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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spiking the gene pool

There's a little poison in every pill you take.
The bigger the pill, the bigger the poison. Or actually, the bigger the disease, the bigger the poison...
There's a little poison in every pill you take.
The bigger the pill, the bigger the poison. Or actually, the bigger the disease, the bigger the poison. But don't worry, it's not the pharmaceutical companies that are out to get you this time.

You see, modern medicine has changed our lives forever, and for the better. If you look back at the quality of life that we had a few centuries ago, at how meaningless diseases used to take us to an early grave, you can be glad you are born in this day and age. Granted, we still have a long way to go, and some diseases still get the better of us, but it's only a matter of time...

But time is working against us. You see, we've worked very hard at curing a lot of diseases, but there are some we didn't exactly cure, we merely suppressed, or found ways to manage them. These diseases are in a class of their own, they are the kinda diseases you are born with, and that are encoded in every piece of your being: I'm talking about Genetic diseases. Some are quite fatal, some shorten your life span, but in general, they make your life shorter, and harder while it lasts. Now why am I singling out these diseases ? It's simple: New strands of these diseases are born as evolution mutates our genes as it does, slowly and surely. In the meantime, natural selection eliminates them from the gene pool. How so ? Individuals born with these diseases tend to have shorter life spans, and therefore have a smaller chance of reproducing, and so every sick individual that dies before reproducing, helps limiting the spread of the genetic disease he carries. With enough time old genetic diseases are eliminated, or at least rarefied, while new ones arise and take their turn in the process of natural selection. At least that's pretty much what happened before we fucked it up.

As I said before, one of the greater achievements of modern medicine is its ability to treat, or at least manage, a large number of diseases, most of which would have otherwise terminated, or perhaps only shortened, the carrier's life. But in doing so, modern medicine is also favoring the spreading of the genetic diseases these individuals are carrying, and so, old genetic diseases don't die off, and new ones keep arising. In fact, one of the unfortunate byproducts of modern medicine, is its inevitable spiking of the human gene pool.

What's going to happen is, as time goes on, more genetic diseases will start piling up in the gene pool, most of which are favored just as any other healthy gene. And so not only will the probability of occurrence of sick newborns increase, the number of diseases each of these newborns carries might increase as well. Since we are leveling the ground for genetic diseases, they become just like any other gene, so being born with two genetic diseases will have pretty much the same probability as being born with, say, blond hair and green eyes. This is not about to happen in the very near future, but as time goes on, most people will have "blond hair", "green eyes", or even both. Now what chance do their children have at being born healthy ?

There's a very fine ethical line here, so keep in mind that I'm only observing the irony:

The more people we treat today, the more sick people will be born in the future

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