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  1. - Top - End - #121
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by Icewraith View Post
    Well, I know we figured out how to get goats to extrude spider silk proteins using what sounded like (but probably wasn't) drag-and-drop gene editing.
    Modifying DNA to add a protein production center is about as easy as it gets (although using a goat is comparatively uncommon; this sort of stuff is exactly what e. coli is for*). Adding limbs that an animal doesn't have in the first place is a different matter entirely. Cell signaling "make this thing here" requires the rest of the biochemistry involved in making the thing, and that's the harder part - hence the occasional mutation where a turtle is born with two heads and the total absence of a fully formed limb appearing in snakes.
    *Among other things, it's easily one of the most useful model organisms.

  2. - Top - End - #122
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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by Icewraith View Post
    I also know that there are genetic defects that can cause limb duplication. Wasn't there a six-legged baby or something last year? We can already do this with fruit flies, producing flies with extra legs or wings or antennae.
    I'm pretty sure those extra limbs aren't actually functional, though, which is the problem--you need all six limbs to be useful if you want a four-legged dragon to fly (almost literally).

  3. - Top - End - #123
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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Icewraith, Aedilred: Thanks. I'd forgotten what it must be like to live without constant access to primary literature; as you can imagine, this makes it difficult to put lay thought in the appropriate context.

    At any rate, the biggest obstacle in our path is not which organism to start modifying. It's that the requisite basic science is far beyond our current capability to research.

    More accurately, it's beyond our capability to defend. We can, with great difficulty, determine what (probably) is, and therefore what can be. It is far easier and more immediately gratifying to determine what "should" be, particularly where funding is concerned. Quite apart from the people demanding our money would be the people demanding our heads, because what we're doing is an abomination according to whatever moral code they hold dear, or being done by people they'd rather not see succeed, or they'd rather we all "cure" whatever is ailing their relatives, or perhaps just because they feel like burning down a big complicated thing that a bunch of people care about and laughing over the ashes at all the sad nerds.

    If you want a pat aphorism, here is one: people hate and fear what they fail to understand. Dragons would require advancing our understanding of biology into the biggest bogeyman in human history; it will not happen. When I said above that we'd need science beyond what society can condone, this is what I meant.
    Last edited by Trekkin; 2017-03-28 at 02:51 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #124
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    Eldan's Avatar

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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by Icewraith View Post
    Well, I know we figured out how to get goats to extrude spider silk proteins using what sounded like (but probably wasn't) drag-and-drop gene editing.

    I also know that there are genetic defects that can cause limb duplication. Wasn't there a six-legged baby or something last year? We can already do this with fruit flies, producing flies with extra legs or wings or antennae.

    Adapting an existing structure, even if vestigial, for a new purpose seems far easier than flat-out adding a new structure. So, considering that the challenge is "put limbs on a snake", knowing that snake proto-pelvises already exist (and that we can differentiate between snakes and legless lizards) seems like an advantage.

    Probably the biggest significant factor is the slower reproductive times of snakes/lizards compared to the ten day cycle for flies. That's a lot fewer opportunities to iterate.
    There's a efw special cases where such a thing is possible, yes. Mostly, however, they are based on pre-existing mutations we know the effect off. I.e. scientist sees fly with eight limbs, sequences it's genome and has a guess at which differences to a standard genome cause the change. The scientist does not sit down with the genome of a standard fly and edit the "number of limbs" gene.

    Edit: one may then try and find homologous genes in a related species and try to induce similar changes. The outcomes would be difficult to predict, though.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2017-03-28 at 05:52 AM.
    Its honest. What our religion tells us, the part that is a religion, is that the gods created life to try and make meaning. Its ultimately hopeless, and even gods die, but the effort is real. Will always have been real, even when everything is over and no one remembers.
    -The Litany of Earth, Ruthanna Emrys

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    Imp

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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    I am afraid you figure incorrectly, although you're correct in saying nothing is ever that easy. Not even remotely close. Explanation spoiled below.
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    Genes are not modular, particularly not in eukaryotic organisms; there are no "genes for wings" or "genes for limbs" -- or, indeed, code for vestigial limbs -- to be shuffled around, even with the new CRISPR-Cas9 system that has so captured the attention of laypersons and amateurs. Anatomy is polygenic to a degree well beyond conventional molecular biology's capacity to describe; the smallest detail of morphology depends on a complex and highly dynamic interaction between spatiotemporally localized biochemical anisotropy, the chemical (and, often, thermodynamic on multiple scales) determinants of cell state, and the manifold transcriptomic permutations elicited thereby. I can't even generate an accurate analogy to anything within normal experience.

    This is not a single complex problem. This is literally thousands of complex problems interacting with each other via systemic causation well beyond our present capacity to track; we only now have the computational resources to begin modeling the simplest of them at ludicrously short time scales. We can understand in gross terms what is happening to turn an embryo into an organism; what can happen, in terms of limbs alone, is a far larger state space filled mostly with expensive non-answers and terminal cancer.

    This is not a matter for a single group of generic researchers. Even the basic science required to develop the tools to develop a manipulable understanding of vertebrate developmental biology would require legions of molecular biologists, bioinformaticists, structural biologists, microscopists, biochemists, biophysicists, computer scientists, and more I haven't even thought of yet. Funding requirements could easily run into the low billions over the course of decades -- and that's assuming you can guarantee that budget for that long, which no one currently can.


    The answer to the question "can we make dragons" has little to do with snake limbs and more to do with our utter inability to perform research on the necessary scale. The gaps in our knowledge are just too big.
    Translation (using simple words): We don't know how a single cell "knows" how to grow into a bunch of cells and end up with the right number of working arms and legs and heads (most of the time). It would take a lot of really smart people with a lot of tools that cost a lot of money to figure it out. It would be really, really, really hard to do.

    Please note that "really, really, really hard to do" is not the same as "we could definitely never do it".

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    Icewraith, Aedilred: Thanks. I'd forgotten what it must be like to live without constant access to primary literature; as you can imagine, this makes it difficult to put lay thought in the appropriate context.

    At any rate, the biggest obstacle in our path is not which organism to start modifying. It's that the requisite basic science is far beyond our current capability to research.

    More accurately, it's beyond our capability to defend. We can, with great difficulty, determine what (probably) is, and therefore what can be. It is far easier and more immediately gratifying to determine what "should" be, particularly where funding is concerned. Quite apart from the people demanding our money would be the people demanding our heads, because what we're doing is an abomination according to whatever moral code they hold dear, or being done by people they'd rather not see succeed, or they'd rather we all "cure" whatever is ailing their relatives, or perhaps just because they feel like burning down a big complicated thing that a bunch of people care about and laughing over the ashes at all the sad nerds.

    If you want a pat aphorism, here is one: people hate and fear what they fail to understand. Dragons would require advancing our understanding of biology into the biggest bogeyman in human history; it will not happen. When I said above that we'd need science beyond what society can condone, this is what I meant.
    You are participating in a thread titled "Were dragons ever real?" located in the general discussion section of a webcomic forum. If I were a biologist capable of describing in accurate detail consistent with current literature steps necessary to genetically engineer a dragon from a snake in order to support assertions in a post I made in part so I could sneak in the "leg up" pun, I would either be applying for funding or actively working on that project.

    Talking about ethics in a discussion about genetically engineering dragons is like talking about the trivial zeroes of the Riemann zeta function. Yes, we know, blah blah ethics, blah blah pitchforks and torches, but those aren't the interesting parts of the subject.
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    1006 0284 0014
    Mii name: D
    Sandshrew/Camerupt/Gastrodon
    Breeding Pokemon so far (May need to re-breed on request):
    Often 4-5 IVs/Egg Moves:
    Marill, Shellder, Honedge. Horsea, Larvitar, Ferroseed, Kangaskhan, Scyther, Charmander, Beldum, Deino, Vullaby, Skarmory, Noibat, Timburr

    HA (Often 4-5 IVS/Egg Moves):
    Fletchling, Froakie, Drillbur, Squirtle, Venipede, Dratini (ES), Gible, Foongus, Cleffa (Aromatherapy/Wish/Stored Power), Gligar,

  6. - Top - End - #126
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    If you want a pat aphorism, here is one: people hate and fear what they fail to understand. Dragons would require advancing our understanding of biology into the biggest bogeyman in human history; it will not happen. When I said above that we'd need science beyond what society can condone, this is what I meant.
    I can't speak to the technical aspects , but I believe you're underestimating your fellow human beings. Remember vaccines. Remember the study of dead bodies. Much of modern medicine involved violating some of the strictest possible taboos in the handling of dead bodies, in putting blood of animals into human beings. Doctors and scientists went to jail for that sort of thing.

    Today? We eradicated smallpox and polio because even the most conservative religious people of the 50s and 60s went and made sure their kids got their shots.

    People can be really morally flexible when they have a reason to be. So while they might look askance at creating a dragon (say) purely for fun's sake, if there was a really good reason for it, they'd come around. By "really good reason", I mean "it saves lives, or otherwise makes everyone's life better."

    Yes, I know there is an anti-vax movement today which I probably can't discuss on this forum. I will content myself with saying that it is a rarely new phenomenon and practically no one before the 1990s had any problems whatsoever with vaccines, even the religious communities which most zealously opposed them in their infancy back in the 19th century.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Opportunities to do good are everywhere but the darkness is where the light needs to be".

    -- Eliezer Yudkowski, author of "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"

  7. - Top - End - #127
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    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    People can be really morally flexible when they have a reason to be. So while they might look askance at creating a dragon (say) purely for fun's sake, if there was a really good reason for it, they'd come around. By "really good reason", I mean "it saves lives, or otherwise makes everyone's life better."
    Or you convince the government it would have military applications. (And that the Other Side have already started their own research).

  8. - Top - End - #128
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    Grey_Wolf_c's Avatar

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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    We eradicated [...] polio
    No, we haven't. We are very close, but we are not there yet. Mostly because a couple of decades ago, certain militaries used the Red Cross/Crescent teams as infiltration vectors for their agents, which means the Red Crescent is not trusted in certain areas of the world, which has hindered their efforts to propagate the Polio vaccine.

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  9. - Top - End - #129
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    No, we haven't. We are very close, but we are not there yet. Mostly because a couple of decades ago, certain militaries used the Red Cross/Crescent teams as infiltration vectors for their agents, which means the Red Crescent is not trusted in certain areas of the world, which has hindered their efforts to propagate the Polio vaccine.

    Grey Wolf
    Noted. Thanks for the correction.

    :Grumbles a bit about things that would get him an infraction, so I'll leave it at that:

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Opportunities to do good are everywhere but the darkness is where the light needs to be".

    -- Eliezer Yudkowski, author of "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"

  10. - Top - End - #130
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Just saw this link on the original opposition to vaccinations in the 19th century. Seemed apropos and interesting. And we did overcome these concerns.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Opportunities to do good are everywhere but the darkness is where the light needs to be".

    -- Eliezer Yudkowski, author of "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"

  11. - Top - End - #131
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Debate: Were dragons ever real?

    Dragons? No. Sadly they were never real. Dagrons on the other hand...

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