Week 2 Response/ Microscopy and Genetics

This week’s topic of biological art is interesting and is something that I have never thought about that relates to the art world. During the lecture, I was amazed at the enormous progress in the science world that modern technology brought. Early people were trying very hard to explore the biology world with very few tools. We saw an example of old taxonomy book DIOSCORIDIS. The pictures in that book were very beautifully drawn by hand. Another example of early physiology is a drawing of a man looking at his own anatomized body. Besides, I was very shocked at the pictures of Gerald J. Posakon’s attempting experiment about ultrasound technology back in 1950’s. He was the pioneer in the field of medical ultrasound technology. The advancement in technology has now provided us with highly pictorial scans of inner body. We can now see tissues inside our body without hurts. Digital mapping is very helpful in the medical world.

2001Tools for observation and manipulation also develop a great deal in the microscopic level in the past several decades. The study of gene first by Mandel in 1880’s opened a door to the molecular world.  The Human Genome Project is “an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up human DNA, and of identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome”. Here’s a link to an interesting webpage that displayed the timeline of The Human Genome (https://unlockinglifescode.org/timeline). Our computational technology in data visualization creates many brilliant illustration of genetics and the world that we cannot see by our eyes. The video below is a 3D animation of the human genome.

There are opinions like seeing gene as “the essence of personhood” (Wilson 95) or considering the Human Genome Project as “the Bible or the Book of Man” (Wilson 96). According to sociologist Dorothy Nelkin, the interaction between genes and environment are important factor that should not be neglected. The controversy raised in the scientific world when human deliberately modify genes.

The movie GATTACA we watched during the lecture is an extreme example of Nelkin’s idea. The movie depicts a near future where genetically modified people have higher status than naturally born people. The male lead Vincent was genetically inferior but with the help of a superior one, he adopted his identity and deceived DNA and urine sampling tests. Finally, he succeeded in his lifelong pursuit of space travel. The issues raised in this movie such as eugenics and discrimination might cause severe problems to the society in the future. Is genetic modification ethical? To some extent, genetics seems to decide the contour and property of human being, however, science cannot control over everything. Human nature still has its beauty and miraculously soul power.

-Siyi Ye (I will be presenting on Week 4)


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