What is Life's Big Instruction Book
Life's Big Instruction book is about biology and biotechnology. It consists of a number of parts:
I made this site because I believe most people's fear of biotechnology is simply ignorance. Not only ignorance of biotechnology, but also of biology: DNA, mutation, evolution, and all the rest. The last time most people studied biology was in high school. For many of them, that was a long time ago -- certainly before biotechnology was advanced enough to be taught in high school. So, it's not surprising that people are ignorant or confused. Nor is it surprising that they're afraid of what they don't know. Fortunately, there's a cure for that fear: learning. That's what this site is for: learning about biology.
The whole site is linked together with hypertext. If you want, you can start out with the section on biotechnology, see why biotechnology isn't so bad, or take a look at artificial selection, one of the other genetic manipulation techniques people use. All of the technical terms used on the pages are linked back to where they're defined, so if you run into a word you don't know, you can jump to the where I give its meaning. You can also jump around via the links; there's really no need to read each section in order. Of course, if you don't know much about biology, you might as well start at the beginning and read at least a few of the sections before jumping into the FAQ.
I've been asked if I'm "pro-biotechnology". This always strikes me as funny; I think it's like being asked if I'm "pro-electricity" or "pro-hammer" or pro any other tool people have thought up. All tools are good at some things, and bad at others. Biotechnology has its place, too. I think it's a large and useful place -- it can help us do many things in agriculture and medicine -- but it can't do everything. Nor is it without risk, though the risks are small, and no different than risks we already face from other genetic manipulation techniques. (Yes! There are others, and people have been using them for thousands of years, usually with no understanding or awareness of how or why they work. Delicious food and cute pets didn't just happen by themselves.)
To a certain extent, I don't care if people reject biotechnology, so long as they do it for the right reasons: understanding the facts, putting those facts in perspective, and weighing the costs and benefits. Rejecting biotechnology (or anything else) merely because it's new, or different, or because it seems mysterious is silly. Everything we do or use now was once new, different, and mysterious.
In this site, I tend to use "we" a lot. Even though I wrote nearly all the text and made all the pretty pictures, I got a lot of helpful advice and encouragement from friends and colleagues. I also asked a number of people for their opinion on various issues, and merged them into the FAQ. So, "we" rather than "I".
But enough about me. This site is for learning about biology, so scroll back to the top of the page, pick a spot, jump in, and start learning!
P.S. Two disclaimers:
A number of us work for companies that either breed plants, genetically engineer them, or both.
No one, either for or against biotechnology, has given us any financial support for this web site. Nor do our employers know we're doing this.
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