Genetic engineering and human mental ecology: Interlocking effects and educational considerations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper describes some likely semiotic consequences of genetic engineering on what Gregory Bateson has called “the mental ecology” (1979) of future humans, consequences that are less often raised in discussions surrounding the safety of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The effects are as follows: an increased 1) habituation to the presence of GMOs in the environment, 2) normalization of empirically false assumptions grounding genetic reductionism, 3) acceptance that humans are capable and entitled to decide what constitutes an evolutionary improvement for a species, 4) perception that the main source of creativity and problem solving in the biosphere is anthropogenic. Though there are some tensions between them, these effects tend to produce self-validating webs of ideas, actions, and environments, which may reinforce destructive habits of thought. Humans are unlikely to safely develop genetic technologies without confronting these escalating processes directly. Intervening in this mental ecology presents distinct challenges for educators, as will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number1
Early online date28 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • genetic engineering education
  • genetics education
  • second-order cybernetics
  • sustainability
  • Gregory Bateson
  • mental ecology
  • ecology of mind
  • hubris
  • reverence


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