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Sunday, December 19, 2004 CE

Response to a comment to "Prisoners"

Thanks for commenting about my post. I consider your comment so important that I will place my response as a new post, basically because it gives me freedom to put some links.

First of all, predestination is not involved in the theory I tried to explain. Our genes form us, that is a fact, they do not give us a destiny. Genes are just instructions to build proteins. That is why I carefully used the verbs "to order" and "to dictate". A gene is not an intelligent being so it cannot "want" something.

I understand the use of the word "outlandish" because many people will find the concepts I used as bizarre since they are not familiarized with molecular biology or genetics, however, the word "ludicrous" is not acceptable in the debate of a topic that is philosophically deep and that has profound impact in the understanding of our behaviors.

I do not see a problem with reductionism. We have to accept what we are and not believe what we want to be. Being humble is the very first tool we need to give our marveolus brain to understand our surroundings. Carl Sagan said 2 things: "I do not want to believe, I want to know" and "We are star's dust"

I am a physician and I can to tell you that assuring that someone will or will not have malaria or AIDS due to "life choices" is not exact. You could be the one who receives the 6 genetic mutations that protect humans from malaria and there is the mutation in the CCR5 gene that protects people form acquiring the HIV infection, and therefore AIDS. So genes are definitely involved in the protection from the diseases you mentioned

We are the product of our genes, they are not foreign to us or "virus" as you implied I said. Genes created our mind and our mind has to be aware of its own weaknesses in order to avoid autodestruction from our instincts. Education helps a lot in keeping away egoism, ethnocentrism, racism, etc...Species come and go. Genes remain. There are genes hundreds of millions years old and remember that in 1962 and 1983, the human race and its civilization was almost wiped out from the face of Earth after a couple of hundred thousand years of existence.

13 Comments:

Blogger Puma said...

Hi Dr. Marco,

While I agree that it is critical to wholly accept who and what we are, at the same I am also of the opinion that how we think of ourselves, what we believe of ourselves, shapes who we become. Our minds and our hearts (in the abstract) are distinctly powerful and far more influential than I think we even realize; influential upon others, upon ourselves, and upon the very physical world around us. I admit this is where my belief and what others may call religion, enters my internal debate. We may prefer knowing over believing, but that has never stopped anyone from granting authority to their gut feelings, myself included :)

9:21 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

It is precisely correct, Sarah. Our minds are very powerful...but only when they are free of bias. Bias is one od the forces that slowes down the gathering of knowledge and understanding

You can call me Marco

9:25 AM  
Blogger Puma said...

I must beg to differ. It depends on your definition of power. Bias and ignorance are very powerful forces indeed, as you can see currently leading otherwise good men to become soldiers, fly to Iraq, and shoot children in the head. Our minds are powerful tools that we must be careful how we use. Our mental energy, thoughts, will, and intentions and attentions affect ourselves and others greatly.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

I am trying to find out where we are dissenting:

Bias and ignorance are powerful forces: I agree

Our minds are powerful tools: I agree

We have to be careful with their use: I agree

Our mental energy, thoughts and will affect ourselves and others greatly: I agree

This is why I am so interested in education, because it helps freeing the mind from ignorance and bias . When free, the mind would release all its power in order for us to live in a better world. The item in whic we might be dissenting, but I am not sure yet is in that we have an egoistic nature that we have to tame (educate). Let me know if I found the source of our disagreement.

1:01 PM  
Blogger TOKilla said...

"We have to accept what we are and not believe what we want to be." Statements like that will only make you remain a prisoner. By believing to be something outside of the box, you break free from your metaphoric shackles, and now it is your duty to bring that belief to fruition.

1 out of 3 000 000. Come on now. As a man of science I expected better from you. Although sad, that percentage is so small that ludicrous would be a proper word to describe its placement in a discussion of this nature. I would much rather use bug spray or practice abstinence to prevent disease than rely on carrying a specific mutation.

Back to your semantics. you are still personifying genes. Genes code. Thats it. "To order" and "to dictate" are still verbs that personify genes, "want" is just a more powerful personification.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Why is people so afraid of reality? I can have the desire to be an angel, but I know I will not be one. I can believe that I am immortal, but that does not mean I am. Something very diffrent is to set up a realistic goal in life. A can have the dream to become the best tennis player and I can work very hard for it, that is acceptable. I can want to be famous and I can work for it. Those dreams are realistic and acceptable, but they have nothing to do with what we are talking about.

1/3 000 000. It is what we can currently achieve. It might improve in the future or it might get worse if new variants of the HIV appear. There is nothing wrong with that number, its just reality. The number for hepatitis C is 1/100 000, so I would worry a little bit more about that one. I see you again used the word ludicrous, so I see no intention in you respecting my request. Do you always laugh about other people's point of view? Do you always do that, even when you discuss topics not belonging to your area of expertise?

Genes essentially code, but a code is just that if it would not be followed by certain processes. The process of transcription of DNA into RNA and the process of tranlation of RNA into protein are the process that convert a code into an order.In this case, an order is not a personification. I understand that not everyone here is aware of molecular biology or genetics so I do not find a problem in explaining the concepts.

11:13 PM  
Blogger TOKilla said...

Every theory can be discounted if we choose to incorporate improbable and impractical examples. Perhaps being an angel involves volunteer work to help those less fortunate than you (or maybe even helping someone with a kidney problem). And what about doing something famous or imfamous to become immortal. You've posted several blogs about people from ancient history. That sounds immortal to me.

In science, it is accepted that one cannot test all subjects and cases, therefore conclusions are drawn based on the average of the data collected. By opposing this view you are discounting every empirical fact ever. In most studies 1/3 000 000 will be thrown out of the results as an outlier, and not be considered in the connclusion. So to continue to bring up these miniscule numbers is indeed foolish.

As to genetics and biology, I still have a problem with genes ordering me to do something. An order implies a thought process behind that order where in fact the gene is just a plan for a protein that I will use later. The fact that genes are universal supports this, because the same set of codons does the same thing for me as it does for a fish or tree.

On a side note, I really enjoy your blog and I'm sorry if I come off confrontational, that is not my goal. My goal is to force you, as well as myself, to defend our positions to strengthen and solidify our views. Keep on keepin' on.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Puma said...

Marco,
My two comments were in response to your two statements, respectively:
"We have to accept what we are and not believe what we want to be."
and:
"Our minds are very powerful...but only when they are free of bias."
Those two statements I disagree with, hence my comments.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Sarah:

"We have to accept what we are and not believe what we want to be."

I have found resistance to that concept. Being my mindset one that comes from the scientific method, it surprised me. Many people cannot separate what it is an unrealistic goal from something you can achieve through a lot of effort. My message was for those people

"Our minds are very powerful...but only when they are free of bias."

I will give you this one. Biased minds, CAN be very powerful and destructive. The power I tried to describe was the constructive power, not the destructive one. I just did not express it well

7:15 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Tokilla:

In medicine we take into account those numbers, we call them rare, but we keep them in mind. They remind us that there is no perfect solution to any problem.

A gene will not "order you" to do anything. It is an order for a number of enzymes to produce a protein. We are made of proteins. Enzymes themselves are proteins. Enzymes, just as an example, make neurotransmitters, which create your thought process. The schizophrenic or the depressed lack some of those elements and hence their thought processes are impaired. However, 30 years ago psychiatric illnesses were "diseases of the soul", meaning that we knew little about them. So genes are involved even in thought process.

I like to express my thoughts and I appreciate debate. Thanks for having one with me

I highly recommend you the book "The Selfish Gene"

7:35 PM  
Blogger Puma said...

"We have to accept what we are and not believe what we want to be."

The first part of that sentence I agree with. But for me it does not follow that it is also true that we have to "not believe what we want to be." In fact precisely the opposite: I think we cannot ever become anything without first dreaming, then visualizing, then believing it possible for ourselves.

I urge you to define what you mean by "an unrealistic goal." What does "realistic" mean? How many prophets, how many scientists, how many inventors have been told their efforts were "unrealistic"?

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." - Albert Einstein
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin

9:38 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Hi Sarah

By unrealistic I am referring to things that we know cannot happen, that belong to the world of imagination. We are not going to beat gravity or death. We can control gravity and delay death. Please do not think that I do not have dreams or something like that. For instance, I believe in artificial intelligence and that robots will eventually acquire the ability to feel and to think as a human being. (Or better) You know about computers so you probably have an opinion about that. I believe in sapce travel from planet to planet, I believe in a peaceful, more educated humanity. I believe in a world almost free of disease thanks to genetic engineering and stem cell research. In order to reach all aour dremas, we have to know ourselves very well, in the same way we do a marketing study before starting a business.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Puma said...

I suppose my point is that it is better not to give so much weight to establishing vast stores of human knowledge, as it is to guard against the ease with which it is to judge a thing impossible, to call it "unrealistic." Every great inventor/thinker has endured the ridicule of his contemporaries, and knowledge without context or wisdom has lost it's wonder. Every artist has by their very existence, defied those more "realistic" souls always demanding at every turn that a thing be useful. Humanity has never been weak when it comes to searching for knowledge. We have been weak when it comes to constructing dogmatic, narrow beliefs about such knowledge.

"Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." - Bertolt Brecht

7:35 PM  

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