The Presentation That Wasn't


Professor Leroy Hood's presentation entitled "Jurassic Park, Fact or Fiction?" began with the professor asking whether or not we had seen the recent motion picture Jurassic Park. As expected most, if not all of us, said that we had. His next question was whether or not the students had any questions for him about the science in Jurassic Park before he got started on his presentation. Little did he know his presentation was over before it began.

Over many partially eaten and some barely picked at taco salads at the catered Mentors' luncheon, the DO-IT kids began asking questions. The first questions were about what parts of the genetic work done in Jurassic Park were scientific fact and what parts were simply the inventions of the author. The answer to the "big question" of Jurassic Park is that no organism, dinosaur or not, can be resurrected once extinct.

With the "big question" answered two other major topics were discussed. The first was about current and future developments in the field of genetics. At present, Professor Hood and his department are working on the Human Genome Project. Its purpose is to identify all 150,000 or so genes in human DNA. So far they have identified approximately 70 or 80 genes involved in genetic defects. According to Professor Hood, 20 to 30 years in the future scientists should be able to diagnose the likelihood of up to fifty genetic diseases at birth so that preventative therapy could be used. Also 50 to 75 years in the future scientists should be able to synthesize human tissue to form organs.

The second topic was about the ethical, moral and economic issues. We learned that the diagnosis of genetic diseases would probably precede the ability to treat those diseases by 20 to 30 years. That is of great concern to many people living with disabilities. Had scientists been able to diagnose genetic disease before we were born and hadn't been able to cure them some of us might never have been born. Other things such as the possibility of using this new information for destructive purposes was also discussed. Also, there were concerns about possibly being refused jobs, medical insurance, and other things if you were known to have a predisposition toward a certain genetic disease.

Many other questions were also asked.

About 45 minutes of questions and answers later, time was up and many of our questions didn't get a chance to be answered. Dr. Hood had prepared a 30 minute presentation, but he never got the chance to use it. The questions covered all the information he had planned to go over. Though his presentation didn't go as planned, it was a great success.