Date of Award

Spring 1996

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Barry Ferst

Second Advisor

Marilyn Schendel

Third Advisor

John Hart

Abstract

The discovery of the double helix in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick opened the door to amazing investigations and discoveries. In recent years, knowledge of DNA's structure has led to expanding capabilities involving the genetics of living beings. From the mechanism of DNA replication to genetic inheritance, the elucidation of DNA's structure has drastically affected our ability to understand the inheritability of characteristics. Through the manipulation of genes, humanity can create genetically enhanced crops and livestock. We have also learned to clone genes that code for medically useful proteins. In the past decade, attention has moved from the genetic code of other living beings to that of human beings. We have known for years that genes control many characteristics from eye color to physique. Many diseases, like Turner's and Huntington's, have genetic origins. Though it continues to be debated, several scientists have contended that even behavioral characteristics such as aggressiveness, depression and homosexuality are influenced by our genetic heritage. We also know that carcinogens and mutagens increase the chance of genetic mutations. But how can we study the real effects of such substances in changing the DNA sequence if we do not know what an individual's sequence looked like before exposure to carcinogens and mutagens? Additionally, if we can learn the genetic code for conditions like Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy, we might be able to detect such conditions beforehand and correct them before such conditions developed. To do these things, a template of all the genes in the human body, the human genome, is required.

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Philosophy Commons

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