Wednesday, May 24, 2017

DNA

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Is the baby ready?

Between 1935 and 1945 some 19,000 children were born as the beginnings of Hitler’s master race. Good SS boys were encouraged to “hook up” with blue eyed blond haired Nordic girls. The children born of such unions were placed in foster care or raised in special orphanages for raising good little Nazi children. If any of the infants were less than “perfect” they were killed or sent to concentration camps.

Fast forward to today. New Science reported, “A team in China has corrected genetic mutations in at least some of the cells in three normal human embryos using the CRISPR genome editing technique.”

CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a DNA editing procedure that is being used in research as a potential tool for the benefit of humanity. This technology was developed in 2012 by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.

This gene editing technology is currently being employed to research possible application in agriculture, microbiology, disease treatment and biofuel. According to Dr. Dounda, professor of molecular and cell biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UC Berkeley,

“There are many others arenas in which better gene-editing tools can promote global health, specifically by improving crops and sustaining a healthy microbial environment that has been shown to prevent illness, improve crop yields and nurture a balanced ecosystem. At UC Berkeley we have the expertise in plant science and microbiology research to make a real contribution by designing higher-yield, more pest-resistant crops that a large proportion of the world’s population depend on, and fostering the microbial populations critical to human health and the health of the planet.”

The potential for CRISPR to benefit humanity is promising. However, as with any science, there are risks. What are the possible unintended consequences?

Before CRISPR, Brazilian scientists desired a more productive honeybee. So, in 1956 they imported African honeybees to South America to breed this new strain. Some of the bees escaped and bred with different honeybees. Now the world has “killer bees.” An unintended consequence. This reminds one of Dr. Ian Malcolm’s famous line from Jurassic Park, “I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.”

What are the potential negative consequences of CRISPR technology? No one really knows at this point. There are warnings of “off-target effects.” Off-target effects are unintended changes in the genome that may occur as the result of CRISPR. Sharon Begley reported, “Although each CRISPR has zero to a dozen or so ‘known’ off-target sites (where known means predicted by those web-based algorithms), . . . there can be as many as 150 ‘novel’ off-target sites, meaning scientists had no idea those errors were possible.”

Presently scientists have no idea of the possible negative consequences that may be caused by CRISPR. There can be up to 150 unknown side effects. If they are unknown why isn’t it possible for there to be more than 150?

In the future, if CRISPR technology is perfected (as if that were possible in an imperfect world), its potential for good is tremendous. That is, if we ignore the fact that we’re playing god with human embryos. Just imagine a world without cancer and birth defects. A world filled with happy, healthy people—a “master race” if you will.

What if a government decides to weaponize these CRISPR perfect people? Let us return to the opening paragraph. Imagine for a moment that CRISPR technology had been available to Nazi Germany. It doesn’t seem a stretch to assume that Hitler would have employed this technology in attempting to create his master race. You know, a Captain America type soldier. On the other hand, what if one of the “off-target effects” creates a Resident Evil type monster? This is the stuff science fiction and horror movies are made of.

Ignoring the hyperbole of the above paragraph (Or is it?), science without ethics is frightening. Dr. Dounda is aware of this. “By the spring of 2014, I was regularly lying awake at night wondering whether I could justifiably stay out of an ethical storm that was brewing around a technology I had helped to create.”

What is meant for the good of humanity, in the wrong hands, is often twisted and used for nefarious purposes. There is no end to the evil intent of some. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5 ESV).

Does humanity have the moral ability to ethically use our scientific discoveries? And if you think we are morally capable, what is the standard? Does the United States determine what’s right and wrong? What about China or Russia? Or should the United Nations should be the final arbiter of morality? Those who believe in transcendent truth, shudder at the idea of mutable humans defining morality.

The answer to the question of moral ability will most likely depend on an individual’s worldview. For those of us who believe in the God of the Bible, the answer is a resounding NO!

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obama

After rolling out the welcome mat for central American illegal immigrants, the Obama administration is scrambling to halt the flow because government detention centers and charity shelters are overwhelmed with the bombardment of migrants.

In the fiscal year that ended in September, the U.S. Border Patrol detained 137,366 illegal aliens—women with children or minors—at the Mexican border who qualified to stay in the country under the president’s humanitarian crisis measure. That’s an eye-popping 90% increase from 2015, according to government figures.

In October, the first month of the new fiscal year, 46,195 individuals were apprehended on the southwest border compared to 39,501 in September and 37,048 in August, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) figures show. As a result, there are 41,000 individuals in immigration detention facilities, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson revealed last week, when the number typically fluctuates between 31,000 and 34,000.

Johnson has authorized Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to acquire additional detention space for single adults “so that those apprehended at the border can be returned to their home countries as soon as possible.” Johnson added that the U.S. has engaged with a number of countries to repatriate their citizens more quickly.

The open borders frenzy has clearly backfired and the administration appears to be scrambling to contain the crisis it created. “Our borders cannot be open to illegal migration,” Johnson proclaimed just a few days ago in a DHS announcement. “We must, therefore, enforce the immigration laws consistent with our priorities. Those priorities are public safety and border security.” The DHS secretary continued: “Those who attempt to enter our country without authorization should know that, consistent with our laws and our values, we must and we will send you back.” Additionally, DHS has launched a campaign to scare migrants out of making the trek north with videos featuring traumatized illegal aliens who made it and are currently in U.S. custody. The government is trying to clean up its own mess.

The influx of central Americans came after the administration did a fantastic job promoting a special program—in English and Spanish—for illegal aliens from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who claim to flee violence.

Media outlets throughout Latin America reported it widely and madness ensued. When droves of central Americans started appearing at U.S. ports of entry along the Mexican border, the administration tried to slow the pace by creating a program to pre-screen candidates before making the journey.

Johnson said it was an alternative, safe and legal path to the United States for vulnerable individuals while combating human smuggling operations that had already brought in tens of thousands of illegal aliens. Officially this is known as Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole Program.

But it’s not just kids who qualify for the special parole, which is extended to those up to the age of 21. Family members are also eligible, including “unmarried children of the qualifying child or in-country parent who are under the age of 21” and members of the same household and economic unit as the qualifying child as well as the spouse of a remarried parent. How the U.S. government confirms any of this is anybody’s guess.

In some cases, immigration authorities require DNA tests to prove biological connections between children and parents and Uncle Sam picks up the tab for that.

The number of foreigners filing asylum applications has skyrocketed in the last year and is about 10 times higher than it was before Obama became president, the Washington D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) revealed last month. Citing figures obtained from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the nonprofit published a report stating that the increase in so-called credible fear claims follows a 2009 executive order that calls for such arrivals to be granted parole in the U.S. while they pursue asylum.

“Judging by current approval statistics from the immigration courts, ultimately few will be found qualified for asylum, but nearly all are allowed into the country, and they are not considered a priority for deportation under current policy,” CIS writes.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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