February 15, 2003
The 2003 Darwin Day Celebration was held at the Hart
Community Center at 27th and J Streets, in Sacramento.
The annual Darwin Day program brings together several
freethought, educational and scientific organizations in a celebration of
Charles Darwin and of science. This year’s Darwin Day program concentrated
on 21st century research and technology. The speaker was Dr. Martina
Newell-McGloughlin, Director of the University of California Systemwide
Biotechnology Research and Education Program. She has an international
reputation and we were lucky to have her as a speaker.
Paul Geisert, a member of HAGSA, who emphasized that
evolution is a fact and that natural selection is how it happened, opened
the meeting. He was highly critical of so-called "intelligent design"
theory that the more sophisticated creationists are trying to have
accepted as science. Mynga Futrell then introduced the speaker.
Newell-McGloughlin1 used a PowerPoint
presentation, dealing with the principles
of biotechnology, to illustrate her lecture. She gave a quick tour of the
subject, noting that 2003 is the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of
the structure of the DNA molecule. She mentioned that she had met Dolly,
the first cloned sheep. Biotechnology has been around a long time, but its
power has been greatly enhanced in recent years by the use of recombinant
DNA technology. Such technology can insert genes for a desired trait into
the DNA of a species that lacks them. This can enable the resulting
organisms to be more resistant to disease and pests. This in turn has
enabled farmers to use smaller amounts of toxic pesticides or fungicides
than in the past. The technology has also been used to increase tolerance
to salinity, remove toxic heavy metals and to increase the yield of
vitamins and other human nutrients. There are medical benefits. The
speaker herself uses a medicine developed with modern biotechnology to
fight her own autoimmune disease! As with any new technology, we need to
rationally compare the costs and risks with the benefits, but there is no
question that this speaker is enthusiastic about this technology and its
prepared by Wayne Luney, HAGSA Recorder
1 For biographical information on Dr. Newell-McGloughlin,
click on the following link:
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