Well Being

Genetic Engineering Menu

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This past week, athletes testified in front of a congressional panel on steroid use in sports.

(Steve) Courson (former Pittsburgh Steeler football lineman), 49, wonders about the next generation of performance enhancers. Anabolic steroids might have reached the limits of their effectiveness, but genetic engineering is on the horizon. That technique alters genes to remove the mechanism that regulates how big the body will grow. No test, no matter how effective, can stop the next potential beast.

– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 27, 2005

This reminded me of the Syne Mitchell book, The Changeling Plague, in which genetic engineering becomes so advanced and so common that ordinary folks can grow Pegasus-like wings between their shoulder blades, have hollow fingernails that drip venom, and add gills to the sides of their face.

An unlikely scenario, but both fun and frightening to imagine. If I could genetically engineer any feature I wanted, I think I would ask for a higher metabolism, perpetually painted toenails that changed colors according to my mood, and vision that ranged from microscopic to telescopic.

One thing that no one in Mitchell’s sci-fi book asked for and one that would be impossible to engineer is a loving and generous heart.