|MadSci Network: Genetics|
Your question deals with the ability to engineer specific traits in humans such as as a sense of justice and disinclination towards materialism. I will begin by discussing some background material however my short answer is that this is not possible through simply genetic engineering for two reasons; 1) The specific phenotype you want to engineer is too abstract and if it were only dependent on genes (highly unlikely) it would most definitely be a polygenic trait (caused by many genes as opposed to Mendelian where you have one gene with (sometimes) two alleles one dominant and one negative) and 2) Since it is very unlikely that such a complex trait is entirely genetic, one would have to control the environment to develop such a phenotype therefore just through genetic engineering it would not be possible to do so. The interaction between nature and nurture is a complex one nevertheless it is clear that few phenotypes (the actual expression of genes) are driven entirely by one or the other. For complicated traits this is even more so. However even in many Mendelian traits where you have one gene with varieties of alleles present nurture is very important. For phenylketonuria where patients can die from eating phenylalanine containing diets you can have a good prognosis by not eating too much phenylalaninine. However, most diseases are polygenic requiring the contribution of a variety of genes each one giving susceptibility to the disorder. Good examples are diabetes and schizophrenia. Thus to engineer something as complex as a sense of justice if it were only dependent on genes would require the manipulation of dozens of genes which would be very difficult. Most likely however, is that a sense of justice is more dependent on how one is brought up and taught morals by parents and peers rather than by genetic traits. Hope this helps, Gabriel Vargas MD,PhD References: Principles of Medical Genetics by Thomas D., Md. Gelehrter, Francis S., Md. Ph.D. Collins, David, Md. Ginsburg, Thomas F. Gelehrter Living with our Genes Dean Hamer The Mismeasure of Man Stephen J. Gould
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