but up until then, I will enjoy the bliss of ignorance, and continue to hope that my time will not be cut short because of a misspelling in my DNA.