Genetic Editing; Loyalty

I had my skin cancer operation Monday. It was nothing to worry about, and the surgeon actually took the trouble to do a post op examination of the tissues he cut out, so he could be pretty sure he had got it all. It wasn’t melanoma or one of the other really dangerous ones, but it had to go. The good news is it’s gone.

The bad news is that the surgery cut a hole in my forehead that hurts like hell, and I mostly sat up reading Tuesday and Wednesday nights, nearly all night. It wasn’t really acute pain, and I could be distracted by reading or playing FreeCell, but it became obvious any time I would lie down to try to sleep. Aspirin and Tylenol helped, but it was still there. Eventually I got sleepy enough to go to bed and sleep, but I was pretty groggy Wednesday, and today I discovered a swelling under my eye: to be expected, and nothing alarming, but I sure didn’t want to work. But that too is going away.


The good news is that I was able to read a lot of the book I’ll mention shortly, and do some more research. And I think I’ll sleep tonight in a few minutes. I’m up this late writing this.



I actually wrote this as notes to a colleague concerning changes that would be needed in a book we are doing – thus the explanatory opening lines for why I haven’t mentioned this earlier. There’s lots more, but it gets into specifics of what we’re working on, and isn’t of great general interest.

I suspect Dr. Douda will win a Nobel Prize one day, if not for this then something else. She’s an inspiring writer.




Genome Editing.

Apparently, the big news broke in early 2015 when I was recovering from my stroke, so I missed it, and it has quieted down much since; but anyway I missed all the big news about gene editing. Dr. Jennifer Douda has a book, ‘A Crack in Creation’,  that is fascinating reading.  It is easier to read than the papers in Science.




Genome editing – editing DNA – is now about as easy as editing text. They haven’t done the regulatory work to experiment with humans, but they will. Actually, they may already have done some, but that’s not entirely clear. Certainly they have cured a lot of mice .

Apparently, all genetically inheritable diseases including rather obscure ones as well as stuff like Down’s will vanish when they get permission to go after them.  In addition, many hiding viruses can be eradicated. There goes AIDS. The technology is advanced enough that some of it could be applied to human ailments now.  Of course none of it is anywhere near getting government approval; the tests will be extremely expensive. On the other hand, once the word gets out that they can do this, there’s going to be public demand.

Now some of this may take years, but it’s pretty inevitable, given what they can do now. And Moore’s law is inexorable to a first approximation.


The next step is genetic engineering – remember Beyond This Horizon? -but there is controversy. Some want to forbid it – you can’t engineer more intelligence, or more muscles or hair color on your unborn child, because it isn’t right. OK to get rid of that extra chromosome that causes Down’s, but not engineering improvements to the human race: meddling with evolution. Of course we have meddled with evolution already, saving a number  of people you might not call the fittest, in that they would not have survived, to child bearing age and beyond.


Others think why not improve the race? And while we can’t quite do this yet – maybe – it ain’t going to be long before we can. They’re that confident. In fact, I suspect some rich couple may already be trying. It takes expensive equipment and expensive people, but it may already be happening. Certainly by the time they can build interstellar ships it will be possible even if it doesn’t always work. And improving one’s children is very tempting to anyone.




Loyalty comes in more than one flavor


Dear Doctor Pournelle,

Mr. Alan E. Johnson is somewhat confused, or avoiding the distinction between personal loyalty and what I call administrative loyalty. For any bureaucracy to work there must be administrative loyalty. If each underling down the line from the chief is a free agent, blowing with the wind of his own opinions, emotions, interests ad what-have-you, the organization will not achieve ANY of the chiefs goals. In the case under discussion, yes, loyalty is required and to be expected by the chief.

That loyalty is not to the chief as a person, but to the office of chief, whatever the actual title be, from King to Prime Minister to president.

Yeah, it’s really easy to make fun of that vicar from wherever, changing his loyalty and trimming his sails to whatever wind blows from on high.

However, take the other extreme, where the vicar digs in his heels, along with every other vicar, curate, deacon, sexton and priest, not to mention all the bishops, and every single one insists on HIS version of policy.

Want to live in that society, Mr. Johnson?

Loyalty to the OFFICE is required. Once Obama was EX-president, his appointees had two choices: follow the direction, where legal, of the president, or resign because they could not remain loyal to the OFFICE of president.

Any other course was dishonorable, and those without honor should not be honored with any attention by the honorable.


Well said.saucer

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