Scientific Journal

Maddie Gordon, Alyssa Langdon, Matt Meisinger, Trey Cue

Essays

Stem Cell Controversy


Stem Cells are cells that are found in humans and animals that divide and reproduce quickly for a long period of time. Stem cells are “unspecialized, meaning they do not perform a specific function”(Gale, 2015). There are two types of stem cells: adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to develop into any kind of cell found in the human body. For this reason there is much controversy around the subject of stem cells. There’s two sides to this controversy- the side that wants stem cells to be used to help cure diseases and the side that says we shouldn’t use embryonic stem cells because it’s unethical. So where do we draw the line, do we use embryonic stem cells to cure diseases that are “incurable” or do we continue letting people die because of them?

Many people believe that using embryonic stem cells is destroying a life. They see the advantages of using them but they are strongly against the idea of taking tissue from an embryo. But embryonic stem cells have more potential than adult stem cells do. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to become tissue for any part of the body and adult stem cells only “appear to be able to differentiate into cell types from their tissue of origin”(Wexler, 2011). But many people believe that by harvesting stem cells the doctors are “playing God”, since the process completely destroys the embryo. The argument from advocates of embryonic research is that the frozen embryos are going to be discarded anyways. They say that if the embryos are going to be thrown out why shouldn’t they instead have a purpose. Why shouldn’t those embryos go towards curing Parkinson's disease and so many other “incurable” diseases that so many people live with on a day to day basis? But if that’s the argument then why shouldn’t we use tissues from prisoners on death row? Using just a portion of their tissues won’t kill them and using an embryo will kill it.

These arguments have shown an insensitivity towards human life. We’re either saying that it’s ok to take human life when they’ve done something wrong or that it’s ok to take a life when they can’t stand up for themselves yet. Which just brings up more arguments about when you become a life and when you have worth. There’s so many arguments around embryos and their usefulness. Advocates for stem cell research are just trying to do what they believe is right. They want to help existing lives continue, even if it means crossing a few “moral boundaries”. Some scientists believe that the embryos being used are nothing more than a few hundred cells. That may be true but other people believe that those cells have life or that they have the potential to become life. These arguments are getting everyone nowhere fast. People are reaching the age cut off for treatments for their diseases every day. People aren’t getting another chance to continue their lives. Stem cell researchers just want to help people, but those opposed believe that they’re helping people as well.

All of the arguments surrounding stem cell research have to do with your moral compass. Everyone has to decide for themselves what they believe is right and what is wrong. In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley there is quite a bit of moral questioning. Victor Frankenstein creates life using dead people’s body parts. He creates a monster who then goes and kills many people. Victor is then faced with the question of if he should make the monster a partner and hope they go away, or if he should just continue to deal with one monster. Victor decides that his moral compass says to not make another monster. He didn’t want two monsters roaming the earth. Everyone has to ask a question similar to that when it comes to stem cell research. We all want to cure diseases, but the question is how are we going to go about that?

I believe that in every situation science has limits. Whether it's stem cells or GMO’s science needs to have boundaries. Yes, the embryos are going to be thrown out. But we also have people who are just sitting around waiting to die. And neither is a situation that people are going to be morally ok with. On one hand, you’re torturing not so innocent people and on the other you’re ending an innocent life. I believe that embryos are human lives, they aren’t in the environment that they need to grow at the stage they’re being used, but they’re still a human. Scientists say that all cells are alive and have life, but then they say that the 200 cells in an embryo aren’t the same. To me that’s quite hypocritical. Yes, I want to find a cure for cancer, Parkinson’s, paralysis and everything else. But I don’t think we should be using any type of human life to do it. Science needs limits and those limits should be at experimenting using humans.

The Moral Compass’ Guidance for Genetically Modifying Organisms


Genetically modifying organisms such as plants that bear food that sustains life all over the earth is a great idea at first glance; enabling the food we eat to last longer or have more necessary nutrients, but there is a price for meddling in, and changing something that we did not create. Unforeseen side effects have sprung up causing health problems and requiring even more herbicide to be used than before the start of the use of these genetically modified crops. The way that scientists, and farmers alike, use GMOs needs to be carefully and slowly researched because once the GMO version of a crop starts to spread via pollination there is almost no stopping it and whatever unforeseen side-effects it might be propagating.

GMO crops are problems for many reasons including the fact that they are unsustainable for the food production the world will be heavily depend on in the future. An example of this unsustainable agriculture in practice is the Monsanto modification of corn. The way that Monsanto is genetically engineered cause both weeds and bug in the planting area to become more and more resistant to herbicides and insecticides. The insecticides and herbicides used will kill most of the weeds and bugs present, but if even just a few survive then they will produce offspring that are hardened and more immune to the herbicides and insecticides used. The more these pests are immunized to the chemicals sprayed over crops, the more dangerous and unhealthy chemicals farmers will be spraying over the food feeding the masses.

These GE(genetically engineered) crops have a way of contaminating non-GE crops. Any crops that neighbor GE crops run a risk of contamination by pollination. If these crops are contaminated they will not produce plantable seeds which greatly reduces the profitability of a farmer. The owner of the GE strain can also sue any farmer who is growing their strain; knowingly or not. This poses a serious for any farmer who isn’t growing their crops inside of a protective shelter, which is most. “Where is the justice? Since 1997, Monsanto has filed 145 lawsuits, or on average about 9 lawsuits every year for 16 straight years, against farmers who have ‘improperly reused their patented seeds.’” If farmers reuse seeds contaminated by GE seeds from companies such as Monsanto they will be sued and, according to naturalsociety.com, they never lose.

One huge selling point of GM agriculture is that it enables growers to produce more food that lasts longer in order to feed the growing populations of the world, but is there more to the tinkering and tampering of the world’s basis for food supply? Surely there are repercussions for meddling in something that man doesn’t completely understand. A writer for Wyebrook Farm mentioned, “The reality is that people don’t starve because there isn’t enough food to go around. They starve because they don’t have access to food.”, meaning that the world can produce enough food, it just can’t make it available to the entire world. GM crops often require heavy pesticide and fertilizer use, on top of extraordinary amounts of water. Needless to say most farmers and other growers in starving countries can’t afford these things anyway, least of all, in these large proportions.

In Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein the reader is shown a very important lesson in learning the difference in what can be done in science and what should be done. The protagonist, Victor Frankenstein creates a monster out of a desire to make life out of death. Victor did not think before he made the monster about whether what he was doing was ethical, only whether or not it was possible. The monster ended up killing almost everyone the protagonist knew and loved because of his lack of foresight when pushing the scientific limits. "I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge." Mary Shelley tells the reader here, through Victor’s letter to his mother that now as he continues to learn more it saddens him and it makes the world more dangerous.

Man should always be extremely careful and wary when pushing the limits of what the race knows and has discovered, for the outcome of a rushed action is unpredictable and is therefore dangerous. There is no definite way that has been discovered to accurately predict what the outcome of entering a new gene into a foreign genome will be, so it is best to move carefully and not let it have a chance to be dangerous to the survival of the human race by eliminating basic food sources.

Genetically Modified Organisms. Good or bad?


A genetically modified organism or GMO is an organism that has had its DNA modified in someway through genetic engineering. In most cases they have been modified with DNA from other organisms. The range of GMO’s can be mind boggling to some. Geneticists have created a GMO pig that had a gene for bioluminescence from a jellyfish inserted into its DNA, which caused it to glow in the dark. They have also been able to make tomatoes resist frost and freezing temperature by adding DNA from a cold water fish.

All of that is interesting but, what we want to know is, are they harmful? You will get different answers depending on who you ask. Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe . In 61 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all the countries in the European Union, there are restrictions or bans against the production and sale of GMOs. Yet in the United States the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same people who manufacture them. In the united states almost 80% of processed foods have GMOs. GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance which in result cause the use of herbicides to go up by 15%. They are also responsible for the creation of “super weeds” and “super bugs” which can only be killed by a more toxic poison.

Even though the majority of Americans say they want to know if the food they are purchasing contains GMOs, people have succeeded in keeping this information away from the public.

However there has been a non-GMO project created. It is a nightmare non-profit organization to help the non-GMO food supply and give consumers an informed choice. This company is the ONLY to verify non-GMO products. They believe that if people stop buying them, companies will stop using them and farmers will stop growing them.

Scientists shouldn’t be able to modify foods to the point where the plants are helping create a new type of weed and bug. The more popular these become, the bigger the population of those super weeds annd super bugs get as well; and then we have to try even harder to kill the weeds than we had to before. Also so many countries have already banned the use of GMO’s so why don’t they get the picture. Insecticide found in genetically modified corn was found in the blood of pregnant and the blood of their unborn fetuses, and the amount of health issues has gone up since the introduction of GMO’s in 1996. The amount of people with chronic illness has gone from 7% to 16% in only 9 years. Do you still think GMO’s are as harmless as scientists make them seem? People are getting food allergies, mental disorders, reproductive disorders and digestive problems. They are not beneficial to our health and they can cause so many problems. We don’t know enough about these foods for them to even be approved for consumption.

Trey's Essay


A Limit to Technology

In today’s society, technology is thriving and at an all time high. There are programming advancements everywhere to improve how we live; on the flip side of that coin, there are also many people that love to see the world burn. Hacking tends to be a pastime of people that enjoy ruining the lives of others. Most hacking is not illegal in the United States, but it is a burden to others trying to use technology to promote themselves. With an exponential growth of scientific advancements everyone thinks about what they could to to make the world easier, but no one ever stops to think if we should do it. Science requires limits in order for the world to not cannibalize itself.

Programming is a huge section of today’s advancements. It creates new software to make your Internet and computer efficiency more accessible. This allows any user to be ”fluent” in there own way. An example would be the multiple language programs. Originally the only language a computer would use would be a version of English. Anything you would have to type, would have to be in English. Nowadays you can download programs to have the ability to type in other languages such as Chinese. That would make people who only speak Chinese, able to use computers. There are many other types of programs available such as games, web browsers and antivirus software.

There are many people out there that believe anything on the Internet, this is a serious detriment to their safety and security. A majority of the population thinks they can all be innovators and explore something new, but that just isn’t the case. As an example, Nancy is in her old age and tries to keep in contact with the youth by trying to be on Facebook. She provides any type of information they request because Nancy always see the best in people. She believes in people so much that she would even trust them with her credit card information and social security number. She doesn’t realize that there are many bad people online that will only use her kindness to take advantage of her. This applies to everyone in society that wants to be in with the youth. With new technology making social capabilities effortless, this allows also hacker and other bad people to have effortless negative activities.

With all of this personal information online, phishing is guaranteed. Phishing by definition is “is a term used to describe a malicious individual or group of individuals who scam users. They do so by sending e-mails or creating web pages that are designed to collect an individual's online bank, credit card, or other login information.”(Computer Hope). Phishing can be in many forms and might be hard to catch because of how many different types there are. It can be easy to fall under the trap. Hacking is that accessible because of uninformed and gullible people.

Edward Snowden is infamous for leaking hacking and programming information from the NSA. The National Security Agency is a part of the U.S government that spies on there in citizens for “safety reasons” (biography). It is because of Snowden that the people of America are aware that the NSA is taking away our privacy through technology. According to makeuseof.com, the NSA plans to build a “code-breaking quantum computer”. This means that will no longer need a backdoor approach in order to hack into anyone’s laptop. They will just be able to get in through the front door. We may make our lives much easier with technology, but we also put our privacy at risk as well.

A more recent case having to do with this technology infiltrating privacy would be the dispute between the FBI and Apple. The FBI demands Apple to create a custom IOS software that will allow the FBI a “master key” and essentially allow them to hack into any phone with the software (Cnet).There are many companies like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat, in favor Apple. They are in agreeance that they they need to make their software more secure and essentially “unhackable” (Cnet). Technological advancements should make life simpler, but have limits in order to retain our right stated in the fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Many citizens throughout the country think of new ways to improve society as a whole through scientific advancements. They usually will either come up with an idea just randomly, through a dream, or bouncing off another idea to try and make it better. Anyone can come up with an idea, but it takes an innovator to carry out those ideas. Innovations may come through experiments, trial and error or just flat out guessing. It seems it happen everyday, with all of these new advancements. With hacking and programming being a big part of these advancements, we need to keep in mond the consequences of our actions, such as giving up our safety and security.


Editorial

Has Science Gone Too Far?

There has been much debate about how far science should be able to go, but it has not had much of an impact on what science has actually done over the course of human history. Whether it be tampering with the very genetics of our food sources, using the controversial method of stem cells to develop cures for diseases, or even how much damage hacking and programming can do, if used the wrong way, there should be some basis for how far science can be taken before it starts to hurt the human race instead of helping it.

As talked about in the essay about stem cell research, many people are arguing about whether or not embryonic stem cells should be used for research because it is verging on, if not completely, unethical. Our group believes that there are certain places where science should have limits and this is one of them. The use of embryonic stem cells should be avoided and only used if there is no alternative and even then it is still a touchy subject for many people. Where will the line be drawn in this science?

We had two group members write their essays on GMOs. Both examined why it is a mostly bad idea with some benefits if certain precautions are taken. The advantages include things like more nutrients in food or more sturdy survivable food, but these advantages are outweighed by possible disadvantages including "super bugs". There are many things that could go wrong with genetically modifying our food. It may sound like a good idea at the time, but in the long run there should be limits on what we can do to enhance our food.

Our last essay the writer delved in and explored the heavy pros and cons to the increasing dependency on technology, both in how it can e used to connect anyone and everyone in the world and allow anyone to promote themselves, but how, "the flip-side of that coin" was that this great power can be used to make the world a more harsh place when the hacking is used to further unethical ends via harmful means.

Science can be very helpful in some situations and what it can do to advance our lives. But there is a line that we shouldn't cross. Science needs to have its limits so that we don't go to a place that we can't ever come back from. There's a time to advance and enhance our lives but we need to know where to draw the line.

Works Cited


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