Modern Scientist Predictions Joshua Lederberg

About the predictions both right and wrong of modern scientist Joshua Lederberg including ones on cloning, artificial hearts, and cancer.


Like many modern scientists, Nobel Prize winner Joshua Lederberg is deeply concerned with the implications of genetic research. In fact, in 1970 he asked Congress to create an agency to correlate and control genetic research, making it clear, however, that he did not wish to hold back discovery. Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on June 10 of that same year, he said, "This is an old story, one that links Prometheus to Adam. Once man knows that he can know, and that he can judge good and evil, his acts have moral significance whether he chooses to learn or to deny." The California biochemist, who discovered sexuality in bacteria, is a professor of genetics at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Past Predictions: No record.

Future Predictions: By 1985

* Cloning--making exact living copies of an individual from the individual's cells--now being done with frogs, may be possible with humans. When this happens, the ratio of one sex to the other may fluctuate wildly--first too many women, then too many men. Also, we may end up with a nation of mirror-gazers, since people who want to make copies of themselves are more likely to be vain than not. However, on the positive side, more efficient communication among people may occur, because clones are alike in traits as well as looks and therefore might understand each other very readily.

By 1988--In tinkering with the genes, geneticists might be able to synthesize new ones, which could be introduced into defective organs. The discovery is likely to follow this pattern: implanting human cell nuclei into animals, perhaps apes, to produce hybrids, then creating man-made monsters by grafting or implanting human organs and body parts into animals. Lederberg views this with some trepidation.

No Dates Given--An artificial heart is "only a few transient failures away."

* Cancer is more likely to be controlled through prevention arising from research into basic cell biology than from a search for a "cure."

* To prevent aging, people in later life may be given new genes.

* Brain size and certain sensory qualities will be directly controllable by science.

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