Over millenia humans have been playing around with genes, creating all the different dog breeds, for example, or making plants more productive. We’ve done this by selecting which plants or animals to encourage: the chicken with most meat is used to create more chickens or seed from the apple with the best flavour is used for the next generation of apple trees.
This is a slow process, and a bit hit and miss. It also can have unfortunate consequences, for example, French Bulldogs have been bred to have very slim hips:
French bulldogs frequently require artificial insemination, and caesarean section to give birth, with over 80% of litters delivered this way.
Science though has now brought a huge change to the way we humans can manipulate genes with a technology called CRISPR. This technique involves snipping out parts of a gene in a lab and perhaps inserting another part. It’s pretty much instantaneous. But is this something we should do, just because we can? Luckily, Vanessa Hill has explored this in a 30 minute documentary, where she talk with scientists and non-scientists to discover information and opinions.
I recommend you take the time to watch this one.
MUTANT MENU on YouTube says:
Gene editing technologies, including CRISPR, have the potential to save lives and cure disease; but using them also comes with risk. In this documentary, I talk to experts around the world to explore the scientific potential and societal implications — and let you come to your own conclusions about this technology. So, would you like to place an order?
BrainCraft was created by Vanessa Hill (@nessyhill) and is brought to you by PBS Digital Studios. Talking psychology, neuroscience & why we act the way we do.
And a brief comment on production values in this video: I really enjoyed Vanessa Hill’s quiet, clear and cheerful approach to this subject. I watch all her Braincraft videos, which are also always clear and enjoyable.
I’m pleased to see a woman presenting, and although Vanessa’s not a Kiwi she is Australian, which is probably the next best thing. 😀 In this part of the world we seem to have a different demeanour to the American and British presenters I so often see.
What’s more, Vanessa interviewed a reasonably diverse group of people: men, women, and people with various skin colours and accents.
Watch for the small touches in the illustrations too: I was struck by the detail in an illustration of a family (at 21:08), where the male and female parents were the same height, and a similar size. So often images like that show the male as taller and larger than the female.
Side note: compare that detail of graphic excellence with the animations in a recent, otherwise enjoyable and interesting, series about human ancestry by @okaytobesmart where apparently all our ancestors were bearded males except for one love interest who was female.
That casual sexism in the @okaytobesmart videos on ancestry is a sour note in an otherwise excellent series, and I’ve been surprised to find this bias in a series that is otherwise not sexist. I put it down to a thoughtless illustrator, though it makes me wonder too about how the research we base current ideas on has been warped throughout history by conscious or unconscious biases. But clearly, I digress.
Mutant Menu documentary is an excellent piece of work on a subject we all need to be thinking about. Watch it.