pp. 77-78 in Protection of the Human Genome and Scientific Responsibility

Editors: Michio Okamoto, M.D., Norio Fujiki, M.D. & Darryl R.J. Macer, Ph.D.

Copyright 1996, Eubios Ethics Institute All commercial rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced for limited educational or academic use, however please enquire with Eubios Ethics Institute.

Kyoto Session

Chairman's Remarks: Responsibility of Scientists - For Coexistence with Nature

Kazuro Hanihara(
Vice-Director, International Institute for Advanced Studies

Revising Darwin's proposition "survival of the fittest", the late Professor Motoo Kimura, a distinguished geneticist who proposed the neutral theory of molecular evolution, said "survival of the luckiest". The words mean that only the luckiest lineages of organisms could survive in evolutionary processes that occurred entirely by chance.

When we trace back the evolutionary history of a human lineage, in particular, we are forced to surprise in realizing the incredibly rich accumulation of chance, or good luck. Higher primates evolved after thirty million years of primitive primate evolution, then early anthropoid apes appeared after another thirty million years, and humans developed from tiny part of the early apes at least five million years ago. Humans then invented culture, rushed into civilized world, and at last acquired the power to destroy a natural environment that brought up humans themselves.

This process may have also been a result of good luck in view of evolution. Did it, however, really provide humans with a good luck? Today's human prosperity has been achieved undoubtedly through mutual relationships with nature including the natural environment of the earth in a broad sense, and the climatic conditions of respective areas in a narrow sense. In addition, all the animals and plants interacted with humans throughout respective evolutionary processes. However, humans who obtained higher civilization are not only challenging to nature but also escalating their strategy, threatening animals and plants that have coexisted with humans. Human beings are not an exception but are also exposed to the menace of the products of higher physical, chemical and biological technology.

Quite unfortunately, however, only few persons seem to realize that humans are digging their own graves. The apology for destroying environment is always political as wells as economical requirements, the insight into Mother Nature that enabled humans to evolve and survive being entirely lacking. Doctors can hardly care for their patients without anamneses. Likewise, Homo sapiens (wise humans) can find their way of survival through the analysis of their own history of evolution.

One of basic knowledge may be obtained by the investigation of the human evolutionary processes. Humans evolved through the stages of Australopithecines, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and modern humans, of which the last stage has begun roughly 35,000 years ago. Two-thirds of the period was the Palaeolithic age, and human physical evolution thereafter was only small. In other words, modern human bodies adapted to the Palaeolithic environment and it is the case even today.

On the other hand, humans changed the environment quite rapidly using the power of civilization. After the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, in particular, technological development has been accelerated geometrically, bringing the destruction and pollution of a natural environment as it is today. As mentioned above, human bodies adapted to the Palaeolithic environment on the one hand, but today's environment is too much "civilized" on the other. Humans must, therefore, search for their way of survival under such an inconsistent situation.

I am, however, intending to be neither an anti-civilizationist nor an anti-scientist. Civilization itself is not responsible for the destruction of nature, but humans who are developing and enjoying it should be. In other words, it is the problem of human consciousness or values of civilization. Humans who are enjoying only the convenience of civilization seem to ignore the total usefulness of civilization.

Humans now face to the time to create a civilization that enables them to coexist with nature through the reformation of consciousness, which may be possible only on the basis of the accurate knowledge of the evolutionary background and adaptability of humans.

The viability of humans who are endowed by nature with an incredibly large amount of good luck is unexpectedly fragile under the recent civilized environment. Recognizing this fact, scientists are responsible for writing a prescription for the human way of survival. They should also bear in mind that this task is for their descendants and only humans are capable of doing it.

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