Fifty years ago today James Watson and Francis Crick published the their famous paper on the “structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.).” The anniversary will pass with little fan fair, no more than a few words on he news and a couple articles in the newspapers, at least if the lackluster reaction to the announcement that the Human Genome Project [www.ornl.gov] completed the sequencing of the Genome is any indication.
The impact that Watson and Crick’s paper had on the modern world is hard to overstate. In half a century it has gone from an obscure scientific idea to the fundamental everyday concept. DNA is everywhere. The speed at which DNA has permeated technology and the number of advanced it has produced in all fields is an excellent reminder of the speed at which the world has moved in the past century. From horse and buggy to moon landing and beyond.
The change that DNA and it’s role in life has brought to the world is staggering, but may be only the beginning of the slippery slope. Brave New World, GATTACA and even Star Trek in the form of Khan have, for years pointed out some of the dangers of understanding our genes and our desire to ‘play God’ with our children. The Village Voice [www.villagevoice.com] has an excellent article by Erik Baard about the social impact of Germ Line Gene manipulations with some interesting thoughts on who would repress who in the event that there was a ‘genetically modified’ or GM minority in the world. It’s easy to read and brings up a lot of good questions and examples. Check it out.