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Genetic Mutant or high tech bio-art?

By rinkjustice in Culture
Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 01:47:53 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Chicago-based conceptual artist Eduardo Kac has created a stir when he was prevented from unveiling his latest high tech art named Alba, at an exhibition of digital art in Paris. Alba is a transgenic bunny that glows bright green in blue light. It was the result of splicing the green fluorescent protein from the Aequorea victoria jellyfish into the genes of a rabbit. Some called the denial of his exhibit censorship, while others -horrified at this genetic manipulation - accuse Kac of playing God. Is Alba legitimate bio-art or a product of cruelty? Or perhaps it's an indication of how house pets will be in the future? Kac is already in the process of combining said jellyfish protein with Mexican hairless dogs for a glow unobscured by fur. Discuss.


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Genetic Mutant or high tech bio-art? | 50 comments (37 topical, 13 editorial, 1 hidden)
So we do this on the next sheep clone (4.11 / 9) (#1)
by error 404 on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 12:37:44 PM EST

and make it easy for shepherds to watch their flocks by night.
..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

I think he failed to learn the first lesson... (3.92 / 13) (#2)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 12:40:50 PM EST

I think he just failed to learn the first lesson young children must learn about pets-- a pet is not a toy, but a much more fragile living thing, with its own wants and needs, and must be treated accordingly. Thus you can't play with your pet in many ways you play with your toys, because you risk your pet's health and love.

--em

However... (4.00 / 2) (#8)
by Rocky on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 01:30:16 PM EST

..you can't eat your toys, but you can eat your pet!

Flourescent Hassenpfeffer, anyone? ;)

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
[ Parent ]
On the third hand, (none / 0) (#15)
by Happy Monkey on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 02:06:13 PM EST

You can eat Play-Doh.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
I don't know... (none / 0) (#29)
by nurglich on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 05:08:43 PM EST

I'm not sure I'd want to eat my pet if it glowed, though. I mean, that would just be wierd.

------------------------------------------
"There are no bad guys or innocent guys. There's just a bunch of guys!" --Ben Stiller, Zero Effect

[ Parent ]
scientists do it (2.00 / 2) (#12)
by Seumas on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 01:48:35 PM EST

Scientists have been genetically altering certain species to induce the glowing effect (for tracking and such) for awhile now. No big deal. It isn't like this guy was growing the face of Jesus on it (or an ear on the back of a rat like scientists have done).

Perhaps if it were some sort of domesticated animal, it would be outrageous, but we're talking about a rabbit -- it isn't like he's taking Fido or Tabby and making them glow. Besides, if it's okay for science and business to do painful testing on animals, why can't an artists (come on, you have to have some scientific background to go around splicing genes) do something as benign ans making a furry glow-stick?

Now, what would really be great is if he could splice genes to make a hairy jelly-fish. Or give a rabbit the weapon/defense of jelly-fish poison. Or a glowing rabbit with gills that could dive under water.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

What's the big deal? (4.14 / 7) (#16)
by Herbert PagetPaget on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 02:14:33 PM EST

I mean Christ, we have been genetiacally modifying creatures for thousands of years. It's called breeding.

The difference now is that we can be much more exact in what we do, and we don't need to rely on the vicisitudes of Mother Nature, which makes things much less dangerous. When we know the variables, we can then use nature to our advantage - that is the definition of Man.

Personally, I would like to see genetic engineering extended to humans. Why should it be only animals that get the benefits? Genetic Engineering could be the next great fashion industry, as well as curing all disease and so on. I can't wait.

Another thing is, if we are not careful the Far East will take the lead here. They don't have our moral hang ups about this shit, and would be perfectly willing to create a new world of transhumans, leaving us behind in the dust, with our basic physiology.

It's time to throw away our inhibitions on this front, and start reaping the benefits.

--Not a moronic #kuro5hin quote.

GM <> Selective Breeding (none / 0) (#40)
by jynx on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 06:25:09 AM EST

You would have to breed a hell of a lot of rabbits to get one that glows in the dark!

Genetic modification does differ from traditional selective breeding. Selective breeding does not spontaneously create traits which do not exist in a species in the way direct genetic modification does.

Whilst I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with GM, I do think we need to be very very careful not to contaminate wild species with foreign genes.

GM has the potential to become the most serious kind of pollution man has created so far. Once a gene gets into a population, it will probably be impossible to remove. The original species may be quickly be lost.

--

[ Parent ]

Please call me... (none / 0) (#43)
by darthaggie on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 09:31:07 AM EST

When we know the variables

Please do call me when this occurs.

This is one of the greatest problems with scientific advance: human arrogance. "We understand the process" "We know the variables" are the refrains, when instead it is more like "We don't know jack, but we're going to forge ahead anyway"

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Perhaps it is people's caution (4.25 / 4) (#19)
by kostya on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 02:40:56 PM EST

The fact is that we still don't understand a lot about DNA. Scientists were stumped to find we have less genes than initially thought. Many have made conjectures that DNA might not be straight encoding, but positional--or something else.

Which is to say that DNA might not be like "functions" in program source code--i.e. cut and past the function/property into an organism's genome. They might be positional, drawing information and context from the sequences around them. This could mean that the gene/DNA strand is important and so is its DNA context for determining ultimate effect.

If this is true, this means we only have half the puzzle--if that, perhaps even less. Which means that we really don't understand the emergent behavior that might result by adding to an organisms genome. Perhaps the rabbit glows, but what are the side-effects?

Some could say, "Well, none." But I believe that with the current knowledge we do have, that such a statement would be intellectual dishonest. An answer of "None, we think" would be more accurate. And if that is the case, what amount of caution is then warranted? Tricky.

Granted, we will only find out with time and experimentation, but caution would be warranted. What if we happen to cause some sort of virus? One completely manufactured from new circumstances--circumstances unnatural to our bioshpere? What havoc might it wreak on the bioshpere--or more directly, us?

I think there is great promise in genetics and biotech, but caution is never a wasted thing.



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
Art (3.80 / 5) (#22)
by tumeric on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 03:14:42 PM EST

Its art, provoking thought and encouraging debate (I think that's why the bunny got it).

Personally, I'm against such practices since:

  • You can't cross-breed rabbits with jelly fish
  • We don't have a clue what the implications are (and just because you know how something works doesn't mean you know what effects it will have, I only have to look my software to know that).
  • Umm, actually we don't know how it works either -- ask an embryologist.


Interesting (3.33 / 3) (#24)
by retinaburn on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 03:46:06 PM EST

You can't cross-breed rabbits with jelly fish

Any particular reason why ? Does the use of cows for vaccinations. What about the use of goats milk glands to produce super-strong silk (Bio-steel) ?

We don't have a clue what the implications are

So how do you propose we find out without experimenting. We didn't know the effects of putting a man into space ...and we still may not :)

Personally I have no problem creating a glow in the dark rabbit. A human I may have a problem with because its either you are doing something to somebody against their wishes or your are creating a child simply for science...that just feels wrong.


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#44)
by darthaggie on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 09:36:13 AM EST

Its art,

Not really, since in theory I could replicate what he did without even seeing what it was that he's done. This is the ultimate paint-by-numbers project.

provoking thought and encouraging debate

The alleged art isn't doing this, it's the genetic manipulation.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

my take... (4.00 / 3) (#23)
by wu li grasshopper on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 03:30:04 PM EST

Why not just make a digital glow in the dark bunny and discuss all the implications theoretically? I read this guy's article and it really seems to me that he just likes to make new creatures, and he is couching his urge to play god in all this crap about discussion and ethical implications, etc. Clearly he's made up his mind about the ethical implications, because he's already created the creature! I come from an art background (it was my undergraduate degree), and this just totally reminds me of other artists who just make objects and then rely on the discussion to elevate it to something that it wasn't in the first place. There's plenty of Science Fiction out there that covers this ground that generates alot of thought already, and it doesn't actually mutate animals to do it. I think we are at a place with this genetic engineering thing where we are doing these things just because we can, and that doesn't necessarily make it ok. But, that seems like another discussion.

Art? (3.83 / 6) (#25)
by lucas on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 04:01:07 PM EST

I don't know, there has been so much accomplished in the name of art... submerging a statuette of Christ in a vat of urine, making a sculpture using a cadaver.... and now a glow-in-the-dark bunny.

I don't see the point of it, but, then again, that is the point. Rather it is to draw attention to the artist and allow him to make money off of the publicity.

How Much Does It Cost? (4.44 / 9) (#27)
by the Epopt on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 04:03:08 PM EST

And can it be retrofitted to existing cats? I'm tired of tripping over them on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
--  
Most people who need to be shot need to be shot soon and a lot.
Very few people need to be shot later or just a little.

K5_Arguing_HOWTO
Zoo? (3.50 / 4) (#30)
by josh_staiger on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 06:11:56 PM EST

For those that say it is cruel to put this animal on display, is putting this particular bunny on display more cruel than putting other "exotic" animals on display in a Zoo?

Granted, there are many who have problems with zoos as well, but by societies ethical standards, as long as she is treated humanely then I don't see a problem with this (though I would hardly call it art).

Other Uses... (4.00 / 2) (#32)
by Paradocis on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 10:57:47 PM EST

I can see all kinds of neat applications for bio-art. Vat-grown parts with unique cosmetic patterns and designs, How about blue skin and glowing yellow eyes? Now you can have naturally blue hair and giant eyes to look like your favourite anime character. (-8

This will eventually put tatoos and peircings to shame. It's going to happen anyways, might as well enjoy it.


-=<Paradocis>=-
+++++++++++++++++++++
"El sueño de la razon produce monstruos." -Goya
+++++++++++++++++++++


Art? (3.75 / 4) (#33)
by Tatarigami on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 12:34:20 AM EST

What's artistic about painting a bunny? Is it creative? Nope, someone else got there first. Does it communicate any new ideas to the audience? Not really. GE was a hot topic before this fella started splicing.

Certainly it's controversial -- some people in the art world seem to think that's all you need these days -- but I think Mr Mad Scientist is only fooling himself about being an artist.

Of course, b-grade movie fans know where this is headed...


art? (none / 0) (#47)
by mojavekid on Tue Apr 03, 2001 at 01:22:06 PM EST

This story isn't really new - it's been around for a while, and from what I know they guy didn't do squat except buy this bunny from some french scientist, put it on display, and then alert the media. That doesn't make it art IMHO, or at least it doesn't make it 'good' art. While it does raise certain ethical and scientific questions, I've yet to see it discussed in Art Forum or any other reputable art magazine. Creating controversy is so boring as an artform anyways.

[ Parent ]
gene mod #253439 (none / 0) (#48)
by andyr0ck on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 09:41:04 AM EST

the Lepus rule!
----
cheers,
andy
[ Parent ]
Other ideas for pets.... (4.25 / 4) (#34)
by Blarney on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 01:29:29 AM EST

I'd like a tank of glowing guppies. There could be a black light as part of the aquarium setup which would induce them to fluoresce, like this mutant rabbit. As guppies are easy to take care of and multiply rapidly, this would be a cheap, affordable GM pet. The normal aquarium display of brightly colored fish would now have an extra dimension! I've dreamed of having this pet since high school - it's wonderful to know that it's possible now. Maybe I should contact this artist and discuss this with him.

Another thing I'd like - though this would be much harder to make, and probably won't be in pet stores in the next few years- would be a miniature elephant, or a Miniphant. Miniphant would be intelligent, affectionate, but wouldn't be as troublesome as his full-sized relative.

He could replace the dog and the cat! Imagine him handing you a beer with his trunk, or stabbing an intruder in the leg with his tusks. The square-cube law would make him incredibly strong for his size - if he was 1 foot tall instead of 12 feet, he'd be 1/144 as strong, but would only weigh 1/1278 as much as a full-sized elephant. Miniphant might be able to jump 6 feet in the air, even though full-sized elephants can't jump at all. He could carry heavy objects with his muscular trunk, also. Want a TV moved? Miniphant could do it!

He'd have a voice that humans could hear, as well. While elephants normally speak in subsonic frequencies, so that humans can only hear the trumpet calls and not the vocal sounds, Miniphant might be able to growl like a dog or mew like a cat, as he'd be smaller and the voice frequencies would be higher.

Though some people currently own tame elephants, obtaining enough food and space for one is a serious problem. Furthermore, even the slightest bit of anger displayed by an elephant can have catastrophic results for the human mahout. By simply shrinking the animal, these problems could be avoided, and mankind could finally fully domesticate the elephant.

It's the future, why fight it?

And for the kids... (4.25 / 4) (#35)
by nurglich on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 01:51:57 AM EST

...you could have microphants the size of mice. And you could keep them in a tank with wood shavings on the ground, and they could run around on a little wheel! And just imagine the cute little trumpeting noises they'd make! Sqeeeeek! And we could even engineer them to have litters of five or six nanophants to teach the kiddies about the miracle of life. There's just no end to the possibilities of miniphants.

After enough research and development, we could even produce picophants to be injected into a patient to perform surgery from the inside. How cute the picophants would be, tromping about in someone's arteries! Sqeeeeeek! they trumpet as another nasty virus is blasted with a jet of blood plasma from a picophants trunk!

------------------------------------------
"There are no bad guys or innocent guys. There's just a bunch of guys!" --Ben Stiller, Zero Effect

[ Parent ]

excellent! (none / 0) (#49)
by kimbly on Sat Apr 07, 2001 at 01:14:43 AM EST

I doubt I have ever laughed so hard while reading something from a computer screen. And then I got to the part about Miniphant being able to jump 6 feet in the air... oh my, oh my.

[ Parent ]
I don't see the problem... (2.66 / 3) (#36)
by MyrdemInggala on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 03:29:49 AM EST

I have absolutely no ethical problem with genetic engineering in theory. I do think that anyone attempting to use an entirely new genetically engineering technique should observe caution, but this is not the case here. Scientists have been splicing the jellyfish glow gene into small mammals for years, so as far as I know it is a tried and tested technique. If it had some kind of bizarre side-effect, someone would have noticed by now.

This man is simply the first person to have done it privately and not for the sake of some scientific experiment. What is he trying to say? I don't know. Is it art? I don't know, or particularly care.

I don't see anything wrong with creating a rabbit that glows just because it looks cool. It doesn't hurt the rabbit, and if you intend to keep it as a pet (and not release it into the wild), it will not be adversely affected by the glow. I personally would love a fluorescent cat.



-- 22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head. -- Evil Overlord List
I don't see the problem... (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by MyrdemInggala on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 03:30:40 AM EST

I have absolutely no ethical problem with genetic engineering in theory. I do think that anyone attempting to use an entirely new genetically engineering technique should observe caution, but this is not the case here. Scientists have been splicing the jellyfish glow gene into small mammals for years, so as far as I know it is a tried and tested technique. If it had some kind of bizarre side-effect, someone would have noticed by now.

This man is simply the first person to have done it privately and not for the sake of some scientific experiment. What is he trying to say? I don't know. Is it art? I don't know, or particularly care.

I don't see anything wrong with creating a rabbit that glows just because it looks cool. It doesn't hurt the rabbit, and if you intend to keep it as a pet (and not release it into the wild), it will not be adversely affected by the glow. I personally would love a fluorescent cat. :)



-- 22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head. -- Evil Overlord List
Safety (none / 0) (#50)
by Cameleon on Sat Apr 07, 2001 at 05:47:08 PM EST

I have to disagree. I feel that we have to be very careful about genetic engineering. You never know what other characteristics you have brought into the rabbit unknowingly. So you have to be very careful not to let the rabbit reproduce, and for this to be ensured, you can't just have everyone do thing like this.

That being said, I have no problems with this ethically. Genetic engineering is not that different from just crossbreeding, as people have done with dogs for example, creating all the perverse variations of dog we have today. If someone feels a need to do this, and does it safely, let him.

[ Parent ]
This is what is wrong (none / 0) (#38)
by knowfear on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 03:58:04 AM EST

While I do not think that genetic engineering is ETHICALLY wrong, I think that it could still be very destructive. Here is why.
Scientists are creating species and animals that are not meant to have been created. So? you say. well, what if one of these animals escapes or is purposely released back in to the wild, a habitat they are not meant to be in? There are lots of potential problems with this. First, you never know what would happen if they mate with other animals of the same species. They might genetically mutate into another animal, or be more easily killed because of the new traits, potentially killing off the species and screwing the natural balance of things. (How do glowing rabbits hide in the dark??)
Also, what if the new animals have specific traits that are very harmful to humans. The killing bees come to mind. The scientists tried to create a species of bee that would pollinate much better than others, but instead created a killing machine that ended up killing hundreds of people.
To sum it up, there can always be dangerous consequences to playing with nature as these scientists are with genetic engineering. One mistake can throw the balance of nature and lead to a domino effect that could be very disastrous, including to humans. These were just a few examples of what could happen. So, in fact, there can be lots wrong with their playing god.


A man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions. -Oliver Wendell Holmes
Wrong way round! (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by jynx on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 05:58:39 AM EST

If the bunny escapes, it doesn't matter if glow in the dark bunnies are more easily killed - evolution will take over. Bunnies which glow in the dark would be killed more frequently until eventually the glow in the dark gene is removed from the population.

It would be far more dangerous if glow in the dark bunnies were harder to kill than normal bunnies (perhaps the eerie glow scares off predators :) ), because the glow in the dark variety would eventually displace the common-or-garden variety.

--

[ Parent ]

Possibly.. but, you never know.. (none / 0) (#41)
by knowfear on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 06:43:09 AM EST

There are many other things that could happen if creatures such as this are released in the wild. The gene may become more like an infection, reproducing in other animals and spreading like wildfire. Or, as mentioned, the animal could mutate and get different traits.
Just because it may be killed off easier does not mean that it will not spread. Read more about foot and mouth disease if you don't believe me...


A man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions. -Oliver Wendell Holmes
[ Parent ]
A gene is not a disease (none / 0) (#42)
by ucblockhead on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 09:18:28 AM EST

Genes don't spread like that.

And as far as mutation goes, any animal, genetically engineered or not, could mutate just as easily.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Woah!! (none / 0) (#45)
by jynx on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 05:48:04 PM EST

Sorry, but this is exactly the kind of dangerous misinformation which needs to be cleared up so we can have sensible debate on GM.

he gene may become more like an infection, reproducing in other animals and spreading like wildfire.

No it can't. If you spend long enough in a room with someone with green eyes, will you "catch" green eyes from them? Of course not. Genes are passed from parent to child and do not simply cross from organism to organism. (Actually, this is not strictly true. Some bacteria do exchange genes, but this only occurs in very specific cases and wouldn't happen in a mammal.)

Or, as mentioned, the animal could mutate and get different traits.

So can any animal, genetically modified or not. This is quite fundamental to the theory of evolution.

Just because it may be killed off easier does not mean that it will not spread.

No, but it will only spread in the short term. The damage would be far more limited than if the gene was beneficial to the organism.

Read more about foot and mouth disease if you don't believe me...

I don't think I need to, I'm already surrounded by it, and I've heard of nothing else for weeks. Perhaps you need to read some more about it!! Then you would know that it has nothing to do with genetic modification. F&M is an extremely contagious airborn virus. Just because it weakens the animal it infects does not mean it won't spread, because F&M (like any virus) has effectively completed it's "life cycle" and already been passed on before the animal even becomes ill.

F&M is something totally different to GM and shouldn't be compared...

Sorry if this seems a slightly harsh message. I do agree with you in some respects. Whilst I don't see anything inherently wrong with GM, it has almost unparalleled potential to damage our finely balanced world, and therefore needs to be treated with incredible caution. We are already polluting the world in many ways, but GM could be far worse because unlike greenhouse emissions, CFCs, radioactive substances etc, the pollution of a species genetic makup is irreversable.

But, if we are going to argue this viewpoint effectively it's important to have our facts straight.

--

[ Parent ]

Unnatural, yet so is our civilization (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by Punikki on Mon Apr 02, 2001 at 04:03:40 AM EST

I can tolerate any genetic manipulation, as long as the animals aren't treated badly/hurt. Green glow, so what? I want to glow green. Really. Everybody wants to be special. Maybe our children can be. Should I ever get to order a designer baby, I'd get him/her elven ears and dark vision. Seriously, I don't believe in god, but we really should actually seek to become proficient in every skill and art. Homo Genius Universalis, or whatever that is. Point being, is it really that bad? After all, not all people are born equal in the USA, despite the constitution. Some have born with a golden spoon in their mouth. Like G.Wanker Bush Jr. Money can buy miracles. If it was possible, I'd allow everybody to get healthy, modified children. Because after all, children are what life is all about. Life, continuing life. GE/GM is just giving life better odds. And elven ears would be really neat =)

Genetic Mutant or high tech bio-art? | 50 comments (37 topical, 13 editorial, 1 hidden)
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