Meanwhile, here in the United States, we are having an intense ethical debate on whether to permit any new ESC lines to be created -- even for medical research purposes. But, I suspect that if current trends continue, in a few years we will be having a more urgent debate on whether to let the Red Chinese continue to race ahead of us on the entire bioengineering front, because the potential for strategic geopolitical advantage over us is immense.
The genetic process is vastly more complex and subtle than was first thought. Each gene affects many traits, and many genes play a role in each trait. Moreover, genes function throughout our lives -- turning on and off various life forces in our bodies and brains. And, as Matt Ridley, a wonderful science writer, has explained, the environment in which genes exist have a much bigger role in how the genes behave than was recently thought. Thus, vast research is required before practical genetic engineering of a high order is possible. But it is possible -- and fairly quickly in a country that places no ethical limitations on such research. The implications are breathtaking.
For example, it is already known that the ASPM gene on human chromosome No. 1 regulates the number of times neuronal stem cells divide inside the embryonic brain about two weeks after conception, thus determining the number of neurons the adult brain will have. Assuming proper synapse, the more neurons, the higher the potential intelligence of the individual. Of course, environment also plays a measurable part in usable human intelligence -- but if the genetic part can be manipulated upward on an "industrial" basis in a population -- there will probably prove to be no reason why, within a few decades, a group of super intelligent people could not be formed. Moreover, bio-engineering may be able to physically improve man across the entire spectrum of our functions -- yielding extraordinary economic as well as strategic advantages. (Neanderthal man was a magnificently successful early man. But when he met the more intelligent CroMagnon man, he quickly went extinct.)
Of course, mistakes will be made. Island of Dr. Moreau-like monsters may well be formed. God may punish a people who presume to tinker with his handiwork. But, as the Chinese push forward, hell-bent for industrial levels of genetic manipulation and cloning, supported by the massive bioengineering research they are now beginning to fund, American voters and congressmen will have to balance their strong ethical and religious revulsion of cloning against the danger of being surpassed by a gene-manipulated super-race. John Kennedy won the presidency in 1960 warning of a missile gap with the Soviets. Will some future president win on the warning of a brain gap with the Red Chinese?
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.