The Dim-Post

October 3, 2012

Bos taurus and hard determinism

Filed under: science — danylmc @ 9:57 am

Via Stuff’s article on Daisy, the knock-out cow with low-allergen milk:

GE Free New Zealand president Claire Bleakley said cows without the protein BLG was a “frightening development not a breakthrough”

“Researchers that stoop so low as to manipulate the Mauri [spirit or life force] of an animal causing suffering, then pretend that this is a significant breakthrough when we already have business using technology to remove BLG, are inhumane.”

Is DNA a spiritual life-force? It’s hard to see how, since it’s in a constant state of biochemical flux. Nature itself is constantly removing or altering genes between generations – which is why we have different species and variation between members of a species. You could probably eventually breed a cow with naturally low allergen levels, but it might take a long time, and the results would be similar to the genetically engineered outcome.

DNA isn’t magic, it’s a fairly simple chemical structure that is (mostly) just information on how to build proteins. If you buy into the argument that it’s a ‘life-force’ then you’re accepting a hard determinist viewpoint of life in which we have no free-will, because our ‘life-force’ consists of macro-molecules responding to physical processes. Which would mean that the Ag-Research scientists had no choice but to genetically engineer a cow.

About these ads

45 Comments »

  1. But Claire also had no choice but to make that statement, you had no choice but to blog about it, and I had no choice but to comment on this blog post.

    Comment by Steve — October 3, 2012 @ 10:00 am

  2. Pfff, what’s science got to do with it all anyway?

    Comment by Nathaniel Wilson — October 3, 2012 @ 10:27 am

  3. BUT IT HAS GOT NO TAIL!

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 3, 2012 @ 10:56 am

  4. Tailless cows is the kind of thing I’d expect to see in the Harry Potter wing of Wanganui Hospital.

    Comment by insider — October 3, 2012 @ 11:01 am

  5. To be serious for a second, Claire Bleakley has shown us all how much of the anti-GE lobby is based on un-reason. This is a pity, because serious and legitimate questions remain around the where, when, who and how of GE technology. Having some easily dismissed fruitcake waffling on about “Mauri” is a disservice to that important debate.

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 3, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  6. Well if we want to take the science side then no, we don’t free will.

    Comment by questlovenz — October 3, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  7. *have

    Comment by questlovenz — October 3, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  8. I am aghast that someone can be dumb enough to be talking of an animal’s spirit in the context of a domestic farm animal that will meet its destiny in the form of a McDonald’s hamburger. Selective breeding over the centuries has already changed these animals almost beyond recognition. GE manipulation is almost trivial by comparison

    Of course, the suffering of thousands of children with severe milk allergies is of no consequence to the high priestess of the Green religion. The spirit of a thoroughly domesticated animal is much more important.

    Comment by macdoctor01 — October 3, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  9. Gimmee a nice fruitcake anyday over a dry old vanilla wine that defines mauri as DNA (which Claire isn’t) or waffle.

    Comment by ak — October 3, 2012 @ 11:44 am

  10. While she’s at it, Ms Bleakley might want to consider how mauri is damaged by environmental influences such as climate and geographical isolation. If she’s going to get airy-fairy with science and phenotype shifts, she might as well cover all the bases.

    Comment by Ataahua — October 3, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  11. I don’t much care about DNA, it is exactly as Danyl describes. But I don’t like the idea of animals existing only for ourselves, being nothing but meat or milk factories. Conventional breeding has got us this far, and will get us much further – the NZ agriculture industry now depends entirely on intensive selection for traits, the reduction of an animal to an ends rather than a being. This is what an attempt to frame the animal as an object of ‘mauri’ (life-flow) addresses.

    It’s not so much that this is an incoherent criticism; fails to address the whole issue. Doing that and criticising the dairy industry would violate many of New Zealand’s cultural and religious taboos.

    Comment by George D — October 3, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  12. But I don’t like the idea of animals existing only for ourselves, being nothing but meat or milk factories.

    It’s a bit late to turn the clock back on that one for existing domestic animals. We already turned certain kinds of animals into means to an end, and GE wasn’t involved.

    In this case “mauri” seems to be a catch-all for “biological stuff I know nothing about and therefore scared by.”

    Comment by Psycho Milt — October 3, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  13. George D raises a good point: I’d rather be one of those deer that get riped to pieces by a tiger after a short but stressful life in the wild than a fat contented cow with plenty of food and water* with a nice farmer chappie who comes and fondles me udders a couple of times a day. Did I mention he gives me medecine when I’m poorly? Mind you, one of the dogs barked at me through the fence, so I advanced on him and the farmer chappie called him away: it got a bit tense there for a bit. And Mable just shat on a yummy piece of grass I was about to eat, fucksake.

    *Crafar excepted.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 3, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  14. “Is DNA a spiritual life-force? It’s hard to see how, since it’s in a constant state of biochemical flux. ”
    After we die, our DNA still exists. For a bit. Case closed?

    Mind you, after a wank, one does feel drained.*

    *Ladies excepted.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 3, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

  15. Mauri is a meta-concept, and in this context is based on the assumption that DNA causes life force, it is not to say that DNA *is* life force. Clare is surmising that the animal is suffering at the hands of the DNA manipulation. She is likely correct – it has no tail and was one of 100 embryos that made it successfully to birth. Hardly a good indicator of a healthy animal, is it ? Especially when success is measured in such a narrow dimension – lack of certain protein in a cup of milk.

    The fact that DNA naturally changes is of no consequence, it does so according to natural limitations that are overcome through GE practices.

    Consider a surf beach that naturally silts up over time and becomes a beach that nobody surfs on (until it changes again at a later time). Nobody would say that the nature/mauri of the beach is diminished. Contrast this the impact of build a bloody great seawall in the middle of the surf zone. That’s what GE is.

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — October 3, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  16. To clarify: that should have been “the ONLY one of 100 embryos to make it to birth”

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — October 3, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  17. Speaking of science, have they found any evidence yet why there weren’t any catastrophes last time the temperature rose more than 2 degrees higher than it is now, but there will be this time round most definitely?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 3, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

  18. Changing an argument from “I don’t like it” into “Nature doesn’t like it” doesn’t make it any more convincing to me.

    Comment by NeilM — October 3, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

  19. It’s a bit late to turn the clock back on that one for existing domestic animals.

    But it’s not too late to stop winding the clock forward. But I realise we’re not having that debate. And talking about winding the clock forward would involve all the ways this happens, not just ones involving a particular fetishised technique.

    Comment by George D — October 3, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  20. Clare is surmising that the animal is suffering at the hands of the DNA manipulation. She is likely correct – it has no tail and was one of 100 embryos that made it successfully to birth.

    There was a bloke on 3News last night with a similar argument. But to make the case that only getting one live offspring from a large number of artifically-fertilised embryos inflicts some kind of animal suffering (on the dead embryos? On the live one? It’s not clear), you also perhaps inadvertently make the case that in vitro fertilisation inflicts suffering on humans and is therefore even more unethical. It’s a religious argument, not a scientific one.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — October 3, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

  21. mikaerecurtis:The fact that DNA naturally changes is of no consequence, it does so according to natural limitations that are overcome through GE practices.

    Ah, the old “its unnatural, therefore its wrong argument” spouted by people who often have no idea what nature really gets up to.

    Comment by chiz — October 3, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

  22. Well last time the global temperature increased by 2oC it didn’t happen as fast, and humans weren’t around using agriculture to try andfeed 7+ billion people.

    Comment by Doug — October 3, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

  23. meta-concept = “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”

    Comment by insider — October 3, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

  24. @ Whatta ya mean* Ladies excepted. Sexist pig.

    Comment by Russell — October 3, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

  25. “22.Well last time the global temperature increased by 2oC it didn’t happen as fast, and humans weren’t around using agriculture to try andfeed 7+ billion people.”

    Ah, the old “its unnatural, therefore its wrong argument” spouted by people who often have no idea what nature really gets up to. (Cheers chiz!)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 3, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

  26. Rus, I think ladies don’t, err, leave a little bit of themselves behind after spanking their monkey. But with all the GE/GM and global weirding going on, maybe ladies now do

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 3, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

  27. “Speaking of science, have they found any evidence yet why there weren’t any catastrophes last time the temperature rose more than 2 degrees higher than it is now, but there will be this time round most definitely?”
    Last time nothing much happened, except the intelligent crabs were wiped out. They’d managed steam power and were just working out space travel but they couldn’t handle the change in weather.
    Some of their primitive relatives are still with us.
    Well, it might have happened like that.
    The point is that the earth won’t be destroyed, nor will life in general. But we might be.

    Comment by Roger Parkinson (@RogerParkinson) — October 3, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

  28. The last time? Twenty thousand years ago, a black monolith appeared. The world started to warm, huge icecaps disappeared, and agriculture became possible. This eventually led to genetically engineered cows. It’s also why you can’t walk from London to Amsterdam.

    Comment by George D — October 3, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  29. well maybe global warming in that cup of tea caused John Banks to lose his memory, and now John Key too. Dna engineering is all around us… dont drink tea if you want to remember important shit

    Comment by Alistair — October 3, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

  30. It wasn’t a nutrimatic cup of tea was it? Did anyone end up throwing it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker's_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_Primary_and_Secondary_Phases#Fit_the_Tenth

    Comment by insider — October 3, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

  31. Mauri = intelligent design for cows …..

    Comment by emissive — October 4, 2012 @ 7:27 am

  32. Not sure what your argument is CF. The current warming would be bad even if it was natural because the effects are going to be bad. Where your argument is flawed if I have got it right is that science tells us it is caused by us. Science also tells that this warming will continue even if we stop producing GHG right now, but will be much worse if continue BAU. So the difference is we are the ones one our hands on the lever and we are choosing to make things worse for our species. Now tell me is that stupid or what?

    The only way we can justify not changing our behaviour is to say (1) the science is wrong (I will refrain from saying what I think of these people), or (2) the costs of changing will be higher than the costs of warming (which is not supported by many economic studies and in any case is a very high risk strategy), or (3) we don’t care about future generations and lets party like its 1999 and let the kids sort it out (which is not a morally defensible position).

    P.S. the diff between the risks of AGW and GE is that one has strong science behind it and the other has not.

    Comment by Doug — October 4, 2012 @ 8:12 am

  33. “The current warming would be bad even if it was natural because the effects are going to be bad.”

    There is warming => it is caused by us and not the warming oceans or the sun => some positive feedback (not previously present (!) in past warming’s) will cause this warming to accelerate to something beyond 2 degrees => bad things (like Yorkshiremen competing with our wine industry, Wellington suffering Christchurch temperatures, ectotherms enjoying nocturnal activities, reduced frost damage to crops, etc) will happen => all of that is MUCH WORSE than the escalating power bills and unemployment that poor people will suffer under carbon taxes and ETS’s (i.e. industry quietly moving to countries that think the west is daft).

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 4, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  34. “we don’t care about future generations and lets party like its 1999 and let the kids sort it out”

    Thankfully, our kids will be wealthier than us (even if GDP growth doesn’t rise above 1.2%, in 20 years time, the economy will still be about 26% wealthier than now).

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 4, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  35. I was impressed by Bleakley’s arguments that (a) the allergenic protein within milk is literally “essential”
    ‘‘BLG is an essential part of milk. It lowers blood pressure … It is essential for healthy digestion, immune system function and the formation of healthy bones skin, teeth and muscle development”
    (so people whose allergies keep them away from dairy products are simultaneously doomed to ill-health, AND better off drinking NO milk than they would be drinking BLG-free milk);

    — and (b) there is no need to manipulate the contents of milk because BLG-removed milk already exists as a perfectly good product.

    Tailless cows is the kind of thing I’d expect to see in the Harry Potter wing of Wanganui Hospital.
    You used to find them on most NZ dairy farms. Complete tail docking became illegal in 2000 IIRC — only the switch can legally be removed now — but there still seems to be a lot of amputee cows.
    Bleakley seems to have no idea how much animal suffering is an accepted part of dairy farming. Is actually VISITING A DAIRY FARM too much to ask for, before she holds forth?

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — October 4, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

  36. Hey look, Clunking Fist is finally telling us what he thinks about Climate Change.

    Comment by nommopilot — October 4, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

  37. Ah CF you go for option 2. You also think that the impacts will be relatively benign. You also assume that it is a law of nature that in the long term GDP can only go up. I don’t think that just because over the last 1000 years or so global wealth has gone up that you can assume that it is written in stone. The last 1000 years have been pretty unusual.

    Comment by Doug — October 4, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

  38. I don’t think that just because over the last 1000 years or so global wealth has gone up that you can assume that it is written in stone. The last 1000 years have been pretty unusual.

    To be fair, when it comes to global wealth every 1000 years of the last 5000 have been unusual by the overall standards of the last 100,000, so we’re not looking at a random distribution.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — October 4, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  39. “You also assume that it is a law of nature that in the long term GDP can only go up.”
    Empirical evidence suggests so, mostly to do with technological change*. Sure: there was a period after the Romans when GDP was somewhat lower, but we worked out how to make concrete again and so all’s good.

    *I’m assuming not too many ice ages, they really are a bitch, especially if the ground freezes and you can’t farm, so food gets expensive.

    “The last 1000 years have been pretty unusual.”
    And the last 10 especially unusual, probably due to the internet, budget airlines or universal suffrage. No doubt stone age man would have found the bronze age unusual. The Elizabethans would have found Victorian times a bit queer.
    Why, only the other day on this very blog, someone pointed out that a writer of futuristic science fiction hadn’t thought beyond the public pay phone. Quite what Churchill would have thought of the $30 Nokia I bought on trademe the other day, well who knows? Near field communication, double glazing, heat pumps, electric toothbrushes, induction cooktops. “Unlimited” potable water delivered to your house at a cost of about a few days wages. Ensuite bathrooms. Carpet in the houses of the working classes. Books in every home. Ever increasing numbers acquiring a tertiary education. Children babysat by daddy’s iPhone. And my fav’s: cordless kettle and the digital camera.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 4, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

  40. Actually nommo, I’m trying to tell you what I think about some of the disputed science of climate change. And particularly how activists de-emphasise the uncertainties, talking as if there is certainty. I’m a bit tired of reading reports on the effects of global warming that have no empirical basis. Only last week, a new report implied that we already lose 4.7-odd million people prematurely to global warming each year. But when you read the detail, the overwhelming majority of that number are people who die in the third world due to burning dung, wood or coal inside their dwelling. And a large number of the rest die prematurely due to outside air quality (i.e. pollution, not increased temperatures).
    You’ve got an Australian academic touting a discredited survey that he claims indicates that AGW sceptics are conspiracy theorist and don’t believe man landed on the moon.
    You’ve got a thoroughly fisked hockeystick graph that won’t die, you’ve got people claiming to be scientists who deny there is evidence that suggests the medieval warm period was not limited to the north atlantic. You’ve got folk ignoring the lack of evidence of a positive feedback mechanism. Scientists are supposed to be sceptical, even of their own work.
    And some here claim to be scientist, but few seem to be sceptical or accord any weight to the uncertainties in all the evidence.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 4, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  41. CF you should read the science articles to get a idea of what the science says and how uncertainty is dealt with and not what is paraphrased in the Register.

    The so called hockey stick(s) is/are alive and stronger than ever and only on planet denier have they ever been fisked.

    And anyone who thinks that climate scientists are in it for the riches, and the peer review process is being skewed to prevent alternative views on climate change, is a conspiracy nut because that is not how scientists role.

    So yes there is a strong link between conspiracy theorists (and libertarianism) and climate deniers.

    Comment by Doug — October 4, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

  42. Nice try, Doug, but I think you’ll find that the internetz have been thoroughly fisked and any comments thread that hasn’t been derailed by Clunking’s incessant fixation on ramming his ill-informed rubbish down our throats is actually a conspiracy to help maintain the wealth and power of the ruling elite (IPCC) and prevent freedom fighters like the Koch bros and Shell from freeing us all from the shackles of our Climate Science Overlords.

    Comment by nommopilot — October 4, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  43. “Actually nommo, I’m trying to tell you what I think ”

    no I really am interested. Carry on, dude, this is all mind-blowing revelations to me…

    Comment by nommopilot — October 4, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

  44. “Thankfully, our kids will be wealthier than us (even if GDP growth doesn’t rise above 1.2%, in 20 years time, the economy will still be about 26% wealthier than now).”

    and

    “And some here claim to be scientist, but few seem to be sceptical or accord any weight to the uncertainties in all the evidence.”

    I just noticed how the same scientist on this thread said both of these things. Good thing we can be sure of the infallibility of GDP growth in perpetuity , though we can never ever predict how the climate will react to changes in atmospheric concentrations. Silly people: Economics is the only hard science…

    (Cut to a shot of CFs emaciated grandchildren subsisting in a scraggy drought-ridden dust-pit: “Oh I’m so glad we’re so very wealthy, now.” “Yes, apparently our GDP is up to a million!”)

    Comment by nommopilot — October 4, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

  45. Good job repudiating the points raised, nommo!

    Comment by Clunking FistClunking Fist — October 8, 2012 @ 9:52 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 413 other followers

%d bloggers like this: