March 30th, 2010

soylent

Film at 11: Your Genes Are Your Own

Federal Judge Rules Against Patents On Human Genes



Your Obedient Serpent applauds this rare triumph of common sense over corporate interests. Patenting a naturally-occurring human genetic sequence is like patenting the gall bladder or the pancreas.

I could also frame an argument based on the Thirteenth Amendment: if someone else claims legal authority over part of your body, and asserts that only they can profit from it, that strikes me as a form of "involuntary servitude".

This might be a convoluted logic, but no more so than the arguments in favor of human gene patents.

Note that the peculiar nature of the patent claim asserts the sole rights to create tests for the genes in question, this means that Myriad Genetics sought to claim authority over that part of your genetic code that would contain the sequence, whether or not it actually does.

So, congratulations, everyone. Judge Sweet has declared that you're not owned.

At least, not by that corporation.


hope, science, green hills of earth

Writer's Block: Search for intelligent life

Do you believe there is other intelligent life in distant galaxies? If no, why not? If yes, do you believe this is something to be feared and avoided or actively sought out?


Do you believe there is other intelligent life in distant galaxies? If no, why not? If yes, do you believe this is something to be feared and avoided or actively sought out?*

This was yesterday's QOTD, and it's taken me until now to answer it.

I am entirely agnostic on this issue. I do not have sufficient data to make a reasonable case for either position—I can think of many reasonable-sounding arguments, but they all come down to unfounded assumptions at one point or another.

Since I'm militantly agnostic on several questions that other people find all-important, this isn't surprising. I'm simply being consistent.

I once read something that asserted that "belief" derived from old Germanic roots that mean "prefer" or ""desire". The etymology is dubious, but the principle is sound: when people say that they "believe" something, I've found that, by and large, they're really asserting that they would prefer that it were true, that the world worked in such-and-such a fashion.**

To my great surprise, I found that, upon examination, I don't have any real preference for either position. I really am agnostic.

If extraterrestrial intelligence exists, then, wow! That's wonderful! Look at all of these new people to meet! All of these new perspectives to learn! All of these new cultures to discover!

If ETI doesn't exist, if we're the only conscious, tool-using species at this particular epoch—or if we're the first and only such species to ever emerge—then we and our progeny can, if technology and physics will ever allow, expand to the stars without barriers or hesitation or White Liberal Guilt Prime Directives. It's ours. All ours.

And that has its bright spots, as well.


*I am going to arrogantly assume that "distant galaxies" is, as is so often the case, Astronomically Illiterate Shorthand for "other star systems".
**I will now irritate a vocal portion of my audience by opining that the contrapositive often holds, as well.