March 7, 2015 12:41 pm

Sunday: Genetically Engineering Lactating Men and Better Baristas

This photo by David Andrako shows Bill Nye snapping a selfie backstage at the Beacon Theatre with Maeve Higgins, Jim Gaffigan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, RIchard Dawkins and Eugene Mirman

Bill Nye snaps a selfie backstage at the Beacon Theatre with Maeve Higgins, Jim Gaffigan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins and Eugene Mirman. Photo by David Andrako.

If we as a society can’t agree on whether it’s appropriate to genetically modify tomatoes to better survive the cold by introducing fish genes into their genome, how are we going to deal with bioengineering human beings?

Is it moral to manipulate human genetics to breed people with desirable traits?

What if we could engineer human beings who were resistant to the Ebola virus? Or AIDS?

Helping wipe out disease through selective breeding or induced mutation is one thing, but what about breeding better musicians (or baristas)?

And what if you could breed men who could lactate and nurse children?

These are just a few of the thought-provoking questions you’ll hear discussed on stage at the Beacon Theatre in NYC in the conclusion of StarTalk Live! Evolution with Richard Dawkins. (Click here for Part 1)

Part 2 begins with a critique of some of the evolutionary design flaws in human beings. As host Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it, no engineer would “put an entertainment system in the middle of a sewage complex.” Bill Nye goes further: “The nozzle for the fuel tank is right next to the air filter – stuff is going to go wrong.”

When it comes to evolution, changes are incremental and need to work and survive at every stage or they wouldn’t be passed on – which can lead to strange developments like the giraffe’s recurrent laryngeal nerve, which runs all the way down the length of the neck and back up to connect things that are right next to each other.

Eugene Mirman and Jim Gaffigan are concerned with why negative traits like male pattern baldness persist, while Neil ponders the pinky toenail.

But it’s comedian Maeve Higgins’ question about whether there are lactating men that leads Richard Dawkins to explain how he could actually go about selectively breeding a group of men who could eventually nurse their own children.

And that’s something you don’t want to miss.

Join us this Sunday, March 8 at 7:00pm EST on our website, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

  • Taxil Necrobane

    And here we get to the nub of it. Scientist now have the tools to alter the human genome to the point it will be their play thing. As the man who I respect as much if not more than Mr. Tyson, Michael Crichton had written I shall quote him.

    Ian Malcolm: I’ll tell you the
    problem with the scientific power you’re using here: it didn’t require
    any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done, and you took
    the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you
    don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of
    geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you
    even knew what you had, you, you’ve patented it, and packaged it, you’ve
    slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it! You want
    to sell it!
    John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
    Ian Malcolm: Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should!

    And THAT ladies and gentlemen is exactly what we are facing with this up coming Biotech boom and a number of other scientific breakthoughs in other fields.