Author: Leanne Zabala
We’ve seen it in movies and books, but is it all just science fiction? In the past several years, scientists have achieved advances in genetics, medicine, and technology. While these advances have produced amazing results, I ask, has science gone too far? Sometimes best scientific intentions are not enough and do not foresee the dire consequences.
In the 1950s, Brazilian scientists crossbred mild-mannered European honeybees with more aggressive, territorial African honeybees in order to breed bees better suited to warmer tropical weather to increase honey productivity.
But the belligerent bees escaped and swarmed north. Since then they have gradually spread to New Mexico, Arizona, California, and as of Feb. 2009, the, significantly more aggressive, “killer bees” have reached southern Utah.
More recently, biologists have discovered that the drug propranolol can “erase” emotions associated with fearful memories. Scientists still don’t know exactly how it works, but they know that when a memory is recalled under the influence, the emotion associated with the memory is completely eliminated. Lead researcher Dr. Merel Kindt claims that propranolol targets nerve receptors in the amygdala, the brain region involved with emotions. Human trials have shown that the drug doesn’t affect the hippocampus, where facts and memories are stored, so it does not erase actual memories, only emotions attached to them.
Journalist Ed Young of Scienceblogs.com clarifies that propranolol is NOT a memory-wiping pill, canNOT erase painful memories, and will NOT give you a “spotless mind”, but my understanding is that it is still unknown if this drug can discriminate between happy or sad memories. If you take propranolol and recall happy memories of your childhood or the first time you fell in love, it may potentially erase feelings associated with those cherished memories.
Supposedly this drug would only be used for people suffering anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress syndrome. If so, it would be incredibly beneficial to such people and may enable them to live happier lives. But what if it was placed in the wrong hands?
Not only is it extremely important that we remember the important events in our lives – both good and bad – without them, we cannot learn and grow. Erasing our feelings about our memories could also change our character. We wouldn’t be the same person, with the same quirks and attitudes about things because we are shaped by our experiences.
And who says that propranolol won’t get into the wrong hands? Look at octomom! In-vitro fertilization is meant for people who want children, but are infertile. In a clear abuse of the advances of science, Nadya Suleman obviously did not have problems conceiving. Suleman has six other children, no job, and lives with her mother who pays most of her bills! The doctor knew this and he also knew that she had a high chance of having multiple children, yet he still implanted her with eight embryos. What was he thinking?!
Nonetheless, as a Biology major, I cannot help but feel that the advantages science provides in studying the effects of human disorders as well as their causes outweigh the POSSIBLE negative consequences. I am simply arguing that scientists ought to proceed with caution before science fiction thrillers become our reality.
Leanne Zabala is a first-year Biology major. She can be reached at email@example.com
This article has been archived, for more requests please contact us via the support system.