Not long ago, I read medical records for a living.
Each day I’d scan through hundreds, if not thousands, of pages, looking for diagnoses, treatment plans, and patients’ responses to prescribed medication.
A boring job for some; but, for me, it was fascinating.
You learn a lot reading medical records. There are a million different ways to break the machine we call the human body. There are perhaps even more to break the mind.
In order to succeed, I had to learn very early on a critical distinction.
I had to learn the distinction between symptoms and diseases.
The Common Cold
There’s a common frustration among people who catch a cold.
You’ve probably felt it yourself (I know I have).
It’s been several days, or maybe even a week. The sore throat, and the runny nose, and the cough are still there, maybe even fiercer than when they started.
You throw up your hands and head on over to the doctor. You’re ready for this to be done with.
The doctor does what all doctors do, and half an hour later walks back in with her announcement. “Just a cold,” she says. “Drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest, and eventually you’ll get better.”
Leaving without a single prescription, you can’t help feeling irked that the ‘professional’ offered no more than you could have gotten on WebMD.
You return to merely managing symptoms, when what you really wanted was to cure a disease.
When Better Is Really The Same
Genetic engineering, or another technology like it, may very well prove capable of creating a better human being.
I, for one, am hopeful that it can.
Having said that, many would consider my optimism weak when compared to that of others, for they would think it tainted.
Tainted by a belief that genetic engineering (or any technology, for that matter) can merely manage symptoms. By a belief that these things do not, and cannot, cure any real disease.
That may sound strange, I know.
The list of diseases that have been cured, in the typical sense, is a long one. And yet, with all the progress that’s been made, our struggles have changed very little. We still argue with our spouses. We still fight with our children. We still distrust those who are different. We still lie, and steal, and murder.
The diseases we face may have new names. But our struggles…
They remain the same.
For they are the real disease.
All the rest are symptoms.
*Photo Credit: Paul (Creative Commons)
This week’s topic (also known as the Weekly Curiosity) is genetic engineering. Check back each weekday at 12:34pm for a new post exploring this idea. In the meantime, here are three ways you can join the quest: