LD Dr.med. DSc. Sergio U. Dani, 31st December 2013
One of the most inspiring stories I have ever heard was about a seven year old boy who managed to fix the world by fixing the man behind it. The child’s father had found a world map printed on the page of a magazine. He cut out the map into several pieces, grabbed a roll of duct tape and handed it to his son, asking him to fix the broken world. The boy did not know how the world looked like, tried to fix it, but could not. But he remembered seeing the figure of a man printed on the opposite page, when his father took the role of the magazine to cut. Then he turned the clippings and started to fix the man he knew how. When he managed to fix the man, he turned the sheet and saw that he had repaired the world.
The obvious lesson this story is meant to teach us about is this: it is easier to fix the man, than to fix the world. The less obvious lesson that the story conveys is certainly this: the world will be fixed as the man is fixed. Man is at the center of the solution, no matter the direction it takes, when it comes to solve the puzzle of the broken world.
A practical question arises as how to fix the man, in order to fix the world? We are thought to believe that education is the most effective way to ‘fix’ a person. But few people – most scientists anyway – would agree on what a ‘well-educated’ person is like. A well-educated person – in the sense of someone who is prepared to solve the puzzle of a broken world – is a person who has been educated in science, for science is the art of the soluble. Scientists often diverge, as this is part of the quest for scientific truth. But the enterprise of science as a whole is a safeguard against major error.
In this second decade of the 21st century, genetics offers other powerful tools to fix the man. In a foreseeable future, every individual will have access to the entire sequence of his or her genome, or a reliable representation thereof. Personalized treatments to disease will be devised, based on this genetic information. People will choose their partners based on their genetic compatibility. Genetic information will be used to attain adaptation to a changing environment. Eventually, we may come to the realization that it is easier to fix the environment, than to fix the man. At this point we will have turned the clippings. When we managed to fix the environment, we turned the sheet and saw that we had repaired the man.