Too Long Forgotten

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a gene splicing tool that can edit certain diseases out of our genes. It’s basically a form of genetic engineering. As such it is a breakthrough in scientific technology and much discussed in scientific and medical circles. Of course it could also be used wrongly, support the ideas on race of someone like Hitler for example. But that’s for another piece. CRISPR has much commercial potential and a lot of money is a stake. While it has not yet been tried in humans, its potential for therapeutic purposes has already led to controversy. The first is ethical, how far should this technology go? The second involves who discovered it and therefore who will be qualified to be awarded the patent. Social media has already been saying that science is now a business. And that’s the part that is a concern to me. The ethical issues, as complex as they may be, will in time be addressed. The issue of science as a business, however, is much more involved. To be addressed it would have to in some way factor in the public interest, the social good or whatever phrase one may use to refer to going beyond the profits implied by conducting a business. And that, given our contemporary culture, is not only a challenge, but one that will be difficult to confront. Take for example the movie industry. It too is a business, and its task is to produce and distribute movies it thinks the public wants so that its profits can be maximized. That theory according to some observers is responsible for the lack of diversity in the roles and movies that are made. In an LA Times op-ed around the time of the Oscars, Stanley Fish, who teaches law at Florida International university acknowledged that reality, suggesting that changing it because it is right is not appropriate. But perhaps that is what our culture needs today, businesses that provide a public service ought to somehow be held accountable. Maybe doing something because it is right has been too long forgotten. Maybe we need to be verbal about wanting more from any concern that affects the public. Maybe we should begin to expect more than profits from any scientific or entertainment endeavor.