Skip to comments.Vanity: Of Mice and Men
Posted on 07/29/2005 6:29:39 AM PDT by grey_whiskers
Amidst all of political stories, I have noticed several intriguing biology articles on the Drudge Report; and for that matter, on the Free Republic website. (Even though, according to liberals, reading these sites for serious news is like saying you read Playboy for the articles). One of the articles involved a group of scientists who were able to entice human brain cells to grow within mice; another involved a mouse with human ovaries. It is perhaps unfortunate that these articles were juxtaposed with my attendance at a seminar upon the promise of genomics, presented by two researchers from the University of Minnesota. Towards the end of the seminar, my mind began to wander, as I pondered the complications of the genetic melting pot...
"Build a better mousetrap," the saying goes, "and the world will beat a path to your door." Unfortunately, this pundit never fell to musing upon the promise (and threat) inherent in a better mouse. Leaving aside the cheap shots (from "are you a man or a mouse?" through "oh no, mice with PMS" to "rat bastard"), haven't we better things to do than artificially augment vermin? Even the old, unimproved mice are hard enough to control, either with cats or with poisoned bait. What would happen if some of the mice were released in the wild? Would we be treated to live performances of Tom & Jerry, where the mice plot and scheme to steal all of the food in the house, and keep the cat at bay? And that's if the cat is lucky; even though "cats have nine lives," most of the things that happened to Tom in the cartoon would be uniformly fatal in real life.
So what shall we do? Augment the cats' capabilities in turn? Oh, great. Cats are cocky enough as it is, without artifically inflated intelligence, or ...maybe opposable thumbs? Why not? At least Tom could hold a hammer to try to get even with Jerry. Then again, maybe not. I remember a science fiction story from my youth where a cat had somehow developed an opposable thumb, and developed quite a career as a safecracker and (you guessed it) cat burglar before accidentally being shot by a night watchman.
But all of these fanciful ideas are nothing to the real consequences which await us, given injudicious or indiscriminate use of the technology. I am quite aware of the promise of genetic engineering, and indeed, have seen wonderful advances in agriculture and food, from chickens and livestock which reach market weight in record time, to naturally pest-resistant crops, seed plants which are resistant to weed killers, and vitamin-enhanced crops. (It would be a good bet that one of the dairy producers is even now attempting to breed a cow which can give chocolate milk.) But I still dont know thinking about those damn mice. Will they attempt to get even with the cats? Or maybe they will try to even the score with humans for all the cancer experiments we have subjected them to? I can just hear the conversation in the cages as the watchman locks the door for the night.
What do you want to do tonight? The same thing we do every night, Pinky
Try to TAKE OVER THE WORLD.
And as Burns (the original mouseketeer) says in the poem you reference, "[t]he best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men / Gang aft agley..."
But, on the other hand, maybe there really is no balm in Gilead...
"Enough! or too much" from me...
" The Far Side" : )