Eugenics, Biopolitics, and the Challenge of the Techno-Human Condition
In the late 1990s, a team of Princeton geneticists led by Joe Tsien succeeded in adding an extra copy of the NR2B gene to the genome of a mouse called Doogy.1 This choice of name was definitely not arbitrary, for just like the fictional television science prodigy Doogy Howser MD, the mouse was reported to acquire new knowledge at an unparalleled pace and retain it much longer than unmodified mice. Subsequent experiments with the NR2B gene yielded less convincing results, but the research team hopes that, once proved safe, this procedure could offer a revolutionary treatment for brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Even more spectacularly, they also speculate about what might be achieved by inserting additional copies of the NR2B gene in humans with normally functioning brains. Because if the treatment could restore damaged brains to health, then it could perhaps also be used to boost the capacities of the brain beyond its normal functioning.
In a recent article, the German behavioral geneticist Klaus-Peter Lesch claims to have identified a sequence of DNA on chromosome 5-HTTLPR that, in his view, has an important influence on our state of wellbeing.2 His study shows that people who are born with a shorter version of this sequence are more susceptible to negative feelings and emotions such as depression, anxiety, and frustration. Those born with a longer version of the sequence, on the other hand, are reported to be more temperamentally upbeat and optimistic than the average person....
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