Via the Daily Beast, Michael Thomsen on the new model of scientific progress:
In a time of dramatically worsening social conditions in the richest country in the world, there is something perverse about chasing scientific advancement that only the tiniest percentage of people will have access to, driven by the optimism of impossible promises.
It’s possible to view scientific advancement not as a marker of human progress but as a separatist illusion used to justify the accumulation of wealth by the few, building new speculative societies with iPhones, gene therapy, and regenerative medicine, while everyone else festers in shanty towns and militarized city slums. Does it matter if there is a cure for cancer but no one will share it with you?
In the thrilling early years of the Human Genome Project, scientists flew all over the world to study the genes of as many different races and ethnic groups as possible. When one group arrived in Peru to sample the Q’ero Tribe, community president Benito Machacca Apaza declined the invitation to participate in the study. “The Q’ero Nation knows its history, its past, present, and future is our Inca culture, and we don’t need any so-called genetic study to know who we are,” Machacca wrote.
This was not just a way of rejecting the benefits of Western technological advancement, but an acknowledgement that its benefits often exclude groups like the Q’ero, or come at their expense through occupation, resource theft and forced labor. For Machacca, science was a tool for separating a person from his or her identity in order to push them into a life of technological interdependency. In declining the offer of raising one’s consciousness at the price of future despair, he instead suggested the answer to the researchers’ question was already known.
What did the Human Genome Project give us? More than two decades later there is little to show, though an intrepid beauty-product company has used genomics to create a better shampoo, and [companies] began to appear in which people pay to peer into the murk of their DNA to see if they are predisposed to one disease or another. In the end, it was discovered that only 2 percent of the genes in the human genome are responsible for coding proteins, thought to be central to life, while the other 98 percent were written off as “junk.”
Read the rest at the Daily Beast
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